REVIEWS: The Two Dukes of Wyndham Series by Julia Quinn

Sunday, November 2, 2008 16:00
Posted in category Review

SandyMSandy M reviews The Two Dukes of Wyndham Series by Julia Quinn
Historical romances released by Avon 27 May 08 and Sept 08

There’s been a lot of talk since the release of the second book of this duo, Mr. Cavendish, I Presume, about readers being disappointed it is only a regurgitation of scenes word for word that have already happened in this first book, The Lost Duke of Wyndham. I’ve read some pretty harsh comments from some folks about that fact. While I agree with the sentiment to a point, this second book is still a good story, even while told from another set of characters’ point of view. 

There is literally the exact same characters discussing the exact same issues in the exact same circumstances, but those scenes are interspersed with the hero’s and heroine’s thoughts and actions. That didn’t bother me all that much, mostly because I enjoyed the first book more mainly due to Jack, the hero, and also because that’s where all the action in the the arc of the story was. Ms. Quinn was obviously trying something a little different, and, for the most part, I think she succeeded.

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Book CoverThe Lost Duke of Wyndham (The Two Dukes of Wyndham, Book 1)
Released 27 May 08

As much as I liked Thomas, the current Duke in this first book, I liked Jack Audley the would-be duke, because he’s witty and rakish, which, of course, he has to be considering he’s a highwayman.  But he also gives his ill-gotten gains to the poor, keeping just enough for himself to get by on, so you know early on he’s not really a bad sort and has a wicked sense of humor.

Thomas is the usual straight-laced nobleman, respectable and responsible, which I usually like in a hero, but up against Jack, Thomas just didn’t stand a chance in my eyes.  Jack is just as dumbstruck as Lady Cavendish when it comes out that he is her grandson, although they show it in two absolutely different ways.  He wants nothing to do with the old woman, expect maybe her companion, Grace Eversleigh, and the Dowager Duchess wants nothing but Jack installed as Duke and will do anything and use anyone to get her way.  Jack goes kicking and screaming along for the nightmarish ride with only Grace to keep him sane.

The one thing that is needed in the whole farce is proof of Jack’s legitimacy, so at the Duchess’ insistence the lot of them, including Thomas’ fiance Amelia and her father, board an Ireland-bound ship to scour clergy records for the ironclad trap that will change both Jack’s and Thomas’ lives forever.  Even though we know Jack hasn’t told all concerning his upbringing, we see his reluctance and his nervousness at returning home the closer he gets to his homeland.  Of course, all is finally revealed there, all his secrets as well as the truth surrounding his birth, and his resulting emotions is what also caused me to love Jack’s character.  We’re also thrown an unexpected problem concerning Jack and it’s interesting how it all plays out.

I also really enjoyed Grace.  She’s an orphan of country-bred parents, was thrown out of her home by an evil and nasty cousin, which is how she came to be the companion of the Dowager.  She at least has a roof over her head, a slight income, and friends to enjoy in the very limited free time she gets from her duties to the woman, and, despite all that, she’s the only one who tolerates the old bat, as her grandsons call her.

This lady is a doozy.  Both Thomas and Jack stand up to her as much as possible, don’t let her get away with all of her antics, and now both look after Grace when the Duchess gets a little too mean.  But Grace always keeps her cool and does her job with an understated elegance and dignity.  She has a way of understanding everyone’s feelings and does her best to do right by them but never loses her integrity in the process.

I think Jack and Grace made a perfect fit for one another, and I knew I was right when I read the epilogue.  They complement each other in a way that keeps them strong and happy.  By the end of the book, we know that Thomas is in for the fight of his life and can only hope he opens his eyes sooner rather than later for the answer that will get him through his living nightmare.  I also loved the humor, of course, typical Quinn, inserted in all the right moments.

Grade: A-

Read Lawson’s and Devon’s reviews.

Summary:

Will the real Duke of Wyndham please stand up?

Jack Audley has been a highwayman. A soldier. And he has always been a rogue. What he is not, and never wanted to be, is a peer of the realm, responsible for an ancient heritage and the livelihood of hundreds. But when he is recognized as the long-lost son of the House of Wyndham, his carefree life is over. And if his birth proves to be legitimate, then he will find himself with the one title he never wanted: Duke of Wyndham.

Grace Eversleigh has spent the last five years toiling as the companion to the dowager Duchess of Wyndham. It is a thankless job, with very little break from the routine… until Jack Audley lands in her life, all rakish smiles and debonair charm. He is not a man who takes no for an answer, and when she is in his arms, she’s not a woman who wants to say no. But if he is the true duke, then he is the one man she can never have…

Read an excerpt.

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Book CoverMr. Cavendish, I Presume (The Two Dukes of Wyndham, Book 2 )
Released 30 Sep 08

Ah, Thomas.  He’s destined to be overlooked by a lot of readers.  That’s unfortunate.  He’s not nearly as rakish as Jack and is honest to a fault, which could make him boring, but I think he holds his own, considering what he’s put through with the appearance of his heretofore unknown cousin, who could take everything last thing from Thomas, including his identity, who he is, that which makes him him.  He learns a couple of lessons, though, once he’s just Mr. Cavendish.

We know from Lost Duke that Thomas has never really paid much attention to Amelia, really seen her in all the years and times they’ve been around each other.  Then finally when she decides to grow somewhat of a backbone, Thomas does sit up and really takes a look at his betrothed.  Thank goodness on both counts.  If Amelia hadn’t awakened as early as she did and decided to not let people, especially Thomas, trod all over her without regard for her wants and feelings, this would have been a very long story to get through.

And though Thomas finally looks at Amelia as a woman, that’s when all the dust is kicked up with Jack’s arrival and the dukedom is in question.  He feels if he has to give up his title, he also has to give Amelia up since she is to be given to the Duke of Wyndham, even though his feelings are certainly turning the corner where she’s concerned.  But if he weren’t so upstanding, he wouldn’t be Thomas, the Duke.  He has to learn to be Thomas, the man, and with Amelia he can do that, even though he doesn’t realize it.

Since there’s comparisons between Thomas and Jack, there have to be comparisons between Amelia and Grace.  Although Amelia does gradually become her own woman, it’s too little too late.  She’s always taken the dressing down she gets from the Duchess, always lets her father decide what’s best for her, and lets Thomas ignore her for far too long.  Of course, she’s been a pawn since her birth, so she does act according to her destiny.  She finally gets thrown for a loop with the two-Duke business, which is what she needs to start steering her own destiny.

Grace, on the other hand, received her eye-opening life experience much earlier and has had longer to deal with it, so she just has that extra strength and grace that Amelia is just discovering.  But Amelia eventually comes into her own just in time to get what she really wants, despite her father, the Duchess, and even Thomas himself.

As far as Quinn using the same dialogue for the same scenes in this book, I didn’t find it that disconcerting.  As long as she gave me extra thoughts and actions of Thomas and Amelia in those few places, I found that cast just a little different light on those scenes just from the change in point of view.  Granted, maybe the fact that I knew what was coming helped; I wasn’t tossed into it blind, thinking I was getting a totally new book when in actuality it’s only a partial new book.

Okay, spending good money for a partial new book isn’t the best of circumstances, but, again, I give Quinn kudos for trying it, despite the grumblings about it all.  It still works for what it is.  One comment I read that sticks out for me is that Thomas’ feelings weren’t delved into enough after he’s lost all, but I felt we got that all along.  We knew how he was feeling the moment everything comes to light when Jack first arrives in his life, and we get even more in this book.  His excessive drinking comes to mind, along with his erroneous thoughts that he can no longer have Amelia and other small details.  Even his reaction when the truth is confirmed, “I am Mr. Cavendish,” tells us a lot, especially when he has difficulty saying it.

So, as usual, I enjoyed both stories.  I preferred Lost Duke, as I said, but Mr. Cavendish deserves its due for what it turned out to be.  It started out as a one-sided love story that grew into a full-fledged one, albeit a little later than we’d normally like to see, but a nice one nonetheless.  I like that Ms. Quinn tried to step outside the box and give us something different and hope she continues to look at her craft in such different ways in the future.

Grade: B-

Read Lawson’s review here.

Summary:

There went the bride…

Amelia Willoughby has been engaged to the Duke of Wyndham for as long as she can remember. Literally. A mere six months old when the contracts were signed, she has spent the rest of her life waiting. And waiting. And waiting…for Thomas Cavendish, the oh-so-lofty duke, to finally get around to marrying her. But as she watches him from afar, she has a sneaking suspicion that he never thinks about her at all…

It’s true. He doesn’t. Thomas rather likes having a fiancée—all the better to keep the husband-hunters at bay—and he does intend to marry her…eventually. But just when he begins to realize that his bride might be something more than convenient, Thomas’s world is rocked by the arrival of his long-lost cousin, who may or may not be the true Duke of Wyndham. And if Thomas is not the duke, then he’s not engaged to Amelia. Which is the cruelest joke of all, because this arrogant and illustrious duke has made the mistake of falling in love…with his own fiancée!

Read an excerpt.

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