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Due to a change in publisher, this title came out several months after its original date. Having finally been able to listen to the book, I'm very sorry to say that it has come as something of an anticlimax.
I have read or listened to several Tessa Dare books, including the Castles Ever After, and the Spindle Cove series. Mostly (but not always) her books have been a hit with me, witty, well paced, and with really lovable characters. The first three Spindle Cove books are wonderful, after that, not so much. The cross-over book Do You Want To Start A Scandal was frankly bizarre.
When I read the blurb for The Duchess Deal it sounded like Dare had finally got back on track. When I found out that Mary Jane Wells was narrating the audiobook I was delighted. I am a big fan of Wells, and so waited the extra few months for the audiobook to come out, though the hard back was available much earlier.
The beginning section of this book is just as I had hoped. Lots of witty dialogue with two good quality leads, and some laugh out loud moments. Ash and Emma both have a lot of emotional baggage, but are both quite pragmatic with a shared dark humour. Ash's attempts to enjoy his wedding night are wonderfully calamitous, and his determination to keep a 'stiff upper lip' quite adorable.
For me, the book dipped terribly in the middle. Here, we are introduced to some of the characters who will become main characters in later books in the series. I felt this section was so obviously about setting up future books, and really broke the flow of Ash and Emma's story. These characters appear heavily in this middle section, and then disappear before making a brief reappearance near the end of the book. It just didn't feel natural, and I lost interest in the book, and didn't return to it for a few weeks.
The final section of the book was better, but to be honest I just didn't feel that there had been much emotional development between Ash and Emma. They seem to have sex every other minute, but there were no real moments of intimacy between the two. There were no proper descriptions of the two eating meals with each other, reading books, talking about their childhoods, laughing, sharing non-sexual touch... any of the scenes that normally make you feel all warm and fuzzy. Throughout they really struggled with intimacy, and 'witty banter' characterised nearly all of their conversations, which got really tedious.
It is quite a short book, and it felt like there wasn't time for some of the better elements to really shine. Ash's relationship with a local lad Trevor had the potential to be comedy gold, but it flagged until it became necessary as a plot device.
Wells does a good job, but as the book lacked emotional depth, so did her performance.
All in all, I don't think this will be a re-listen for me, and I'm not too fussed about listening to the rest of the series either.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Plenty of humor and overall very enjoyable. V well read . A lighthearted and entertaining story.
A wonderful mix of silliness and fun with just the right amount of pathos to anchor the characters and drive their story. Mary Jane Wells is an exceptional narrator who imbues the characters’ voices with individuality and their words with the intended meaning, too rarely the case. Truly excellent narration