The Duke and I {review}

Julia Quinn (Piatkus, 2006)

I went into The Duke and I with curiosity, but no great expectations – and Great Expectations it is not. But the Netflix adaptation is generating a lot of interest and I was intrigued! I haven’t had much luck with this method of choosing books in the past (The Witcher being a prime example, where the writing was so deeply awful I felt compelled to DNF for the sake of my remaining brain cells). However, despite some fairly glaring issues, I thoroughly enjoyed The Duke and I. If the book is anything to go by, the hype may just be warranted!

Let’s start by addressing the elephant in the room though: historical accuracy. The Duke and I is set in Victorian England and has caught a lot of flack for playing fast and loose with period details. It’s undeniably inaccurate. But then, it makes no real pretensions to accuracy. The dress and setting details are vaguely correct, but the dialogue and social conventions are not. Not at all. It’s an Americanised, sugary Hollywood version of Victorian England. And, normally, I’d be the first person to find that irritating. I’d be the first person pointing out all the errors. But I can’t here because I find I simply don’t care. That’s how good the story is.

The characters are likeable, intriguing, and multidimensional in a way I rarely find with romance. There is also a relatively detailed and rich backstory, for a romance. It was somewhat jarring in today’s day and age to find a female protagonist openly declaring that her ambitions run to marriage and children; and yet, while not politically correct by today’s standards, that is fitting within the period. Despite that, the female characters are outspoken, intelligent, well educated, and witty. They are not conventional. The Duke is brooding, sexy, intelligent, and flawed; somewhat reminiscent of Mr Darcy.

The romance is sweet, surprising in some ways, and yet follows familiar patterns to provide a satisfying degree of escapism. The ending left me with a smile on my face.

I loved the period dress, the ballroom and drawing room scenes. It gave the romance an air of “other”, a glamour. While no one could claim this is a work with much basis in historical fact, the setting definitely gave the book a little something extra. A little additional degree of escapism. It was a little spicy, without making me cringe too much.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed The Duke and I. Perhaps I shouldn’t have. Perhaps I should care that it wasn’t historically accurate or literary. But I don’t. Would it have been improved by greater accuracy? Possibly, but I actually rather appreciated its frivolity. It made me smile. It was sweet, fun, and romantic. It provided a moment of much needed escapism. In fact, I highly recommend it!

☆☆☆☆

The Garden of Forgotten Wishes {Book Review}

Trisha Ashley | Bantam Press (2020)

Cozy romance is my guilty pleasure, and I adore all of Trisha Ashley’s books. The Garden of Forgotten Wishes was no exception; sweet, comfortable and satisfying, I’m already sure it will become a favourite re-read!

Perfect for it’s genre, The Garden of Forgotten Wishes was the ideal escapism. Book hygge. Trisha Ashley’s books are all set around the same fictional Lancashire village, so every time I pick one up it’s like returning to see an old friend when you catch glimpses of characters and places from previous books. The villages themselves, the worlds she’s created, are also chocolate box perfect. It’s an idealised, safe, version of reality; the one you wish you could live in. Pure escapism!

Like most cozy romance, everything about The Garden of Forgotten Wishes, from the return to the world of Winter’s End to the familiar unfolding of the plot, is also predictable and safe. There are no big twists or surprises. This is not reading on the edge of your seat. It’s a warm hug of a book.

However, unlike some of Trisha Ashley’s other titles, The Garden of Forgotten Wishes is a slow burner. It’s almost overburdened with world building detail; we savour the process of making homemade ice cream, the colours of the art on the walls, and the developments in the garden. Since the plot is so predictable, and you’re returning to a familiar world, this works. It shouldn’t, it probably wouldn’t in any other kind of book, but here it does. It’s this immersive exploration of a much-loved world which fans crave. I thoroughly enjoyed all the gardening details, the details of village life. That being said, if you hadn’t already fallen in love with this world, I think the pacing might be too slow.

The other thing I love about Trisha Ashley’s books is the characters. Her protagonists are all strong, independent, capable women. They’re rarely young women, which is also a refreshing change of pace. All her characters are imperfectly authentic. They have flaws and back story, and the drama develops from this conflict between character and history. They’re easy to love because they’re ordinary. There’s nothing complex about them, and yet they feel very three dimensional.

All in all, The Garden of Forgotten Wishes was the perfect cozy read, the antidote to the craziness of the world right now and the grey English weather outside. Chocolate box English villages, sweet and slow burning romance. This is the book equivalent of a cup of tea and a biscuit.

Christmas Books – Top 10 Tuesday

Top 10 Tuesday, hosted over on That Artsy Reader Girl, is a weekly bookish list challenge. And this week’s prompt is a Christmas freebie. So, this is my Top 10 Favourite Books To Read Around Christmas.

A Christmas Carol is a classic. It’s basically the ultimate Christmas read, right?!

I love reading ghost stories this time of year, and Ghost Stories by Mark Gatiss is a great little spooky collection!

Probably my favourite ghost story collection is by Roald Dahl. The Book of Ghost Stories is kind of a classic Christmas read for me at this point! That being said, I’m hesitant to recommend it given what’s come out about Roald Dahl’s antisemitism… He seems like a twat basket. And I’m not linking it for that reason. But this book is on my list.

Cozy Christmas romances don’t get much better than A Winter’s Tale! I live for the cozy this time of year.

Sarah Morgan might be the queen of cozy Christmas romance. I love her Christmas books!

Another classic Christmas read! Twas the Night Before Christmas was read to me as a child, and I still read it every year!

The Box of Delightshttps://www.amazon.co.uk/Wolves-Willoughby-Chase-Chronicles-Book/dp/0099572877 opens with what I think is the most satisfyingly Christmassy setting ever. For that alone, it made the list.

Slightly spooky, wintery goodness. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, while not specifically Christmassy, has a pretty incredible wintery setting. And its a little scary, so its definitely on my list!

I just adored White Boots as a child and its still the perfect Christmas read for me!

I love Agatha Christie, and Christmas really isn’t complete for me without a cozy Christmas detective mystery. I always get a few vintage mysteries for Christmas. But, of course, Hercule Poirot’s Christmas is my favourite!

What’s your favourite Christmas read? Do you read any of the ones on my list?