Kerrigan Byrne is one of my favorite historical romance authors and when our book club chose How to Love a Duke in Ten Days, the first book in Byrne’s new Devil You Know series, I was so excited. Kerrigan Byrne’s always delivers emotionally packed and beautiful love stories.
How to Love a Duke in Ten Days is certainly emotional, and it is a love story, but there was a lot I struggled with. I will begin with a content warning, as our the prologue introduces us to Lady Alexandra Lane, as she is a young student and being raped by the headmaster at her school. It is brutal and gut wrenching, but it sets up the narrative for the rest of the book.
Lady Alexandra is a strong heroine. I feel such sympathy for her struggles and the woman that she became after this harrowing experience. She has put up several protections for herself and lives a life focused on educating herself and protecting the secrets of her past.
So as the reader, I feel protective of Lady Alexandra and hope the best for her. She is summoned by one of her two best friends to her save her from a marriage. But when she arrives, Lady Alexandra proposes to her friend’s intended, the Duke of Redmayne, instead.
Let me pause here. This already rubbed me the wrong way. I understand that Lady Alexandra needed money. I understand that her girl friend did not want to marry the Duke, who with his scarred face is nicknamed the Terror of Torcliff. But, Alexandra inserted herself into the engagement and set up an awkward situation at the engagement celebration where the Duke was unsure who to call his fiancée. This was an odd set up to me because Lady Alexandra was always so protective of herself from men, so to suddenly throw herself into the arms of her friend’s finance didn’t seem to be in line with her character.
And then Piers, the Duke of Redmayne, and Lady Alexandra are wed. And this is the point in the book when I became so disappointed in the characters that it was honestly hard for me to finish this book. Piers realizes that Alexandra isn’t a virgin and rather than discuss it with her, he pushes her away and threatens 10 days of no intimacy until she gets her period and can prove she is not pregnant with another man’s child.
The whole premise is disgusting to me, and even more so because we know the details of the intimate horror that Alexandra experienced. I understand that I am reading a historical romance and things were done differently back then, but I would hope that a romance written in 2019 would be more forward thinking. To tie up a woman’s value and worth with her virginity is so yucky. And yet I had to read the rest of the book with Piers not trusting her because of this fact.
It made me hate Piers, it made me so sad that Lady Alexandra had to live with even more torment over her circumstances, and it made me wholly uninterested in the subplots – like who was blackmailing Alexandra and who was trying to kill either (or both) of them.
The writing was beautiful, the intimate scenes were steamy and well written. I loved Lady Alexandra’s growth and discovering herself. But there were too many problematic issues for me to love this book.
Review by Michele W.