Saturday, March 10, 2012
Secrets of an Accidental Duchess
Olivia Donovan immediately catches the eye of Maxwell Buchanan, Marquis of Hasley, and heir to the Duke of Wakefield, with her china doll looks and immediately noticeable self-assurance. He cannot resist taking the wager the Marquis of Fenwicke poses; he will seduce within six months or owe Fenwicke 1000 pounds and if he wins Fenwicke will walk around in his shirtsleeves for a week. He and Fenwicke have always been antagonists and even though he doesn't intend to claim his victory he is too taken with the idea of besting the horrible man. He decides to cash in on his connection to Olivia's brother-in-law and accompany the family to their country estate in Sussex where he can woo Olivia at his leisure away from the watchful eye of society. A childhood bout of malaria, which resurfaces on occasion, means her family is very protective, perhaps overprotective even, and while not understanding precisely why everyone is so concerned with Olivia's welfare, Max finds himself the only one encouraging Olivia's adventures.
Olivia finds she enjoys someone who doesn't treat her like a patient or a child and finds it so easy to confide in Max about her life. Max too is surprised that he is enjoying himself immensely and the bet is becoming something he is ashamed of and wants no part of it anymore. Meanwhile Olivia's sister, Jessica, has befriended their neighbor, Beatrice, who happens to be the Marquis of Fenwicke's abandoned wife and it is not long before everyone realizes that Beatrice is an abused spouse. Olivia finds herself wrapped up in the possibilities that Max presents; a life she had never expected and intimacy she had never imagined. The two embark on a passionate affair and Max is determined to prove that he is good enough for the beautiful, charming, and treasured Olivia, but before he can he inherits the Dukedom. In London Fenwicke reappears and it is clear that he holds a grudge against Max for Max's successes with a woman who turned him down. Everyone in the family must work to put an end to Fenwicke in order to save his wife and provide a future for Olivia and Max.
Olivia really came across as kind of an undeveloped character for me with nothing special and I felt like her illness was just a poor attempt to make her interest and illicit empathy for her. I liked her sister jessica much better, especially once Jessica took such an interest in Beatrice and really fought for her friend's well-being. Olivia apparently possessed immense attraction because everyone was "drawn" to her even though she was arguably not the most attractive of the Donovan sisters and I am not a fan of characters who just magically attract other people. I am not an outdoors person and since Olivia seemed only interested in outdoor activities, since she was confined indoors for so long, I did not really relate to her. I easily forgave Max for making the bet with Fenwick as he quickly showed himself to be an intelligent, well behaved gentleman who really was a nice guy even if he did have a rakehell past and some hell-raising days behind him. Unfortunately, he was not as quick to forgive himself, and I felt like I was constantly being hit with his own self-recrimination which I did not enjoy.
I will admit that Olivia and Max worked really well together and even though it took them quite a while to actually meet and be friends and begin their relationship, once it got started I really felt a connection between them. They had a lot in common and they enjoyed each other's company and they certainly had a lot of chemistry between them. There was some sex, it was really not too hot, and I will admit that after her debut, which admittedly set a very high standard, I have found myself disappointed with Haymore's sex scenes. They just fell flat and just not in keeping with a romance novel that claims the characters have passion between them; I'd almost rather they not have any written scenes than lukewarm scenes. The plot involving Fenwick sustained my interest halfway as I was intrigued by what was happening with his wife and how they were going to protect her but his supposedly longstanding grudge against Max just seemed ridiculous and couldn't hold my interest because it seemed haphazardly constructed. I did like that previous characters were present and it didn't bother me since I liked those characters.
Rating: A readable, if not precisely enjoyable novel, that was far too long and moved slowly and while the characters were well suited I did not particularly care for them or their relationship.