This was me for pretty much all of A Duke But No Gentleman. It...did not go well.
Read ahead at your own risk. I'm including spoilers because I don't know how else to do this one.
Honestly I don't even know where to start. I really didn't like anything about this A Duke But No Gentleman other than the heroine who was fairly likable even if very naive. And the pretty cover though it really has no connection to the book other than it's historical-ish.
Basically, there's a bet. The "hero" and his best friend are competitive. Always have been. They'll do whatever it takes to win. The consequences for those they bet on be damned. They couldn't care less what happens to those they wager on. And this time these two grown men (25 and 28 I believe) are betting on the virtue of a young Lady who is only 18 and in her first season. Yeah. They're betting on who can take her virginity (with no plans of marrying her) and basically ruin her.
Real fucking classy.
And so they set about 'courting' her to see who can seal the deal first.
The heroine was definitely an innocent. She's sweet and sheltered and out of her element when targeted by these two very experienced rakes who know how to put on a show and dazzle. I liked Imogene and felt so sorry for her. From the outside they looked like they were just fun loving rakes courting her but knowing the truth of it and how they'd talk behind her back just soured me so quickly to them. These are the rakes mama's warn about. No good hearts, no redeeming qualities. They're the scummy side of rakes in my opinion.
My big problem--well, I guess one of a few--was that things never really left the betting stage like the blurb alludes to. Instead of the hero realizing he actually liked her and showing some honor and just being too stupid to tell her the truth about why he started after her the betting side continued. They kept scheming, kept thinking of her as a means to winning, kept trying to outmaneuver each other to get into her good graces and bed.
And then the 'hero' sleeps with her (while still thinking of her as the bet)
And I gotta say it left me feeling dirty.
It wasn't sexy or fun despite that being the intent and her enjoying herself once she quit protesting.
It felt cheap and disrespectful.
And extremely ill-placed.
I kept having the feeling while reading that chunks of the story just weren't there. At the beginning like I'd missed an intro novella or another book, or them suddenly having sex for the first time when she'd been at a ball with friends and things just not progressing to that point yet just the chapter before or her mother going from full out panic and refusing to introduce the hero to her to just flippantly saying later on not to act too eager or she'd ruin her chances with that Duke. I kept going how the hell did we get to here?? Did I miss a chapter?! Or ten?
Not to mention she's 18 years old and can disappear for hours, ditch her friends on an outing and no one question it, randomly leave balls or the theater and have no chaperone to hook up with the Duke and then have no fall out from it. Nothing about what she'd tell her very involved family about her unexplained disappearances. No repercussions. No fretting over what she would do. It would suddenly just be a few days or weeks later and nothing said.
And then...the heroine is raped by the hero's best friend after he realizes he's lost the best of claiming her virginity. Because she must pay for picking his best friend over him. And how dare his best friend!
I don't honestly know what was trying to happen here. If the author was trying to make this a dark and gritty read and decide that was how? It just didn't work. It made no real sense and she recovered extremely quickly from the ordeal as well which just wasn't believable to me.
The only thing it brought about was a change in the hero. Because despite there being no real romance and the hero never really showing interest in her other than the bet he wanted to win he was now madly in love with her and wanting to get married.
Once again it was one of these kind of moments.
There were no stepping stones. No moments of them actually falling in love or seeing things change in his head from a competition to actual love. Just BAM! Asshole motherfucker to prince charming who was sweet and tender and wanted to give her the world all because she was attacked.
I just. Ahhhhh! I try to always find some good things about a book even when they don't work for me but A Duke But No Gentleman really left me grasping for straws in that regard. It read extremely fast, I'll give it that. It says over 300 pages but it didn't feel like that. I'd say about half that length in reality so I'm wondering if a very large font was used or extra spacing. I read this way too quick for it to have been a standard 300ish pager. Regardless, overall I was just incredibly let down. Historicals usually work for me. I love rakes, I love scandalous behavior. I love edgy reads and boundaries being pushed. But this gave me none of that.
Have you read Hawkins? Do you have a favorite?
Do you like the romance started as a bet trope?
Any rakes of the non-scummy version you'd rec?
The Duke of Blackbern and the Marquess Norgrave have always had the wildest of friendships. Best friends growing up, they bask in the pleasures the rich, opulent world that London has to offer, consuming drink and women at their leisure.
But Norgrave has always been a step behind. Blackbern can best him at anything—playing cards, riding horses, and bedding women. So when the stunningly beautiful but innocent Lady Imogen Sunter strays across their path, both men agree a friendly competition for the lady's affections cannot hurt.
But when Blackbern's feelings turn into something deeper and Lady Imogen's desire become clear, Norgrave will do anything to win the wager. Only one man can lay claim to Lady Imogen's heart… and one shocking act will change them all irrevocably…
Amazon | All Romance | Book Depository | BAM | Goodreads
I love hearing from yall! So don't be shy...leave a comment!