The Holding

The Marriage Bed

Tell Me Lies

To Burn

The Willing Wife

How to Dazzle a Duke
by Claudia Dain
(Berkley, $15, PG)† ISBN 978-042-522968-2
Claudia Dainís latest entry in her ďCourtesanĒ series featuring matchmaking Lady Dalby is a Regency talkfest.†The characters talk, and talk, and talk some more, and the story draaaags.†Add to it a heroine who is annoyingly smug, and it makes for a tedious reading experience.

Miss Penelope Prestwick wants to marry a duke. There arenít many available, but the Duke of Edenham looks like a good choice. Though heís had three previous wives, heís handsome, accomplished, and surely once he gets to know her, he wonít be able to help falling in love with her, Penelope reasons. But first she needs to catch his attention.† Perhaps Lady Dalby can help.† After all, Lady Dalby has recently engineered several good matches, including that of her own daughter.

Much to Penelopeís surprise (and the readerís vast amusement), Edenham takes absolutely no notice of her, no matter how she preens.†Penelope, vain twit that she is, canít fathom why, since men always fall all over her.†The idea that perhaps Edenham is used to fawning young women trying to get his attention, and perhaps that he hasnít the faintest interest in Penelopeís charms, never occurs to her.

So Penelope comes up with another plan: make Edenham aware that he has competition.†She approaches the Marquis of Iveston and asks him to feign an interest in her, in order to make Edenham take notice. Iveston, one of the most eligible bachelors of the ton, is already annoyed that Penelope hasnít noticed him.†He not only agrees to her plan, he places a wager in the betting book at Whiteís that he will wed Penelope by the end of the Season.†

This is a plot that takes over a hundred pages to set up, and most of it is accomplished through long, meandering conversations. An incredible number of secondary characters arrive in the story (three of them named George), and they all want to make their presence known. This cast loves to talk, and talk, and talk.†Much of their conversation descends into rather pointless filler.†I found it hard to stay awake, let alone interested in the plot, and the somewhat overwrought prose didnít help.

Letís start with the main characters. Both Penelope and Iveston believe they are the most fascinating creatures around, with very little cause. Iveston is rich and single.†Penelope is pretty.† Both of them are boring.†As for their romance, the best I can say is they deserved each other.

The secondary cast (it felt like thousands) is clearly there only to set up future books in this series. I couldnít keep them straight, let alone muster up any interest in them.†Perhaps the Regency period was filled with self-infatuated, idle nobility sitting around making pointless chitchat, but it sure doesnít make for fun reading† The only character that captured my attention was Lady Dalby, whose veiled sarcasm was a welcome relief from the dull blathering of her many, many guests.

How to Dazzle a Duke not only didnít dazzle, it barely created a spark of interest.†Even diehard Dain fans might be well served to save their $15.00 and borrow this one from the library. †

--Cathy Sova

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