As you can see from my rating, I did NOT enjoy Laura Lee Guhrke's second "Girl-Bachelor" book, THE WICKED WAYS OF A DUKE. Had it been written by another author, it may have gained a 2.5, but I have so enjoyed other books by Guhrke --- Guilty Pleasures, And Then He Kissed Her --- that I was all the more disappointed by this one. I had it up and posted on PaperbackSwap before I'd even completely finished.
So where do I start?!
Prudence was sympathetic, but after awhile the urge to slap her grew a little too strong. I liked her when the book started: she's independent, works hard, is kind and generous, smart (or so we thought), and she doesn't have the beautiful face and figure (she's supposed to be a little plump --- don't let the cover drawings fool you) that heroines often do.
My opinion changed pretty quickly as I became increasingly frustrated with her. Prudence is supposed to be 28 years old and have lived in London *by herself* for 11 years . . . yet she's still so naive and gullible?!?! I didn't view this as sweet and innocent --- which is Rhys' interpretation --- but just plain annoying and dumb. She acts childish, is overly romantic, and is basically a lovesick puppy who acts far too desperate for a man who doesn't seem to have many redeemable qualities --- if any. I *love* reformed rake stories, don't get me wrong, but usually there is some underlying goodness that can be accessed; Rhys is by no means cruel or mean and at least he has that going for him, however my overwhelming feeling towards him was definitely one of contempt.
Rhys is selfish, lazy, uncaring, and solely driven by lust. He is *unbelievably* manipulative and even though we sometimes have heroes who are the bad-boys-we-love-to-love, this went way beyond that. It was kind of like St. Vincent in Lisa Kleypas' IT HAPPENED ONE AUTUMN --- i.e. he's bad enough to be the villain of this book but good enough to be the hero of the next one.
We see no process of change --- up until the day before Prudence discovers his duplicity, he's still acting irresponsible and lazy. Then he spends the day touring one of his estates that is in horrible condition, and all of a sudden he's Mr. man-of-the-people, ready to settle down with his wife, have children, take on work and duties . . . even though the day before he had still be wanting to shirk his ducal responsibilities and spend his time with Prudence traveling around Europe and never settling down.
One of the most unbelievable and annoying things about Prudence and the plot is that never once is she suspicious of Rhys and his pretense that he has no idea of her change in circumstances. It's essential how Guhrke decided to have her story play out, and that's really the only reason it's there, because HELLO?! Has he not spoken to another living being in London or read a single paper?!?! The seamstress-turned-millionaire-heiress is supposed to be the talk of the town, so unless he's a hermit, how would it be possible that he hasn't heard and doesn't hear for two weeks?!
Secondly, the belief that they love each other is utterly and completely ridiculous. We're dealing with books of ~300 pages here, however some authors are able to truly show you and make you completely believe that two characters who didn't know one another before have indeed fallen in love with one another and will have their HEA. (Mary Balogh comes to mind, as I find that is true with almost all her books and I'm always amazed at how complex her characters are and how intricate her stories --- especially compared to a lot of other HR authors out there).
This is seriously how the story goes: Rhys and Prudence meet at a ball, speak a few sentences; they meet at the opera, speak a little longer; he follows her to a museum, great conversation; they have a nice afternoon together alone, with a picnic and fishing; . . . and that's it, she's in love with him and wants to marry him. I'm sorry, but it would take more than two brief conversations and two afternoons for me to decide to tie myself for life to another person, especially in that day and age when women didn't have the rights they do today.
Prudence is able to choose her husband --- why decide after a week acquaintance that this is the guy for you? Basically: lust. Yup, that is pretty much what drives both sides of that relationship. She loves how he's good looking (how wonderful for her), he likes her "luscious" body --- and the fact that she's loaded (how wonderful for him).
1) And Then He Kissed Her --- Emma
2) THE WICKED WAYS OF A DUKE --- Prudence
3) Secret Desires of a Gentleman --- Maria
4) With Seduction in Mind --- Daisy
The hero was unlikable, the heroine was pitiful, the romance was completely unrealistic and implausible, there was lust but no love, and the only good part of the entire book was the actual blow-up when Prudence discovers the treachery and the unusual ending. *SKIP IT* and read Guhrke's Guilty Pleasures or And Then He Kissed Her instead.