May 5, 2014
An Awe-Inspiring Timothy Toad Alert!
Once again I seem to be in the minority in my disappointment with a book. This time it
happens to be The Unexpected Duchess by Valerie Bowman. Let's analyze what happened, shall we? I picked two books this month just because I'd never read the authors before. I was actually looking forward to this one quite a lot, having read many wonderful things about it... and it happens to be one of my favorite types - comedy. I love books that can make me smile, I love to laugh and chuckle and wipe the yuck-yuck tears from my eyes. Imagine my glee when the first couple of pages had me guffawing right out loud. The introduction of our heroine (Lucy) behind a bush feeding lines to her shy friend (Cass) was priceless. But what made it even better was it was written in such a way that I had no trouble visualizing the scene. Was it a parody of Cyrano? Sure it was, but unlike the Cyrano narrative, the victim (our hero) figures out pretty quickly that the voice he's hearing is not the one he wants to hear. So, I was rubbing my hands together ready for more chortles. If only the comedy had been allowed to flow without interference.
I was having a good time reading The Unexpected Duchess until I started noticing that Lucy was really a rude person. Not a rude person in the manner of Elizabeth Bennet, but more along the lines of Housewives of New Atlanta-York-Mafia-Wife-Amish-Idiot-why-are-we-watching-these-horrible-people reality shows.
Here's the plot, sort of. Derek has promised his dying friend, Swift, that he will marry Cass. There is a slight problem with that - Cass has luved Julian forever, but she is too shy to let Julian know. But that doesn't really matter because Julian is engaged to her cousin, the self-centered Penelope, which is a problem, but that may not be a problem because Julian is off fighting in the war and hasn't responded to anyone’s mail. Oh dear, what will Cass do? Well, Cass won't do anything because she's shy. However, her two friends Lucy the rude, blunt girl, and Jane the standard bluestocking girl, are there to help her. With Cass' permission Lucy manages to insert herself into every opportunity that Derek manages to create. Of course Derek is attracted to the feisty pushy Lucy, he just doesn't admit it. Derek must resist temptation, he must because he is an honorable man and we know that because he is honoring his friend's dying wish. Too bad Lucy doesn't know Derek is honoring his dying friend's last wish, I bet she'd leave him alone to court poor shy Cass who is worried about her missing in battle forever luv Julian.
And now a word from Derek's brother Collin: Our brother Adam, along with Donald, Swift's brother, and Rafe have disappeared in France. Collin is off to find them. Derek wishes he could go but he must honor Swift's dying wish.
Back to the wish fulfillment. He must marry Cass, but he wants Lucy, really wants her and she wants him, but she can't do that to Cass... What's a girl to do, what's a guy to do? Why, challenge each other to a duel... a witty dialogue duel... at a ball... in front of the cream of society... just like Cyrano's witty put downs. It was at this point I groaned, never been a big fan of those public witticisms. I find them embarrassing to watch and read. They are one of the many things I don't like about the original story of Cyrano, but I thought maybe there wouldn't be too many. Twenty, oh no not twenty! That's how many clever things Derek had to come up with to win his bet. At the ball. In front of people.
And now a word from Derek's brother Collin. He has found Adam, but not Donald or Rafe. Derek wishes he could be there with him, but he can't because he must honor his promise to marry someone he doesn't care anything about. Spoilers ahead.
So one day while Lucy and Derek are yammering at each other she mentions the fact that Cass is in luv with Julian. Julian! Wait! You don't mean Julian Swift do you? My dying friend, the one I made a promise to! Yep, that's the one. So now Lucy insists that Derek marry her bestist friend Cass. It is the honorable thing.
Let's have a talk about honor shall we. How can a hero be honorable to Julian, Cass, or even Lucy when his big over-sized fingers are busy creating roo-hoo in Lucy's wham-o-meter? Derek had a very strange idea of honor. And, so did Lucy.
Maybe if Derek can interest some other fellow in Lucy that will solve his problem. Sure it will. Yes, by golly another character is introduced so that we can have some Cyrano fake letter writing moments because this guy is a stutterer and can't write. Then we all of us are off to Brighton: Cass, Jane, Garrett (a cousin), Derek, and an aunt.
Now a word from Collin: I am bringing Adam home, but still can't find Rafe and Donald. Derek still wishes he was there, but he must marry Cass.
Now Lucy agrees, yes, Derek must marry Cass... but first let's have wild crazy sex. It was during this scene that I had one of my laughs. I don't think I was supposed to, but I just couldn't take it anymore. Between the "I want you, I want you, I want you" and the flipping I just couldn't take it anymore. There was flipping, I want you and plowing, I want you, flipping, milking, I want you and flipping, I want you. For a while I thought maybe Derek was either going to get a summer job at a circus or flip pancakes at IHOP. I do admit that Derek's Mr. Toad was mighty impressive. He lasted through a back flip, followed by a stomach flip, followed by a back flip...really talented and he wasn't once distracted by Derek's clever repeated shouting of I want you.
Now a word from Collin: Adam's home.
After the flip-flop episode there was still more to come. There's the upset parents, the Julian lives moment, the Queen moment, and the Prince moment, and the "You had me at 'Your Grace' moment." Yes, it was a Jerry Maguire, pull-me-out-of-a-historical-romance moment. If all of this book had been a slap-stick, off-the-wall farce, the movie reference wouldn't have thrown me out of the story. But it wasn't.
Here's the conundrum. The beginning of this story was funny, and I do admit that I am interested in the secondary characters of Jane, Garrett, Julian and Cass. I am tempted to read the next in the series and I probably will. However, what started out as a chuckle-filled read with two clever antagonists descended into immature behavior by a rude woman and a man with an interesting definition of honor.
Time/Place: 1815 England