Bubu's Reviews > Once Upon a Duke

Once Upon a Duke by Eva Devon
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did not like it
bookshelves: awful, hr, 1-star

And another one that made me want to bang my head against the wall. I'm wondering by now if I'm not experiencing a HR overkill.

First, a short summary of the plot, if it can be called a plot. We have our hero Ryder, Duke of Whatever, mourning the death of his beloved wife. He loved her so much that he never wears anything but black apart from a silk (or satin?) cream colored band around his wrist. Years have passed and he's gone down the road of so many HR heroes, debauchery and drinking. And, of course, he shags his way through London society. But he will never, ever, ever, ever, ever fall in love again and never, ever, ever, ever, ever marry again.

Enter our heroine, Kathryn, finally a wealthy widow after living in a loveless marriage to a rake and finally free to explore her sexuality, as her husband never paid her as much attention as to the legions of mistresses he had had. And who else better for the job then the Duke of Whatever. So one night she goes to him and offers herself on a plate. 'Take me, debauch me, give me pleasure.' By the way, this happens in the first five pages. Talk about getting to the point.

Heroines who seek sexual fulfillment because they're spinsters, wallflowers, neglected widows is a popular trope. And I wouldn't presume to know how historically accurate it is. Hell, I hope they had fun. We know how women's sexuality was restricted. And there are lots of good Historical Romances who explore this trope quite masterfully.

Not this one, though. For a man who has had dozens of affairs after his beloved wife's death, you'd assume it would take someone special to get him out of his mourning. Whatever he sees in Kathryn, though, remains a secret. Unlike some reviewers, I understand insta-lust, aka insta-sexual attraction. If only it had remained at that. No, to Ryder, Kathryn is special within the first 5 minutes of their acquaintance. Some sort of insta-feeling along with his insta-lust, not insta-love, but hey, who am I to be picky. I re-read the passage just to be sure I hadn't missed anything, but believe me, there was no indication as to why she was special. Did she say anything witty? No. Did she do anything out of the ordinary? No. Apparently, he's used to women coming to his place, offering themselves to him. She looks innocent, not a virgin, but innocent enough for him to not have sex with her. But he obliges her, nonetheless, and gives her her first orgasm. So I, as the reader, am to believe she's special, simply because the hero says so. And that's the frustrating part of the book. We're being told, not shown. The portrayal of the characters falls flat, in fact, the characters end up being shallow to a point where I wanted to give up. All emotional soul searching happens with the secondary characters of the book (who have their own books, by the looks of it). There isn't much interaction between the MC's, apart from 'I want you, I want to bed you, let me pleasure you.' It was yet another book where the sex seems to take centre stage. It's as if the author tries to copy the sexual tension that a writer like Elizabeth Hoyt can create, but without the emotional depth, the character development, the falling in love with the characters. After about a third of the book, and that's when I'm being really generous here, I couldn't care less about Ryder and Kathryn.

To give this overall shallowness an example: After their more or less forced marriage, we're being told how their relationship is developing. From Kathryn's point of view. What Ryder does, how he showers her with gifts, etc...until the following line.
But most overwhelming of all, Ryder wouldn't let her pay a penny. She tried, lord knew she had, but at the mere mention of it, he lifted ablack brow and silenced on the subject.
Again, I re-read this passage, in case I'd missed anything. So that's the most overwhelming part of their relationship. Nice.

Anyway, back to the plot. After their first encounter he throws her out because she's too good to be used like a 'harlot'. She doesn't like it and pursues him over the next couple of weeks. Mind you, all the while we're being told how much he wants her, how much he wants to smash every man's face who shows any interest in her, etc... One night they end up having sex in a public place, and, oh horror, are literally caught in the act. She's ruined, the ton not happy, they shag again, ladida, he marries her, they shag some more. I was already skimming through the sex scenes. They were meaningless. Last obstacle for their HEA, he won't let go of his dead wife. She's hurt, leaves him, he suddenly can't live without her, tells her he loves her and the end.

I know I'm probably ranting right now. After all, I could have DNF'ed the book after 30% which I didn't. I guess it's because I do appreciate the work an author puts into her/his book, only to see it being a missed opportunity. Another Romance that is as shallow as the genre in general is constantly perceived, whereas I know how brilliant it can be.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
November 19, 2015 – Shelved
January 13, 2016 – Shelved as: awful
July 25, 2016 – Shelved as: hr
September 6, 2017 – Shelved as: 1-star

Comments Showing 1-6 of 6 (6 new)

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message 1: by R (new) - rated it 5 stars

R However you have to admit it was very funny.


message 2: by Bubu (new) - rated it 1 star

Bubu I remember this vaguely but, sorry, I can't remember it being funny :) Glad you enjoyed it, though.


message 3: by Bev (new)

Bev Wow, he sounds like a right charmer. One to avoid then xo


message 4: by Bubu (new) - rated it 1 star

Bubu Nope, not a book I’d recommend 😉


message 5: by Ira (new)

Ira That bad?


message 6: by Bubu (new) - rated it 1 star

Bubu It was definitely not to my liking :)


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