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A Lady’s Code of Misconduct by Meredith Duran

Posted in Historical/ Historical Romance/ Reviews 30th December 2017
A Lady’s Code of Misconduct by Meredith DuranA Lady's Code of Misconduct by Meredith Duran
Series: Rules for the Reckless #5
Published by Pocket Books on February 28th 2017
Pages: 400
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two-stars

A DEAL WITH THE DEVIL...Trapped in the countryside, facing an unwanted marriage and the theft of her fortune, Jane Mason is done behaving nicely. To win her freedom, she’ll strike a deal with the most dangerous man she knows—a rising star in politics, whose dark good looks mask an even darker heart.

...NEVER GOES TO PLAN.The bitter past has taught Crispin Burke to trust no one. He’ll gladly help a lovely young heiress, provided she pays a price. Yet when a single mistake shatters his life, it is Jane who holds the key to his salvation. And in a world that no longer makes sense, Crispin slowly realizes that she may be the only thing worth fighting for...

The marvellous Meredith Duran—whether the plot is something you like or not—always weaves something so well-written that it leaves you breathless with her poetic prose and her sharp insights into human nature. That much is axiomatic and if the rating seems contrary to this, it’s only because I couldn’t buy into the romance and the circumstances under which Jane Mason and Crispin Burke were brought together.

Still, I had to stop from time to time in admiration of how Duran writes.

In fact, the first pages were brilliantly absorbing. I loved Jane’s steely will, the quest for independence and the plotting that provided her the opening that allowed her to escape the oppressive thumb of her uncle, all pitted against the cunning and cold manipulations of Crispin Burke. But after Crispin’s amnesia, I’d initially thought her actions showed a desperate woman trying to take flight; after that however, I thought they made her a hypocrite. That deception carried and drove this romance all along wasn’t something I liked at all (and which was something that Jane let go of in small doses).

The romance between Jane and Cripsin—the hard, unyielding man—before the accident was what I wanted to read, and not the man who suddenly seemed to ‘turn good’, as was the (rather unbelievable) implication that the knock on the head could be so strong as to be personality altering. That Jane wanted to separate the Crispin before and the Crispin after his amnesia never sat well with me, and this was only addressed towards the very end only, which I thought could have been acknowledged way earlier—that this was the same man still, an anti-hero, the schemer that was equally deserving of a HEA and whose machinations were precisely what she wanted while never admitting she needed that part of his personality for her own ends.

That said, Duran hasn’t stopped being my gold standard for 21st century historicals. If I don’t read enough of her works, that’s just all on me.

two-stars

The Duke of Shadows by Meredith Duran

Posted in Historical Romance/ Military/Paramilitary/ Reviews 21st November 2015
The Duke of Shadows by Meredith DuranThe Duke of Shadows by Meredith Duran
Published by Pocket Star on March 25th 2008
Pages: 371
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four-stars

Sick of tragedy, done with rebellion, Emmaline Martin vows to settle quietly into British Indian society. But when the pillars of privilege topple, her fiancé's betrayal leaves Emma no choice. She must turn for help to the one man whom she should not trust, but cannot resist: Julian Sinclair, the dangerous and dazzling heir to the Duke of Auburn.

In London, they toast Sinclair with champagne. In India, they call him a traitor. Cynical and impatient with both worlds, Julian has never imagined that the place he might belong is in the embrace of a woman with a reluctant laugh and haunted eyes. But in a time of terrible darkness, he and Emma will discover that love itself can be perilous -- and that a single decision can alter one's life forever.

A lifetime of grief later, in a cold London spring, Emma and Julian must finally confront the truth: no matter how hard one tries to deny it, some pasts cannot be disowned...and some passions never die.

Expansive, sweeping and so epic that I needed to catch my breath after book 1 ended. Meredith Duran’s vibrant and vivid descriptions not only lent justice to the complex period where the British Raj was about to break apart but gave it a sheen through a romance that seemed doomed from the start.

That fractured sense of history during the Sepoy mutiny is mirrored in her equally elusive protagonists: Julian Sinclair who has had to fight the prejudice against his mixed heritage and Emma Martin, for whom dire circumstances had set her aside from the proper behavioural protocols to forge her own way in a society built on judgement and precepts. Told in 2 parts, their story spans 4 tumultuous years, from the brilliant beginnings in India to the more predictable end in Victorian London.

Book 1 characterised them perfectly, but book 2 seemed more disjointed than book 1, characterising 2 changed people, to the extent I actually wondered if I was reading about the same protagonists that captured my heart in the first place.

Still, there was so much I loved about Emma’s unyielding character, as Ms Duran’s narrative seemed to favour unravelling her more than Julian, whom I liked a lot less for that same reason. I’d hoped she could have clarified the man he really was as opposed to the man he was perceived to be (especially on the grounds of fidelity), but that never really happened, leaving us to guess as what he’d become after the 4 years apart. If I thought Julian absolutely stellar in part 1, he seemed to flatten and diminish in the second part, reduced to a bit role of a man who only fought against Emma’s resistance using flippancy and crudeness – just like the rake people say he is, without authorial correction of the reader’s perception of him. Despite this, I can’t think of a couple more suited to each other than Julian and Emma, where the weight of their history actually gave weight to their believability, as much as I loved them together in book 1 a lot more than the ‘changed’ people they were in book 2.

But what does one say about a book where the first part – indelibly imprinted in my mind – so greatly overshadows the distasteful second? Apart from trying to reason out the number of stars I should be giving the book, I’m still not too sure.

four-stars
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