Jen’s review of The Scandalous Duke Takes a Bride (Dangerous Rogues #3) by Tiffany Clare
FRIENDS AND LOVERS…
As a wealthy young widow, Lady Jessica Heyer must endure the closest of scrutiny and most wicked of rumors from society gossips. Their whispers would be utterly unbearable if it weren’t for her oldest friend, the Duke of Alsborough. Jessica knows she can always count on Hayden. What she never could have expected, however, is that he is deeply, madly in love with her…
TO HAVE AND TO HOLD
For years, Hayden has kept his longing for his beautiful friend Jessica a secret. But now that she’s finally free to remarry, will she be willing to take their relationship to a more intimate level? He’ll get his answer soon—at a glittering masquerade, where identities are hidden, hearts are open, and true love is unmasked…in a single, shameless act of passion.
Lady Jessica Heyer is recently widowed, but she’s certainly not in mourning. Her husband was a horrible person, so frankly she’s thrilled to be rid of him. Due to her husband’s slandering of her character as well as her own crazy behavior, she’s on the verge of being entirely shunned from society and left penniless and homeless. Her close friend Hayden, the Duke of Alsborough, has been secretly in love with her for years, and he sticks by her through her ordeal. Jessica and Hayden have to fend off the continued attacks on her character, deal with her late husband’s heir who is planning to eject her from her house, and negotiate their own changing relationship.
I admit, this book was a huge slog. I really wanted to put it aside after only a few chapters, but I kept on with it for you, dear readers! The characters are wooden and unlikable. Jessica in particular was nearly intolerable for me for most of the book. She’s childish and melodramatic, and she persists in destructive behavior, even when she knows the stakes. For instance, she insists on not dressing in mourning clothes for her husband’s funeral, knowing that it will only hurt her image when she’s on the verge of being ostracized. She drags Hayden to a debauched party with little more than a flimsy mask to disguise her, despite the fact that she can’t afford to add more scandal to her name. She schemes and plots and connives to try and outsmart her opponents, but then won’t share her plans with Hayden even when he can and does help. And the worst is that she drags Hayden into all these messes with her! She keeps claiming to care so much about his friendship, but she sure doesn’t show it in her actions. Except then she adamantly refuses to marry him because she wants to “protect” him. She knows marriage to an aristocrat would help alleviate many of her problems. She’d rather pursue someone she didn’t know (assuming she could even get anyone interested, which seems pretty unlikely given her reputation) than marry her best friend, who she admits she’s attracted to and who she knows is in love with her. Even when he comes through with genuine, useful assistance and shows that he really does have the clout to turn things around for her, she resists. At this point I was just WTFing nearly every word that came out of her mouth. Jessica does go through some really awful stuff, mostly at the hands of her husband, and I could appreciate the difficult situation she was in. It’s not that I didn’t want her to be conniving or a little “bad,” but it was hard to side with her when I felt like most everything she did in the book was for selfish reasons. She befriends people when it benefits her; she pulls Hayden along when she needs him but pushes him away when she doesn’t; she does outrageous things but then acts all asshurt when society doesn’t like it. I really didn’t enjoy reading about her!
Hayden isn’t as horrible, but there’s not much substance there either. I didn’t understand why he really loved Jessica or what he wanted from life, beyond her. Hayden and Jessica are also part of a group of good friends; the other two friends, Leo and Tristan, are the subject of the other books in the series. The friendships are just one of the many unbelievable elements of this book. Jessica is “best friends” with three single men and, in the past at least, routinely spent nights out on the town with them. I seriously doubt that this would have been tolerated in Victorian times. Plus given how controlling her husband was, I don’t know why he’d ever condone her continued friendship with the men. She is constantly alone with one of them, including having them in her bedroom! Her husband is evil to the point of ridiculousness, even setting up torment for her from beyond the grave. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but I didn’t understand why her husband did the Big Evil Thing he did either. None of it made sense to me.
Leo and Tristan’s stories carry over in significant ways into this one, and since I hadn’t read the other books it did make it a bit hard to follow all the threads. I didn’t like how the last part of this book is spent in what is essentially another friend’s story–Jessica and Hayden have to help their friend Tristan in a dual over his heroine from book #2. We also see the conclusion of Leo’s relationship with his lady. It was strange to basically get to Hayden and Jessica’s confessions of love and what felt like the end only to keep going with what seemed like entirely new stories. I guess the upside, however, is that the change of direction meant we weren’t stuck hearing only about Jessica!
Adding together the supremely unlikable heroine, the other forgettable characters, and the disjointed, unbelievable plot, this book just didn’t work for me unfortunately.
Grade: 1.5 out of 5
This book is available from St. Martin’s Press. You can purchase it here or here in e-format. This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.