The Rule of Law and Changing Attitudes: HOW TO LOSE A DUKE IN TEN DAYS

by Laura Lee Guhrke
Series: An American Heiress in London
Published by Avon, Harper Collins Genres: Historical Romance, Victorian
Source: Publisher

HOW TO LOSE A DUKE IN TEN DAYS

How to Lose a Duke in Ten DaysvictorianLove & narriage iconCommitment Issues IconNorwich Terrier Icon


An American Heiress in London
Laura Lee Guhrke
HarperCollins/Avon 04/29/2014
Paperback/e-book 384 pages

Copy of the book provided by publisher for review purposes. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.

From USA Today bestselling author Laura Lee Guhrke comes the story of a bargain, a marriage of convenience…and the chance for love to last a lifetime

They had a deal…

From the moment she met the devil-may-care Duke of Margrave, Edie knew he could change her life. And when he agreed to her outrageous proposal of a marriage of convenience, she was transformed from ruined American heiress to English duchess. Five years later, she’s delighted with their arrangement, especially since her husband is living on another continent.

But deals are made to be broken…

By marrying an heiress, Stuart was able to pay his family’s enormous debts, and Edie’s terms that he leave England forever seemed a small price to pay. But when a brush with death impels him home, he decides it’s time for a real marriage with his luscious American bride, and he proposes a bold new bargain: ten days to win her willing kiss. But is ten days enough to win her heart? LauraLeeGuhrke.com

 

square "my take"Suffering from trauma and subsequent ruination, super rich American heiress,  Edie Jewell,  goes to England to find a husband, hoping to find one who will look past her ruin to her deep purse. And, she needs to find a man who will make no demands on her as a wife. Stuart, Duke of Margrave, needs a wife who can solve all his financial problems and who won’t mind him spending most of his time exploring Africa.  When he is forced to return home and wants a real marriage can the marriage of convenience become a love match?

This is a big-dark-secret story.  The reader gets told the big secret fairly quickly but I can only say that attitudes towards this violent crime really have changed to a great degree. Today, we don’t consider this crime a big secret the victim needs to hide, but in some ways the victim is still held to blame, and in some countries the crime is still considered the victim’s fault.  And, this in itself is a good reason to take a look at this book.  Not many romance novels look at a serious issue like this.

I was able to date it to 1889, because they cite the opening of the Savoy Hotel in the book and that was something that really did happen. Back in the Victorian Era there was no real “help” for any kind of PTSD, or trauma-based panic which in women was called hysteria.  My understanding is that women experiencing issues were sometimes “institutionalized,” so “help” in any way we think of it now would be hard to come by.
According to the Science Museum, London:

A woman who rebelled against Victorian domesticity risked being declared insane and committed to an asylum. This was usually at her husband’s or father’s request, and she generally had no right to contest or appeal. Women were further disempowered by moral treatment once locked away. This cornerstone of Victorian psychiatry claimed male dominance was therapeutic. The doctor ruled the asylum like a father ruled his family. (http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/broughttolife/themes/menalhealthandillness/womanandpsychiatry.aspx)

If it weren’t for her financial power, Stuart would have been able to commit Edie for her problems; there were newly developing theories about female hysteria and dysfunction and mental institutions for the wealthy were starting to become less horrible.  The help she does get, in the form of an understanding husband,  solves the problem too quickly.  And it also promotes a vigilante justice where no other justice would be forthcoming.  In a sense it’s righteous, yet it is outside the law and, therefore, troubling. Of course, where there was no fairness for the victim, should there have been the rule of law for the criminal?  I found myself wondering whether publishers think about the questions something like this might raise, and if they worry about it spurring someone to act outside the law.

I thought the writing was fairly good, perhaps too simple, and the problems the couple faces are too simply solved. I thought that the concepts about exploration and what constitutes help in a situation where food would help more than bibles shows an enlightened character.  And in large part this is a tale about changing attitudes toward science, women, exploration, religion as the age of science slammed headlong into antiquated was of thinking and belief. In a larger sense it is about expanding beliefs and understanding, both personal and philosophical.  This was a time when science, and the scientific method was  overtaking a poor understanding of physical processes and shining light into beliefs that seem ludicrous today. And, even though England was ruled by a woman, females had fewer rights of self-determination than men and Edie’s situation of being able to control her own wealth,  would be extremely unusual and is less than realistic.

So, in less than a month, after five years away,  Stuart revives his marriage.  Perhaps the five years of freedom and self-determination did more to heal Edie’s issues and his presence is merely the final stage of recovery.  Maybe.  But it still felt too fast and a little false.

Duke_of_Marlborough_Family
Charles, 9th Duke of Marlborough, with American-born, Consuelo, Duchess of Marlborough nee Vanderbilt, and their sons John, the 10th Duke of Marlborough, and Lord Ivor Spencer-Churchill (Wikimedia)

The characters are interesting and not cookie-cutters.  As an American heiress, Edie is expected to be a bit brash, but she mellows over time to a more British profile. I have often seen Americans in this situation painted as rude, and uncultured buffoons,  but Guhrke does not do that.   As a Duke, Stuart was born into a title his scientific mind must reject to some degree, and yet at the same time he does not discount his duties nor the feeling that he must return home to take up the mantle of his position. The other characters are drawn a bit more sketchily. There is an interesting reliance on personal “tells:” small twitches or gestures indicating a character’s emotional state or signaling a behavior about to occur.

This story of an American “Buccaneer,” as American heiresses seeking impoverished husbands with titles and position in England has a happier disposition than many of the actual marriages. Edith Wharton wrote her last novel, THE BUCCANEERS, about this phenomenon but there were several examplesof real life marriages upon which it was based.

I enjoyed the book even though parts of it, like a romantic liaison in a chicken feather storage building, felt ridiculous (perhaps it is a realistic thing for the time).  The posturing over the demands a husband could place on a wife felt a bit repetitive. So, it’s a book with some heavy issues written in a light fashion with a rapid resolution.

 

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