I was stuck in the airport with a dead Kindle and a trans-Atlantic flight ahead of me. I regret to say that I would not have finished Danielle Steel's new book, The Duchess under less dire circumstances. I more regret that I paid full price for her book.
I understand that this is her first foray into historical fiction. And the premise is actually pretty interesting, if fatally flawed. Unfortunately it was coupled with some pretty sloppy writing and crumbled like a sandcastle.
She starts with a fresh spin on the Cinderella idea. Angelique is the half-French daughter of an elderly Duke and his beloved second wife. When her father dies her half-brother ignores his father's wishes and forces her to become a governess. The interesting part of the book starts when she decides to create her own future with a small settlement her father left her.
Multiple times we are assured that the Duke love her and worried for her, but couldn't do anything to prevent her lost of status and fortune. That was wildly untrue. He could have arranged an betrothal, given her wardship to the King, have a solicitor secure her dowry, given her a fortune in jewels, ordered any relative or lesser noble to give her a Season while he was ailing or any number of things. The super confusing part is when the Duke is able to give her a small amount of money, but not enough for a dowry or financial security. None of this is explained adequately.
The other giant stumbling block is the ease at which her relatives make her disappear. Noble marriages, births and peccadilloes were celebrated and analyzed in gossip magazines just like celebrities today. The whole countryside would have been aware of the Duke's remarriage, the birth of his daughter, his illness and his death. There are only 11 dukes in all of England, and one of those is the Crown Prince. But we are supposed to believe that if her brother calls her a cousin and uses her full name instead of her title everyone will buy it. And her motivation for going along with this subterfuge instead of shaming her brother into providing for her was... basically just a lack of a backbone.
But there I was, over a wine dark sea in a flying tin can with no library in sight. So I rolled my eyes, held my nose and carried on. I was not rewarded for my perseverance.
It got worse.
I don't know about you, but I generally read romance novels for the romance. The sweet scenes where they fall in love, the sexy scenes where they fulfill their passion, the touching scenes where they heal each other's scars. Danielle glossed over important conversations and spending pages retelling the current plot points to minor characters. For this one thing I cannot forgive her. She cut out the conservation where the hero and heroine fell in love!
So my lovely writers, if you included the scene where your characters' souls mingle you've already beat Ms. Steel. It is truly sad to see a legend fall.
Did you find other issues with The Duchess? Or perhaps you really enjoyed it and think I'm making a hullabaloo over an inkblot. I'd love to hear from you.