Friday, January 27, 2012
Review: Secrets of an Accidental Duchess by Jennifer Haymore
Author: Jennifer Haymore
Genre: Romance, Historical Romance
Synopsis: With her pale hair and slim figure, Olivia Donovan looks as fragile as fine china, and has been treated as such by her sisters ever since a childhood bout with malaria. But beneath her delicate facade, Olivia guards a bold, independent spirit and the kind of passionate desires proper young ladies must never confess...
It was a reckless wager, and one Max couldn't resist: seduce the alluring Olivia or forfeit part of his fortune. Yet the wild, soon-to-be Duke never imagined he'd fall in love with this innocent beauty. Nor could he have guessed that a dangerously unpredictable rival would set out to destroy them both. Now, Max must beat a madman at his own twisted game-or forever lose the only woman to have ever won his heart.
Review: I have to mention that I did not read the first book in the Donovan series, so this installment is being reviewed as a stand-alone story.
The book focuses on Olivia, one of the Donovan sisters, who has a history of extreme fevers after contracting malaria during her family's time living in the West Indies. Olivia is tiny, pale, and prone to fainting spells. She's also basically resigned herself to never marrying and being a wonderful aunt to her sister's future children.
Max Buchanan, our male lead, is strong, dark, and rake-ish. He is immediately drawn to Olivia's beauty. Unfortunately, so is the evil Lord Reece, Marquis of Fenwicke. The two ultimately end up making a bet about who can succeed in seducing the innocent Olivia.
At this point, I was already turned off. I really dislike the "bet" plot device that is often used in romance novels. It kind of skeeves me out and has the added detriment of being really predictable.
I got even more frustrated with the book when Olivia's family was introduced. There is clearly a lot of back story in the first book that would have greatly enhanced understanding in the second installment. We really don't get any idea about what happened in the first, and Haymore chooses not to write a short paragraph kind of summarizing - which I have often seen done in other romance books that are part of a series.
Olivia was also very frustrating for me. She's a tiny, pale, fainting little thing. While her physical issues are due to her illness, I find that her personality is very much within the same genre. There are two specific moments, which I am not going to reveal here, where I felt like she just wasn't strong or didn't fight as much as she absolutely could have to avoid a bad situation from happening. I found myself almost screaming at the book in frustration!
What I did enjoy was the secondary plot to that of the budding romance between Max and Olivia. Lord Fenwicke is perfectly evil and much more cruel than most antagonists in books of the same genre. It is a little bit over-the-top but enjoyable nonetheless. My absolute favorite character was Beatrice, Lord Fenwicke's wife. She really deserves her own book. It is one I would definitely pick up.
Overall, I wavered between a 3 and 4-star rating for this book, but had to go with a 3. Although generally entertaining, "Secrets of an Accidental Duchess" had to many problems for me to consider reading the other books in the series (with the one exception listed above).