To say that I’ve been disappointed with the romance novels I’ve read of late would be an understatement. I don’t know if it’s a case of me struggling to evolve after having read the same authors for the past twenty years, but I’m seriously bummed out that I’ve not been able to binge on reading romances in the way that I used to. My latest attempt at falling in love with a romance came with reading Sophia Nash’s The Once and Future Duchess (2014). I’m sorry to say I did not fall in love and will need to court more authors.
The Once and Future Duchess tells the story of Isabelle Tremont, the Duchess of March, and James Fitzroy, the Duke of Candover, who are among a special group in the realm who have received missives from the Prince Regent to get married. While James (30) intends to disregard Princy’s demands, Isabelle (18) sees it as an opportunity to propose marriage to James, whom she has been in love with since she was a preteen. Problem is, James isn’t keen on marrying Isabelle because of their age difference and a promise he had made to her dying father. The story of how these two end up together is filled with other characters and backstories that make this story, for me, a hot mess.
To make sense of The Once and Future Duchess, it seems like the reader needs to have read a previous title (which I didn’t care to find the title of) because plot points involving two other characters whose story is intertwined with Isabelle and James’s story plays a prominent role. Allusions are also made to James’s previous “debauched bachelor party” gone wrong, which results in the Prince’s demands that certain members of his court settle into marriage. In addition, there’s Calliope, Isabelle’s 12 or 14 year old cousin going on 50 who dispenses “wisdom” while being an intrusive brat.
This story is a convoluted mess lacking focus. Isabelle was annoying, James lacked personality, and Calliope (meant as comic relief?) was just plain unrealistic. In addition, the two other characters who also seem to have been the focus of this story were just ridiculous. In all, the conflicts in this story were boring and not worth developing. The characters did not really evolve. And the “romance” was lacking. This story went no where and seemed incomplete.
I don’t know if this story is part of a continuing series. In the end, I didn’t care. I just wanted to be done with the book, for The Once and Future Duchess is very much forgettable.
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