I’ve bought so many Kindle books off Amazon now that I’ve to trust the suggestions that the site makes for me in terms of what else I could be reading. When The Duke’s Reform came up as a recommendation, it sounded right up my alley.
Lord Alexander Bentley, Duke Of Rochester, has spent the last few years of his life alienating his friends and avoiding decent society. His behaviour, though destructive, is not unexpected given his past; he comes from a long line of moody and selfish dukes anyway but his pain comes from having lost his wife and two daughters to illness and never coming to terms with it. He realises that he must continue the family line and so sets about his search for a new wife, determined that she will understand that their marriage is to be nothing more than a business arrangement. Lady Isobel Drummond has always dreamed of marrying for love, but understands that she must marry someone rich in order to provide for her loved ones and recover the family finances. When she meets Alexander, she hopes that she may be able to do both but soon realises that marriage to the Duke of Rochester will not be easy. After months of mistreatment of his wife and constantly pushing her away, Alexander realises there may be more to his marriage than he thought, but has he realised too late to salvage his relationship with his wife?
Isobel was initially a meek and timid character, willing to submit to her husband because that was what was expected of her. I thought that I might start to find her a little tiresome as the story wore on, even with her small flashes of feistiness towards her husband and his friends. However, once she had truly suffered at Alexander’s hand, her character became more interesting. Fending for herself made her a stronger character in terms of attitude and likeability, and her unwillingness to make the same mistakes twice made her very interesting. Her change in character could have easily swung the other way and made her too cold to be likeable, but the vulnerability of her underlying feelings for Alexander despite what he’d done gave a soft sheen to her hard edges and kept her within the realms of agreeable.
Alexander initially came across as a bit of a brute; while his behaviour was given sufficient background and reasoning, I initially found it hard to feel sorry for him in any way because of the way he was portrayed. When the breaking point scene happened, I wasn’t sure if the author had pushed her character too far in the way of arrogant and angry, but he was quickly redeemed by his willingness to do anything to get his wife back. For a good two thirds of the story, I found Alexander to be a great leading man for the story. He was kind, caring and protective, while striking the balance of understanding of his tenuous situation with his wife and just a hint of anger residing in him to keep him interesting.
The relationship between the two main characters was very much the main point of the story, with a fairly interesting family drama subplot playing out in the background. Initially Alexander had all the power, but the shift in Isobel’s favour was a nice touch and very well placed within the story without being overplayed or unbelievable. The one thing that didn’t really sit well with me as a reader was the speed with which Alexander went from wanting to keep his heart protected from any kind of affection for his wife to being irrevocably in love with her and willing to do anything for her; it literally happened overnight and was a little hard to believe at first (however I soon forgot about it as the story progressed).
I enjoyed the story, though I could have done without the randomly placed spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, and thought the plot twist at the end was very well written (as I didn’t entirely see it coming). The characters were interesting enough by themselves, but very readable together. A surprise hit.