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Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Review: The Duke I Once Knew by Olivia Drake

I wanted to like this one but the characters made it hard to do so.

Release Date: December 31, 2018
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book via NetGalley for the purpose of an honest review.

When two childhood sweethearts find themselves together after years apart, does their romance have a chance to be rekindled now that he’s a duke and she’s a governess? Olivia Drake’s new Unlikely Duchesses series begins with The Duke I Once Knew, where first love is always the sweetest...

For years, Abigail Linton devoted herself to caring for her parents and her siblings’ children. Now, eager to create a life of her own, Abby seizes upon a position as a governess on a neighboring estate. Unfortunately, her absentee employer is Maxwell Bryce, the Duke of Rothwell, the notorious rake who once broke her youthful heart.

But since he hasn’t set foot on his estate for fifteen years, Abby assumes she’ll never have to lay eyes on him ever again. Then, from out of nowhere, Max appears. He is stunned to come face to face with the girl next door he fell for years ago—before he went away, and she stopped writing to him. . .even though Abby swears that he is the one who left her without a word. Could it be that this spirited, witty spinster has won Max’s heart all over again—and that they may have a second chance at love?

The Story in 4 Sentences or Less: Abigail Linton and Maxwell Bryce, the Duke of Rothwell were childhood sweethearts until a family tragedy took Max away, Abby’s letters to him went unanswered, and both of them ended up broken hearted. Fifteen years later Abby is done devoting herself to caring for her siblings’ children and catering to their needs so she takes a position as a governess on a neighboring estate, to Max’s young sister and convinces herself that since he hasn’t set foot on the estate since that fateful day she has nothing to worry about. Until Max does show up and while both he and Abby are convinced that the other broke their heart, it doesn’t take long to figure out that their letters to each other never arrived at their intended destinations. But fifteen years has changed them both and there may not be enough affection between them for a second chance.

Like It? Hate it? Love it? Why? Honestly, I got bored and frustrated with this book. For many reasons. Don’t get me wrong, in theory the set up was a good, if common one. Titled lord falls for untitled girl, they make plans to marry but fate (or scheming relatives) separate the young lovers leading them to believe the other spurned them. I don’t mind the theme but I had a problem with the characters, their connection, and their romance.

Let’s start with Max, the duke and “hero” of the story. He’s a skirt chaser, a libertine of the worst sort and that usually doesn’t bother me BUT Max just came off as sleazy at times and it usually was when he interacting with Abby. Overall he wasn’t someone I could fall for. Too arrogant, no humility at the end, just a man playing power games when he should have been growing up and growing into his feelings for Abby.

Then there’s Abby. I didn’t like her either. She was dull, a bit of a nag, and always disapproving about something. Those were the three traits that she exhibited throughout the story. Her inner monologue about Max grated on my nerves because that’s all she did when she wasn’t nagging or being disapproving. And for a governess she spent a lot of time away from her charge. She was almost always conveniently running into him, getting caught thinking about him, or letting it slip to others that she had an interest in him. She was predictable and like I said, dull.

As a couple I had a big issue with Max and Abby. Supposedly he was in love with her when he was young and as an adult still feels something for her but he LOVED to toss his position of power over her as her employer, ordering her around, constantly reminding her that she was in his employ, etc. I really felt the imbalance of power here and the fact that Max used it to his advantage was a turn off. It was like Abby couldn’t be an equal to him mentally or emotionally, not even behind closed doors. He treated her like a servant in front of his friends and the woman he was intending on making his mistress, and that didn’t change even as his feelings for her did. He never really courted Abby once he realized he wanted a future with her, there was no romance between them, no re-connecting emotionally just… Nothing. I didn’t feel that these two were hopelessly, desperately in love with each other. I didn’t even see the kindness and gentleness that Abby claimed Max had in him. He was tolerant at best and childish at worst. They both were.

And don’t get me started on Abby’s manipulative and abusive family that basically saw her as an unpaid servant and babysitter. That type of “family” is right up there with “elective root canal” and “nope.” Naturally she never stood up to them, made excuses for them, and forgave them because “they are family.” Blech.

Click It or Skip It? Skip It. I’m not opposed to reading this author’s work again but this one just didn’t work for me at all. I didn’t connect with the characters and they never convinced me that they were in love.

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