Naughty Marietta

The Princess Goes West

The Scandalous Miss Howard

The Seduction of Ellen

 
Duchess for a Day by Nan Ryan
(Mira, $6.99, R) ISBN 0-7783-2141-X
**
My definition of a good historical romance is a tale of two people who find love in a time period other than the present day, within the background and the nuances of life of that time period. Nan Ryan has not written that type of historical. Rather, Duchess for a Day is set in the turn of the century America but the actions are those of modern day lovers who hop in and out of bed in a torrid affair with no concern for who knows it.

Claire Orwell lives under a lucky star. She was falsely accused by her employer of stealing his jewels when she rebuffed his advances. In Newgate Prison, she is recognized as the love child of a prominent Royal attorney and is saved. She is offered the chance to work for the Duchess of Beaumont. The offer is to travel to America and open her summerhouse in Saratoga Springs, New York. Claire accepts, with the condition that the lady from prison who helped her be freed and travel with her. Thus begins a new adventure for Claire and Olivia Sutton (who is transformed on the journey so that she looks and acts like a lady's companion).

Arriving in New York, Claire and Olivia decide it would be fun if Claire acts as if she is the Duchess. It has been years since the Duchess was there and thus, no one remembers exactly what she looks like. When Claire is mistaken for her, they decide that Claire can act as the imposter and then, they will leave just before the real duchess arrives. And of course, Claire, who is the widow of a nice older man, can have a scorching affair with the man of her choice making for a memorable summer.

The man she decides to seduce and make her own is known as the Silver King, Hank Cassidy. Hank is a self-made multi-millionaire who made his fortune in the silver mines in Nevada. He loves horse racing and comes to Saratoga every summer. He is unmarried and spends the summer romancing the ladies when he is not watching the racehorses. He too is enthralled with Claire. They play cat and mouse games for a week or so and then, the real story begins. This is the story of lovemaking session after lovemaking session, day after day. They do it in every setting, including a closet during a ball; in every way including standing up and they don't seem to care who knows. In fact, they seemed delighted to scandalize everyone.

There are a few subplots that are thrown in at the end about the real duchess and the Lord who framed Claire showing up in Saratoga, but these were hastily added to provide an ending and really were of no consequence. When true love prevails at the end, it was almost sickeningly sweet, given the nature of their relationship throughout the book.

I wish there was more to comment on. There is a slight side romance between Olivia and Hank's horse trainer, but other than a few dinners, it is never really developed. There are some jealous women, but other than looking pathetic panting after Hank, it really did not enhance the story. There is even some horseracing jargon; but this too is glossed over when Hank and Claire get distracted and go off to make love instead of watching the races.

I enjoy erotic love scenes in my books at times, but the problem with this story is that there is no real story beyond the love scenes. Hank and Claire enjoy each other's company, we are told, but the fact that Claire is never truthful about her identity seems to put a twist on their relationship that I could never fully get past. How can Hank love her when what he knows is all a lie? And Claire is never even really upset that she has lied to him, because she is determined that they will part company; hence she shows no remorse.

Lust turning to love is a familiar plot line. But in any good romance, there needs to be more than just lovemaking every five pages. Honestly, rabbits enjoy themselves less often than these two lustful creatures. If you are looking for a good romance, give

Duchess for a Day

a pass. If you like lots of sex with no other plot, this tale may be more to your liking.

--Shirley Lyons


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