I’m going to start this review by saying that Marie Force is one of my favourite contemporary romantic suspense authors, and someone I deeply respect in the writing world.
But with that said, I really, really wish she hadn’t tried her hand at historical romance because this is a hot mess. It’s got some absolute clangers in terms of historical inaccuracies and a hero who tells continued and repeated lies to the heroine and then tries to tell her it’s all for her benefit. While refusing to allow her to sleep apart from him because ‘she’d never forgive him if he gave her too much time to think about the many ways he’d done her wrong’ and basically forcing himself on her even when she told him she wanted him to leave.
I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with the historical and geographic inaccuracies. Set in 1902, mostly at the Duke of Westwood’s Essex estate. However, it reads more like a Regency romance than an Edwardian one; the only thing non-Regency was ‘collar and tie’ on the gentlemen rather than cravats. The duke, Derek, and his love interest Catherine elope to Gretna Green to get married hastily… which is the first thing I scowled at. In 1856 the law was changed to stop the scandalous Scottish marriages taking place, requiring at least one member of a couple wishing to marry to be resident in Scotland for 21 days prior to a marriage. Which didn’t happen. So in 1902, no couple from England are running off to Gretna and getting married on the day of their arrival.
Which brings me to another point. In 1902, the journey from Essex to Scotland could have been managed in a couple of days, as Derek and Catherine did - but certainly not by horse-drawn carriage, which would have been a 6-day journey at least, but nobody would do it that way. Trains ran the length and breadth of Britain by that time and they would only have taken a carriage as far as the nearest station. Guess what else isn’t even mentioned in the book? That’s right. No trains. The Duke’s carriage magically transports them from Essex to Scotland with just one overnight stop.
Historical and geographic inaccuracies aside, I thoroughly disliked the plot of this book. Derek flat-out lies to Catherine about who he is and continues to do so even after they’re married until he’s caught out, which is dubious consent in my book at the very least. And then he refuses to allow her to be righteously angry because he’s afraid she won’t forgive him, which would frankly be the least of what he deserves.
Oh, and did I mention the sex? This pair are at it like rabbits within a few days of meeting, before getting married and afterwards, and not content with them, Force also writes in a romance between the duke’s cousin and Catherine’s younger sister and writes a whole separate story in which they get married and have sex too. There were so many sex scenes I started skimming them after a while. This is NOT supposed to be erotica.
I almost quit reading this at the 70% mark, but I don’t believe in critiqueing something without full and informed knowledge, so I soldiered on. Shortly after that Catherine did finally read Derek the riot act properly, saying she couldn’t reconcile the goodness she saw in him with the man who repeatedly lied to the woman he claimed to love. At which point he went off in a sulk and took off to London for three days, letting her find out about it from the housekeeper.
Guess what? The genuinely epic grovel this story desperately needed never, ever happened, Catherine decided sex with Derek was good enough to not care about his lies and when he fell ill with influenza, blamed herself for putting stress on him, and SHE apologized to HIM. Self-gaslighting was a new low even for this book.
I honestly can hardly believe a writer with as much talent as Marie Force wrote this utterly dreadful drivel. Please, please go back to writing contemporary suspense, ma’am. Or maybe get a sensitivity reader and an editor knowledgeable about the historical period you’re writing about to clean up the horrible mess of inaccuracies and dubious consent before you publish the rest of the series.
I can hardly believe I’m saying this, but I cannot possibly give this awful story any more than one star.
Duchess By Deception is available now.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review through NetGalley.