Eve Pendle starts Catch a Falling Duke off with a bang when Hugh Ravensthorpe, Duke of Cumbria, discovers his grandfather owned slaves in British Guiana (now Guyana) and that is the source of his family’s wealth. In horror, he flees his family estate. Dairy farm owner, Bea Fenton, is on her way to a job fair hoping to find the man her mother wrote to many years ago. They encounter each other at an inn and their one night stand becomes travelling together. She thinks he’s joking when he tells her he’s the Duke of Cumbria. He enjoys being plain Mr. Ravensthorpe.
One of the criticisms of historical romance is the way it allows writers and readers to inhabit predominately white worlds and ignore the sources of their characters’ wealth – colonization, slavery, and exploitation. It’s one of the reasons I largely stopped reading historical romance. Pendle has set up Hugh and Bea so that each of them is questioning their heritage and the legacies they will leave. Hugh is grappling with what he owes the descendants of those enslaved people, and what her owes his family and the title. Bea has come to suspect that the father she inherited the farm from is not her biological father and she questions her right to own the farm at all. When they work together, they support each other in making better choices.
Good genre fiction isn’t just about the story, but also about the reader. We can’t change the decisions made by others in the past, and we often can’t ask about their reasoning for the choices they made. We also can’t control the choices that will be made by those that come after us. All we can do is make the best choices we can now. We have to deal with the consequences of our ancestors actions, and we can make different choices now.
Catch a Falling Duke works best when Hugh and Bea are together. There was a section in the middle where they are apart and I struggled through. Once they come back together the book settled into a gentle love story.
I received this as an advance reader copy in exchange for an honest review.