Butler, Nancy. The Discarded Duke. New York: Signet Book, 2002.
Reason read: In the spirit of romance novels, I am reading The Discarded Duke in recognition of Jane Eyre being published in October. I know, it’s a stretch…
Confessional: I am not a fan of romance novels.
Like any good romance, there has to be a love triangle. Here’s Discarded Duke‘s triangle of love: point A. = Beautiful widow Ursula Roarke, looking for a new husband, point B. = pretty Damien Danover (the Duke of Ardsley), looking to finally settle down with a suitable mate and, point C. = the ruggedly handsome shepherd, William Ridd, who just wants to take care of wool producing sheep in peace and quiet. As you can guess, Beautiful widow wants to seduce rich duke but can’t help the animal attraction she feels towards poor rough-around-the-edges shepherd. Can you see where this is going? Like any good romance the characters are stereotypical in attractiveness and sex appeal. The Widow Ursula, despite being a widow, is still a young and voluptuous, willful and fiery redhead determined to get her way. The dainty Duke is powerful, attractive, wealthy, slightly persnickety and described as a man who can look like he’s smelled a week old fish or behave like a dry old stick. William the innocent, minding-his-own-business sheepherder is bronzed by the sun, doesn’t own the beloved sheep he tends (one guess who does!), has a wry sense of sunny humor but has a dark and stormy past. Of course he does. What decent hero does not? Except Ridd has the scars to prove the violence. Of course Will and Ursula exchange barbs like two elementary school kids on the playground. But, like any good romance, there are secrets galore and assumptions to be made on all sides of the isosceles.
But wait! There’s a fourth point to the triangle. Huh? Now, technically, it’s a rectangle of love. Judith Coltrane, former friend and potentially past love interest of Ardsley’s from back in the day. She has waited in vain for the Duke to return after he ran after from a tragedy on the home front twelves years ago. See, everyone has a secret. So when the Duke rolls back into town with Lady Ursula all this time later…
Probably the best element of Butler’s story is the character development. Yes, they are all slightly stereotypical in their socioeconomic positions (everyone looks down on poor, come-from-nothing William Ridd, obviously. Insert eye roll here.). But every single character has a dark and vulnerable side. And. And! And, they are all likeable characters.
Okay, okay! Having said all that, I admit it! As far as romances go, this one wasn’t that bad.
Probably the best cringe-worthy quote, “It was difficult to have a proper argument when one was naked” (p 209).
Author fact: Nancy Butler’s real name is Nancy Hajeski.
Book trivia: this is the kind of book I would hide at the bottom of my bag and would never, ever be seen reading in public. The cover is of a passionate couple in a lovers’ embrace. It could be worse. Neither individual is in a state of partial undress. Not even in the least. No glistening chest, no bared shoulder. No exposed thigh…Adding to my good fortune is the fact I had to request this book from outside my network so it arrived with a book strap and a warning, “do not remove!” Wouldn’t think of it!
Nancy said: The Discarded Duke is “a good example of well-developed characters and a gripping plot” (p 207). I would agree completely.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Romance Novels: Our Love Is Here To Stay” (p 203).