Inheritance in the English aristocracy.

Following on from the issues I had with a recent historical romance, I’ve found that many others were pulled out of the same story by a glaring mistake. Basically: no, an English aristocrat can’t randomly lose his title. And so – no – you can’t write a book with the premise that the hero will lose the dukedom if he doesn’t marry by his thirtieth birthday.

There’re historical romance authors out there with a much more complex understanding of inheritance issues than I have, and one of those people is KJ Charles, who wrote an interesting blog post in response to the book’s release last week. (This isn’t the only book to run with this premise; just the most recent, and one that’s getting attention because it’s by a very popular author.)

Duchess by Deception (Gilded #1) by Marie Force

Read the whole piece HERE.

There are historical realities you can muck about with, tons of them. Have a zillion dukes by all means. Let them marry governesses and plucky flower girls, fine. These things are wildly implausible, but this is historical romance, and we’re here to play.

And then there are things that you cannot mess with, because they don’t play with the world, they break it. Chief amongst these in British aristocracy romance would be, er, destroying the entire system of British aristocracy. Which is what this plot does.

The point of a system of primogeniture—the whole, sole, single, solitary purpose of it—is to establish that nobility is bestowed by birth. The monarch can bestow a title on a commoner because of their merit on the battlefield/skill in the sack, but once it is granted, it operates under the rules. Nobody ever gets to decide who will inherit their title—not the monarch, nobody. It goes to the first in line: end of story. And once a peerage is bestowed it cannot be removed by anything less than an Act of Parliament or Royal prerogative. Certainly not by a previous holder’s whim.”

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My review of Duchess by Deception (Gilded #1) by Marie Force

Duchess by Deception (Gilded #1) by Marie Force

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Duchess by Deception (Gilded #1) by Marie Force

Duchess by Deception (Gilded #1) by Marie Force

In New York Times bestselling author Marie Force’s dazzling historical romance debut, the clock is ticking for a wealthy Duke who must marry by his thirtieth birthday—or lose his title . . .

Derek Eagan, the dashing Duke of Westwood, is well aware of his looming deadline. But weary of tiresome debutantes, he seeks a respite at his country home in Essex—and encounters a man digging on his property. Except he’s not a man. He’s a very lovely woman. Who suddenly faints at his feet.
 
Catherine McCabe’s disdain for the aristocracy has already led her to flee an arranged marriage with a boorish Viscount. The last thing she wants is to be waylaid in a Duke’s home. Yet, she is compelled to stay by the handsome, thoughtful man who introduces himself as the Duke’s estate manager.
 
Derek realises two things immediately: he is captivated by her delicate beauty, and to figure out what she was up to, Catherine must not know he is the Duke. But as they fall passionately in love, Derek’s lie spins out of control. Will their bond survive his deception, not to mention the scorned Viscount’s pursuit? Most important, can Catherine fall in love all over again—this time with the Duke?

Duchess by Deception (Gilded #1) by Marie Force

Marie Force has been a prominent and well-loved figure in the contemporary romance and romantic suspense scenes for years, and this is her move into the historical romance genre.

Did it work for me? Uh… no, not really. Ignoring the sexist opening chapter for a moment, my problem with Duchess by Deception is that it reads like a throwback to the books of the 1980s, and it doesn’t seem like Force has kept up with the changes in the genre since then.

Initially I was excited about the book’s description. Mystery unconscious woman doing suspicious things on the duke’s property? Uncommon Edwardian era setting? Sounded interesting. However, apart from some research info-dumps about technological developments, the feel of this one was no different to any century-earlier, Regency-set book (were leading strings not more an 18th century than 20th century thing? Why are they still being used in 1902?).

Also, the tired and silly trope of the hero who has to marry by a certain date or he’ll lose his title needs to be permanently retired. It’s simply not how the aristocracy works.

There is a serious case of insta-love (lust?) here. Even when the heroine is filthy, stinks, and is dressed like a boy (and unconscious!), the hero is so attracted to her he won’t let anybody else care for her.

And then when she wakes up we get lines like this:

 

She gave him an arch look, which, along with her fever-reddened cheeks, only added to her overwhelming appeal.

 

As for the sexism? From the very first page, all the girls and women in London are referred to by terms such as simpering. (The heroine, of course, is “not like other women”.)

 

‘Is there one among them who cares about anything other than her hair or her gown or her slippers?’

 

Naturally, every woman in the book who isn’t the heroine, is “annoying”, and they fawn all over the hero.

While Duchess by Deception isn’t a horrible read, it is also a throwback to things most HR writers and readers moved on from years ago. Force will shoot to prominence in the genre simply because she comes in with an already established name as an author, but I’ve read lesser-known historical romance books by lesser-known authors that are surely as worthy of the attention.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.