|When Megan Tavistock agrees to accompany her friend to a witch,
little does she suspect that magic is about to strike against her.
Deirdre may have paid £50 for a love spell to capture the attention
of Alexander, the mad, bad duke of the title, but the witch ensures
it only works on Megan. Two nights later, she meets him at a ball,
and they are both immediately swept up by their passion.
Alexander, Grand Duke of Nvengaria and its current ambassador to
England, doesnít understand what is happening. He has always taken
pride in being in complete control. He had to in order to carry out
revenge against the man who killed his father. His ruthless self-
discipline has also ensured he protects his country from internal and
external threats, such as the scheming of imperial Austria. In his
mind, the magic can only be the work of his worst enemies. Still,
Alexander is an honorable man. He may have his doubts about the love
spell, but he proposes to Megan and makes the naÔve country girl the
envy of all the ton.
Marriage only brings new problems for Alexander and Megan. For one,
their obsessive passion is as strong as ever. Worse, Alexanderís
sense of self-control now encounters even harsher attacks. He has to
head off another conspiracy against Nvengaria while facing up to
another side of him that he didnít even know existed. Alexander, it
appears, is half-logosh, or a Nvengarian demonic shape shifter. Under
the guise of not wanting to hurt Megan when his inner beast takes
over, he keeps pushing her away. She, however, is not willing to let go.
Therein lies the main problem with the novel. Megan is too sweet, too
kind, too gentle. Everybody loves her: Alexanderís former mistress;
his Nvengarian bodyguards; even the stuffy English butler. Nothing
ever stands in her way, and if it does, she just walks merrily past
it. Though Iím not a big fan of tormented, angst-ridden heroines,
Meganís complex-free Pollyanna personality is a bit too much to
handle. It certainly didnít add any spice to what quickly began to
look like a one-way relationship. Every time Alexander pushes her
away, she happily bounces back and starts all over.
Alexanderís determination to maintain control was just as annoying.
It mostly felt like a flagrant ploy to create conflict in a story
which was quickly loosing momentum. I canít say it worked. It didnít
do much convince to me that he was truly in love, either. How could
it? The blissfully happy couple never talk about much more than their
Jennifer Ashley doesnít do a bad job establishing a Regency
historical setting: the diplomatic intrigue, for one, seem somewhat
credible. Her paranormal world also has some potential, even if she
blatantly borrows from a number of different sources. Nvengaria is an
unusual blend of Hogsworth-like magic, old Hollywood films about the
non-existent Ruritania and familiar folklore. From what I can make
out, most of this information was already established in Penelope and
Prince Charming, which features Meganís stepsister and Alexanderís
cousin Damien, so itís not as if weíre treading true ground. Besides,
however intriguing the setting, it doesnít make up for a rather
skimpy plot and poor characterization. Unless youíre someone who
prefers the background to the story, Iíd give this one a miss.