I'm going to need to read this a couple of times before I'll feel confident about reviewing it, so for now I'm giving it with a middle-of-the-road rat...moreI'm going to need to read this a couple of times before I'll feel confident about reviewing it, so for now I'm giving it with a middle-of-the-road rating. However, I will say that I'm not really looking forward to rereading it. (less)
I've been sitting back for a while, thinking about what to write for my review. The Duke and I was recommended to me by a Goodreads friend, so I didn'...moreI've been sitting back for a while, thinking about what to write for my review. The Duke and I was recommended to me by a Goodreads friend, so I didn't want to just give a star-rating and say nothing else. I was excited about reading this book and I really wanted to like it, but to be honest, I've been having a lot of trouble resolving my conflicting impressions of it.
On the one hand, The Duke and I is largely a fun and easy-to-read historical romance. Are there glaring holes in the historical worldbuilding? Oh, yes. But the romance is entertaining enough and the banter sometimes lively. So in that sense, the author has accomplished exactly what she presumably set out to do: write a vaguely "historical" romance that entertains and gives readers a few thrills in their tingly bits. Sounds like a good time, right?
Well, it is, right up until one particular scene. And that scene was disturbing enough that it altered my perception of the entire book.
Those who haven't yet read the book, be warned: there are spoilers throughout the rest of this review.
Roughly 3/4 of the way through the book, Daphne (now married to Simon) is desperate to have children. Simon has made it clear from the beginning of their acquaintance that he WILL NEVER SIRE CHILDREN. No kids, full stop. She initially misunderstands and thinks he isn't capable of doing so (and unfairly, Simon doesn't say anything to clear up the mistake and clearly state his lack of desire for children), but she knows from the beginning of the relationship that if kids are what she wants, she shouldn't marry him. To make sure he doesn't get her pregnant, he pulls out near his climax each time they have sex, thereby avoiding children and presumably making life hell for the household's maids and laundrywomen.
So after an argument, Simon comes home very drunk and falls asleep still blitzed. Some hours later, he nuzzles up to Daphne in his sleep and she elects to have sex with him. When this all gets started, he's still at least half drunk, but apparently capable of performing. Daphne gets him going (which he accepts and enjoys), climbs on top, and then gets him to climax inside her so she can have a shot at conceiving a child. Towards the end he realizes what she's doing, tries to stop, and she pinions him with her legs so he can't get out or away from her.
And that was the moment when the lighthearted fun of this book came to a screeching halt for me.
Because that's a rape. I don't know about you, but for me, rape scenes and lighthearted romance do NOT go hand in hand.
Think about it. How many of this book's readers would enjoy a romance that around the 75% mark suddenly and inexplicably shifted gears from light and fun to a scene in which the lead male initiated sex with a half-drunk woman, forced her to continue when she tried to fight him off of her, and did all this in an attempt to engender children she'd clearly and repeatedly stated she did not want - particularly if the author treated that instance of non-consensual sex like a disagreement and not an act of violation?
Please understand, I know many people enjoy rape fantasies, both written and safely enacted with consenting partners IRL, and I'm not trying to say there's anything wrong with that. I'm not the Morality Police, come to tell you you're thinking evil dirty thoughts and having sex in non-approved ways. I'm not trying to say a book featuring a rape scene is automatically "bad" or anti-feminist or whatever. What I am saying is I'm uncomfortable with the fact that this scene is embedded in an otherwise light and frothy romance and that it's portrayed within the story as if it's just another sort of argument or obstacle the plot-protected couple will inevitably overcome, rather than the sudden and rather shocking violation of a character's self and trust. In my opinion, the author makes light of a woman raping a man.
And that bothers the hell out of me.
Having read the book multiple times in an attempt to sort out my impressions, I see it in two different ways. The first three quarters of the story I'd give three stars; the last quarter, I'd give one. So I've compromised by giving it two stars overall, but I'm still uncomfortable with that rating and with The Duke and I as a whole. (less)