The Duke and I: A dude’s book review of a historical romance classic

In line with stepping outside my reading comfort zone, and reading the best in each genre, The Duke and I came highly recommended by more than one reader/writer of the romance genre. And this is more an EXPERIENCE than a typical book review…

The Purchase: Lets just say that a 30-something guy walking into a bookstore, perusing the romance section, and then walking out with a bright pink and blue book that can only be described as the literary equivalent of a My Little Pony pooping out a paperback rainbow is the weirdest feeling I’ve felt in a long time. The clerk gave me that look. I’m just glad the cover didn’t also come with a bare chested man with golden locks of hair flowing in the ever-present ocean breeze.

Then I spent the next two weeks carrying this book around as I read it. Always face down when I set it aside and always hidden when reading it. However, I found myself, on the final day, not hiding it or explaining “It’s just for research.” Granted, I don’t think I’m going to make Romance a part of my daily reading, but truth is, it had it’s moments.

First Impression: Initially I thought that The Duke and I read like a cheap Dollar Store version of Pride and Prejudice. P&P was the only other real (published) Romance I’d read so I had little to compare it to. The characters start and act the same way as those in P&P. And, though I still found the language to be fake in most places, it came with it’s own merits and life lessons.

For instance, I was very concerned that the author was going to have Simon (SPOILER ALERT) forgive his father for the wretched things he did. You know, the horrible family is somehow redeemable because people are good they just make bad choices and we should always turn the other cheek and let them screw you again story. Didn’t happen. Thank you, Quinn. Thank you!

What I learned: First off, I learned that the writers I know that read/write Romance have their genre down! They’ve each come up with masterful stories that follow the structure and feel of the genre without feeling overdone.

Second, I don’t quite understand Romance, or more specifically Historical Romance. The sexism engrained in the time period, and perpetuated by the author separate from the sexism of the time period, is terribly troubling. I wonder how women can enjoy this when it’s so damaging. Believing women should truly be sheltered and fought over and ignorant of such indecencies as sex and THE WORLD is so off putting. And I’m a MAN. Well, a male. The rest is clearly debatable given what I read.

I mostly understand that women want to be loved, treated as special, fought over, and most women even have a special place in their heart for ‘a simpler time when men were men, women were women, and chivalry was king.’ But that simpler time never existed.

When (SPOILER ALERT) Simon goes on a “bullheaded” rampage, THIS is a TRUE depiction of what relationships were REALLY like then…and sadly to some degree still. Women WERE property. That’s the end of that story. Property. They were ‘protected’ to ensure good resale value when they aged to maturity, like cattle! When Simon storms out rather than raping Daphne, we are left believing that that meant he still had some love/respect for his wife even though he was that angry.

What I really learned: I can’t read Romance. The knowledge that my grandmother probably read this exact book (she reads a LOT of Romance) and it was as sexual as it was made me cringe throughout the sex scenes. Many women, like many men, have a weird urge for ‘simpler’ times when their gender roles were not only well defined but explained for them. I don’t ascribe to this, but can understand that want. Still, I apparently have no interest in stories for stories’ sake.

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