Author: Judith McNaught
Redonk Nutshell: Flirtatious, bull-headed beauty meets her match in a scheming, raging Duke
Official Synopsis: Under the dark, languorous eyes of Clayton Westmoreland, the Duke of Claymore, Whitney Stone grew from a saucy hoyden into a ravishingly sensual woman. Fresh from her triumphs in Paris society, she returned to England to win the heart of Paul, her childhood love…only to be bargained away by her bankrupt father to the handsome, arrogant Duke. Outraged, she defies her new lord. But even as his smoldering passion seduces her into a gathering storm of desire, Whitney cannot, will not, relinquish her dream of perfect love.
I’ve come to really enjoy Judith McNaught’s books. They’re typically epically romantic with a dash of sensuality. This is the 2nd in her Westmoreland series, a chronicle of the Duke of Clayton through the ages. I bought this book at a library book sale for $0.50, knowing that a novel by Judith McNaught couldn’t be a bad decision.
That said, I really struggled with this book. It’s written incredibly well, and as usual, McNaught does a splendid job weaving glorious characters and plot settings. What I struggled with was the stubbornness and borderline abusive relationship between the main characters. In a way I could *almost* appreciate the representation of raw emotion and naked ugliness that’s present in everyday life. What bothered me, though, was how quickly the two were to forgive each other. Yes, they’re madly in love. Yes, they’re both equally stubborn and conniving. BUT…still. There are scenes bordering on physical violence and rape.
Whitney comes from a harsh background, having never truly received her father’s approval or love. In fact, the man is outright rude and condescending to her. She goes above and beyond her means to prove herself to him, and as she grows older she twists her attempts into ways to goad him. For example, she rides astride in boy’s clothes, or plays pranks on her instructors. Whitney is beautiful and whip-sharp smart, but for the life of her she doesn’t seem to be able to think outside of herself.
Her aunt & uncle take her to Paris to cultivate her and enter her into society. Of course, she’s a smash hit. While there she gains the eye of the Duke of Claymore, and the man right then and there decides he wants her as his wife. Instead of approaching her, he goes to her father instead and more or less buys her – he gives her father $100,000 pounds to pay of his debts and signs an engagement contract. Claymore then decides instead of approaching her directly about his actions, he is going to woo her, concealing his true identity as a Duke and posing as a country neighbor.
Well, we all know how well deception works out. It goes horribly wrong, and Whitney rages against everyone in a manner only she can.
Now, of course, she manages to develop feelings for her betrothed, as much as she doesn’t want to. Her crush on her childhood hero, Paul, turns sour and she comes to realize her feelings for Claymore are much, much deeper.
Claymore and Whitney battle it out over and over again, every misunderstood situation being blown out of epic proportions. He finds a strange note in her drawer? Oh, she must be sleeping around. He dances with his former mistress? Oh, me must be screwing her on the side. The way these two egg each other on is just…deplorable. At first it was funny and intriguing. But by about 3/4 of the way through the book it was borderline disturbing.
I wanted to really like this book. It had potential. Watching Whitney grow from an awkward girl to a beautiful woman is an enlightening tale. The initial interactions with Claymore were pretty funny. Until the book continued further.
This is definitely not my favorite McNaught read. So far I think that honor would go to Until You, which is the 3rd in the Westmoreland series.
Romance: 2/5 Raunch: 1/5