The Duke of Kingswood has two big problems: his younger cousin, Richard, who got engaged to a notorious courtesan then murdered her lover, and the lovely Benedicta Calvine. The latter, a tatter-worn daughter who’d been travelling with her preacher-father, is discovered in one of the Duke’s tenant’s barns after her father has had a stroke. Now, the Duke has two invalids in his household, plus an idealistic, young, and bright-eyed ingenue. What better plan could the Duke come up with (since he has no plan to marry, oh no, not ever) than to arrange for Benedicta and Richard to make a match of it? Nothing could be simpler. Right?
Of course, it’s not such a simple matter after all. Neither Richard nor Benedicta seem the least bit inclined towards one another, and though the former is glad to split her nursing duties between her father and her host’s cousin, she only has eyes for her host. She is of the belief–a belief beyond her host’s comprehension–that no matter the cost, she will only marry for love.
Like so many Cartland heroes, the Duke of Kingswood is a rake who just needs the right young woman to come his way. Of course, she must be wide-eyed, innocent, unknowledgeable about the rougher sides of the world, yet incredibly wise and intelligent and able to keep up with his conversation. And–of course–she must be the only woman he’s ever known who shows no inclination to tear the his clothes off. She doesn’t even know what sexual desire is! If you meet all those criteria–well, then, congratulations: you can star in a Cartland novel and reform your very own misogynist.
I’m getting on my hate here, I know, but I am getting tired of Barbara Cartland’s paint by number plots. I think I’ve only come across two of her books that have varied substantially from this formula. Most of her heroes are disgusting, leaving me wondering why she was so popular as a writer. The books are written in the same breathless style, with the same out of control punctuation, time and again.
Even the opening scene of this novel mirrored the set-up of the openings of several other Cartland books I’ve reviewed.
So . . .
Here are the major flaws of this book:
1) Poorly written overall.
2) Repeats tiresome tropes.
3) Gross hero. Predictable heroine.
4) Benedicta falls in love while her father is in a coma upstairs, obviously dying.
5) The hero is a dictator who thinks he can get anything he wants by threatening financial punishments.
And the pluses (there are a couple):
1) Benedicta is a better heroine than most. In other Cartland books, readers are told how intelligently the heroines talk. In The Duke and the Preacher’s Daughter, we actually read the intelligent things Benedicta says. I think that she is more appealing than most of Cartland’s women, excluding, perhaps, Elfa and Fiona.
2) Benedicta and Richard have some mettle and they show it.
I didn’t hate this book. I also wasn’t compelled by it. I put it down several times near the end and considered not finishing it. Not a good sign. I will keep working through my collection of Barbara Cartland books (after all, I have them). I hope that there will be a couple more that I like.
But I’m not holding my breath, and I’m not recommending The Duchess and the Preacher’s Daughter.