April 21, 2017
Do opposites really attract?
You know when I read a romance novel, I often ask myself “would this relationship really
work?” Would a stuffed-shirt aristocrat really go for a wild-eyed suffragette? Would a Pankhurst thumping suffragette really go for an “I’m-better-then-you-I-rule-the-world" man? We live in such a fantasy world in Romanceland, sometimes I think we believe that these relationships would work. We rely heavily on the author to “make it so.” When I picked up The Truth About Love and Dukes by Laura Lee Guhrke, I pretty much thought that no matter how different the hero and heroine were, in the end I would be sure they would have a believable happy ending. You see, Laura Lee Guhrke excels at writing complex characters which match up. So, I started reading.
The book starts out promising. Henry Cavanaugh, Duke of Torquil, is a little peeved because his mother has sent a letter to Lady Truelove (a gossip advice columnist) asking for advice. You see, his mother is in love with a man much younger than herself and that man is an artist – gasp. Well, Henry is a tried and true top-drawer aristocrat. His word is the law, his hand is iron, and he jumps tall building in a single bound (oops, wrong guy). Dressed in his most threatening ensemble, he rushes down to confront Lady Truelove only to be greeted by Irene Deverill, the editor of the newspaper. First of all he is shocked that it is a woman who has control of the paper, then he is shocked because she refuses to retract the story or give his mother’s correspondence to him. He would probably be even more shocked if he knew what we the readers know – she is Lady Truelove. She doesn’t back down. The newspaper is her baby and I say that in the most strong words I can. She has taken over the family’s crumbling paper and made it into a success – she loves what she’s doing. This is not a standard Romanceland device created to make her look spunky. No, the author has created a strong woman who actually believes in what she’s doing. She. Loves. Her. Work. She is also a suffragette and that too is written in such a strong way I’m not really sure it works in a historical romance. And, for me this is where I start running into problems. Both Henry and Irene have stronnnnggggg convictions. While I may not agree with some of Henry’s bulldozing techniques, he is a responsible man who cares for his family and the people who are his responsibility. He is a landowner in a changing country, he knows there are people who depend on him just to survive.
The Truth about Love and Dukes was an interesting study in two different dynamics, two different ideologies. There was a constant battle between the two, but all the while the hormone monkey was playing with them. The lines are drawn so realistically that for me I had a hard time accepting that this couple would have a happy ending. The only way I could see for a historical Romanceland happy ending was for one of them to give in, to dilute their beliefs. In the end they both do some giving. But I was not a happy camper and here’s why.
My muddled reasoning. For almost the entire book, whenever Irene and Henry are together I felt as if I was watching a debate team. It was a constant battle between the two of them – over and over. That is of course between protected humpy-bumpy (if you get my drift). I grew tired of the constant battle of ideologies. Maybe I was in a bad mood, maybe I had outside stress weighing me down, maybe I should have put the book away for another day – but I didn't. It wasn’t until almost the very end when Irene ripped into Henry about his standards that I started to enjoy the book. That was when she turned from a constant, nagging, I’m-on-my-soapbox woman into someone who made sense – and was right in what she said. I think what really bothered me was that Irene and Henry were so far apart in their beliefs, I had a hard time believing even with their giving/taking at the end that they could ever have a good partnership. I say that because even though we like to see opposites attract, I really think a good partnership/marriage/whatever must be based on having something in common, a sharing of ideas and supporting those ideas.
Bottom-line. I was disappointed with The Truth About Love and Dukes. Laura Lee Guhrke has always been a solid writer for me, but in this case I don’t think she succeeded with the complex issues she was trying to bring forth. For some people, this will be a fantastic read but for me the couple were too far apart in their beliefs and the constant haranguing continued for far too long.
Time/Place: 1892 England (the later mutton sleeves and soft bustles)