Whitney: As many of you know I am a fiend for historical romances. I have a few stock authors who I always keep my eyes open for when I head to the bookstore and Julie Anne Long is absolutely on that list. But time — and my reading allowance — being what it is, I’ve only read one of her previous five Pennyroyal Green stories. (As many might remember, I raved for months about Violet, the heroine of Long’s July novel, I Kissed An Earl.)
Morgan: And while Whitney has definitely mentioned Julie Anne Long before, What I Did For A Duke is my first time reading the author. And I don’t know why historical romance authors always do this to me, but I can't help but compare them to other authors. I would say that my first foray into a Long book made me immediately think of all the usual suspects: Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, Liz Carlyle, Sophie Jordan ...
Whitney: Those are some of my other favorites. But Long really stands on her own. And even though this book is a part of a series, What I Did for a Duke isn’t burdened with the weight of these other tales — or too many mentions of all the romances that have come before Alex and Genevieve’s.
Morgan: I agree that readers will be able to jump right in to this one. I certainly had no problem figuring out what was going on. After all, you can't misconstrue the first scene where the dashing duke vows revenge after finding his fiancée in bed with another man.
Whitney: But this book is not a one trick pony. There’s so much more going on than just a duke seeking revenge.
Morgan: Yeah, we can’t forget the heroine’s own heartbreak. It is devastating reading about Genevieve's walk with Harry, the man she loves, when he confesses that he is going to propose to someone else. Harry has no idea that he has just destroyed Genevieve, but we do. And even in this moment of total misery, the author still makes me laugh. When Harry calls Genevieve his dearest friend, “At the moment she would rather have been called anything else. A wolverine.”
Whitney: Oh, the anguish when Long is describing Genevieve’s heartbreak and so perfectly captures that “I can’t believe that that was all in my head ...” dance of blame and regret when a relationship doesn’t develop.
Morgan: So what we have is pretty straightforward - two people dumped, jilted, brokenhearted.
Whitney: The plot could have been simple. Alex wants revenge on Ian Eversea so decides to seduce his little sister, Genevieve. But by a third of the way through, Genevieve figures out his game and Alex has already agreed to help her try to win back Lord Harry. That’s where the plot really begins to take off for me.
Morgan: It always kills me when a trope is taken too far (as could have happened here with the old seduce-and-abandon routine) but while Long uses this as a way to start the book, the revenge plot is abandoned when Alex realizes that he really likes Genevieve. Really likes her. And I guess if she can forgive him for his plotting, then so can we. Genevieve even makes a joke out of his seduction plans when Alex asked if it would have worked and she says, “Perhaps if I were in a more amenable frame of mind.”
Alex, of course, eventually does get Genevieve into a more “amenable” mindset and continues his seduction tactics by making the decision hers. (She certainly likes to be in control.) But it was still pretty shocking to me that Genevieve is so willing to sleep with him. For a woman whose only other experience with a man is a kiss on the hand, she is quite willing to jump into an affair. And the whole time professing to love someone else. It just didn’t quite ring true for me.
Whitney: I wasn’t bothered by this, and felt like Long created enough groundwork for me to believe that Genevieve would fall head over heels for Alex — without ever realizing that she’s in love with him. One of my favorite scenes is when Genevieve goes dashing all over the house at midnight looking for Alex. At this moment I feel that she truly has become the woman she was always afraid to be. Yeah, it’s not pretty, Genevieve has lost all pretense of being in control of herself but it is the first time when she really knows that she cares about Alex. And it’s beautiful. ::sappy sigh::
Morgan: First, I have to disagree with you on this scene. I was kind of upset that such an intelligent woman would literally search the entire house to find the man who will ruin her. And let's not forget how Alex pretty much takes advantage of an innocent woman who is going through a difficult time.
Whitney: I didn’t feel like Alex was taking advantage of her during their physical relationship. Genevieve isn’t looking for love, but she finds it anyways. And what I adore about their relationship is that unlike her dynamic with her family and with Harry, Genevieve doesn’t have to take care of Alex.
Morgan: Nobody can argue that Alex isn’t mature. After all, he is something like 20 years Genevieve’s senior. (I believe there are quite a few references about him being almost as old as her father.)
Whitney: But they manage to keep him from ever being “a creepy old dude” about it. Alex is definitely one of my favorite historical romance heroes in a while. Although the feminist in me wishes that he hadn’t met Genevieve when she needed “rescuing” - at a time when she was a husk of her normal self - he still respects her. For me, Long made it clear that Genevieve intrigues Alex because he is interested in what she has to say, and sees her in a way that no body else does. I mean, how can a man resist a woman whose smile transforms her. When Alex first makes Genevieve smile, he realizes that “She was incandescent with wicked amusement.”
Morgan: Hmmm. I’m not sure if a smile can be that transforming, but I thought that a lot of what Alex sees in Genevieve (at least at first) are his own projections. After just a few minutes of walking silently with her and seeing her give a few glances at another man, he feels that he knows exactly what is going on in her head and heart.
Whitney: I think he knows there is something there. But then there is the scene at the ball when Genevieve impresses him. She is wily and he recognizes (and appreciates) the way that she — like he — uses society’s expectations to get what she wants.
Morgan: When I first read the author’s description of Genevieve and how her “proverbial still waters ran very deep” I was a bit cynical. However, once Long started showing instead of telling us how wonderful her heroine is, I have to admit that I was very, very taken by the depth of the characterization in the story. Genevieve has friendships, complex relationships with her family, hobbies, a sense of humor and a sharp wit. Who could ask for more?
Whitney: I like Genevieve. She definitely passes my “Would you be friends with her?” heroine test. But I was a bit less entranced by her than I was by Alex.
Morgan: I agree that Alex was the more interesting character. So many dark, brooding heroes are completely unaware of their reputations, or don’t really care. I loved that Alex not only liked his mysterious past, but he taunts others with it.
Whitney: You know, I really liked how blunt he was. I thought it was part of his wicked charm.
Morgan: Charm? Like at the ball when he is trying to dissuade a young woman who wants to know more about him, he starts to discuss his wife who died several years ago under mysterious circumstances. He tells her, “But I of course didn’t poison her ... to get her money.”
Whitney: It was absolutely brilliant. Long isn’t afraid to make her characters playful, to not take themselves too seriously. And I really liked the way that the author carefully explains how people, from the members of the peerage right down to the servants, treat Alex differently. And how their deference helped shape his personality. Without harping on his Ducal status, Long teases readers with the idea that Alex is constantly playing a role that is expected of him.
Morgan: I don’t know how Ducal Alex acts. His frank talk is very jarring. It is one thing to use innuendo and then another to use language that is completely unsuitable for mixed company (even by today’s standards). I would have liked a bit more subtle approach in his mannerisms and speech. I thought his seduction using art (including the Italian masters that Genevieve loves so much) is much more effective then discussing his mistresses and their talents.
Whitney: Clearly, I am more a fan of Bad Boy Heroes than you are. And Alex certainly fits the bill. But that’s one of the best things about Alex is that he has layers. Divine, interesting layers. He absolutely won my heart when he went to the library to learn about the art that interests Genevieve.
Morgan: He is surprisingly romantic. My heart did a little dip when he was trying to describe Genevieve’s beauty. “He wished for access to all the world’s languages at once, for then he would have a better word for how he felt and what she was.”
Whitney: If that’s not heart melting, I don’t know what is. And even after I was more than a little bit in love with him, Long included yet another dimension to his back story. His previous marriage.
Morgan: Again the grief-over-deceased-wife is a trope that could have been overdone since we have seen it so many times before. But in this case it worked. Alex loved his wife, misses her, yet after more than a decade, he has come to terms with the loss and moved on.
Whitney: The author takes tropes from traditional romances and then modernizes them by adding an air of freshness with the witty way that her characters interact. The story is almost Georgette Heyer-esqe. By the end of this tale I was completely emotionally invested in the action and sweeping drama. There’s a dashing older gentleman, a young woman who is just beginning to learn who she is and enough passion between them to cause a serious explosion.
Morgan: Definitely. What I Did For A Duke makes me want to read the rest of the Pennyroyal Green series.
Whitney: I thought I was bored with dukes, but Julie Anne Long has shown me the light!
Does this Dish leave you wondering what you’d do for a duke? Well you can check out everything that Genevieve does in What I Did For A Duke, which is on shelves now! And be sure to check out this Friday’s Weekly Web Wrap Up where we will announce the next book we’ll be dishing about!