Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart – Sarah MacLean

16 Dec
Oh, historical romance. How I’ve missed you. I needed a serious dose of plain ol’ historical romance, and Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart came through big time. (I know, that title is long and semi-terrible). I’d read Sarah MacLean’s previous two books in this series – Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake and Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord. Are you starting to see the pattern here? The previous two titles focused on Juliana’s brothers, Gabriel and Nick.

As silly as these titles are, MacLean’s writing is fantastic and this series is addictive. You just want to know these characters, and there is a real thread of realism as far as how true to life the characters behave. The heroines are not always sweet, they misinterpret events, and sometimes they can be selfish. The heroes can be hard asses, they can be mean and spiteful, and sometimes they act without thinking. It’s real, but not too real – I read romance to be swept away on a magical cloud of bliss, but a little realism in the characters makes them much easier to relate to.

Juliana Fiori is attempting to navigate the London season with an already tarnished reputation, as she is the long-lost Italian sister of two British nobleman (twins! Hot twins!). As if being foreign weren’t enough, her mother’s legacy of deplorable behavior precedes Juliana, and she is floundering beneath the gossip and rumors as she tries to fit in. Simon, the Duke of Leighton, is her counterpoint – conservative, formal, and very concerned with his reputation. He sees Juliana as reckless and constantly on the verge of scandal. Aha, but these two opposites are made for each other! The torturous path they take to realize this is all part of the fun.

If MacLean excels at one thing, it’s dialogue. Her characters are exceedingly verbal, and the reader navigates the events of the book mostly through dialogue, including internal dialogue. I know some people are turned off by that device in books, but here it works well, especially for characters like the Duke, whose icy façade masks his feelings and who hardly ever speaks without donning his Duke persona.

If I have one niggling complaint, it’s that the middle of the book gets locked in some kind of rinse and repeat cycle; it felt like no progress was being made for quite a while. Juliana and Simon meet up, say unkind words to each other, realize they have feelings for each other, and part in despair – again and again and again. I like the sweet, sweet angst as much as anyone, but I just wanted the plot to move along a little faster. But overall, quite a lovely book and an entertaining way to spend a couple of days.

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