Men with mustaches frighten me more than words can say. You could probably deduce that my worst fears involve Tom Selleck and the world’s itchiest Eskimo kiss. This is probably why I read YA: adolescent boys are relatively ‘stashless, not to mention peltless.
The romantic lead in this book has a very conspicuous Victorian handlebar. Normally this description would send me running to the woods, but in Trevelyn’s case, I’ve grown accustomed to his ‘stash. It also helps that he’s named after a Bond villain.
A master of disguise, a certified priest, a famous explorer, bestselling author, speaker of nineteen languages, a deft fighter, a titled Duke, a passionate yet gentle lover… Clearly this man is the definition of a badass. In my pre-Outlander days, Trevelyn was THE MAN by which I measured all fictional men. Then I met Jamie Fraser and the title changed hands because I started comparing locker room stories and the verdict stands: Trevelyn has been around the block one too many times. Who hasn’t this guy slept with?
Like many of Jude Deveraux’s works, I’ve read The Duchess many times and it ranks up there as one of my favorite childhood books. Not that I recommend this book for children. There’s a healthy amount of doinking, though not graphically so. I learned about the birds and the bees from the likes of V.C. Andrews and by the time I got to The Duchess, I was relieved that there was no incest.
Claire is American heiress who stands to inherit ten million if she marries a man approved by her parents. She settles on Harry Montgomery, a Scottish hottie and a Duke to boot. Harry whisks her away to his castle in the Scottish Highlands and there Claire crosses paths with Trevelyn, a dark and mysterious man who is as exasperating as he is alluring. Okay, by now you’ve read enough books or seen enough movies to know where this is heading. I’ve blogged (very clumsily, if I may say so) about The Duchess before, but I failed to explain why I considered this book my comfort read during my adolescent years.
The reason is this: Claire doesn’t fit in with all of Harry’s eccentric relatives. She loves to read and talk about what she reads. Sadly, nobody around her likes to read. The conversation around the dinner table usually revolves around hounds and horses. This is strangely similar to my high school experience. Nobody wanted to talk books with me and there were no such things as blogs. I’d sit in the quad during lunch secretly wishing I could find a book buddy, a brain twin, but alas, no such luck. In The Duchess, Claire stumbles upon Trevelyn. He’s the man behind the pseudonym of her favorite writer! This, my friends, is the equivalent of say, me meeting Christopher Pike in high school and he coincidentally resembles young Ernest Hemingway with nerd glasses. For the record, I knew Christopher Pike was probably old enough to be my father, but I’ve always imagined him as a teenage horror writer.
There is a healthy serving of witty bantering and sexual tension between Claire and Trevelyn. But there is also a genuine friendship BEFORE the actual romance and that, above all else, does it for me. None of this “I just met him. Five minutes later, I’m willing to die for him. I need this to live!!!!” mumbo jumbo.
The Duchess is not a perfect book. It is, however, perfect for thirteen year old me. It has influenced the types of books I read in the future and in many ways, the kind of books I want to write.
I list The Duchess as another pre-requisite read if you want to be my book soulmate.