Andre is a talented artist with several secrets, the first being that he can’t let anyone know that he’s the one actually painting the murals created by Monsieur Laurent Desmarais, who continues to pretend to be the master in spite of his crippling arthritis. Second, Andre is really Alexander Wilkenson, the heir of a Dukedom who was rejected by his father and sent to an institution at the age of ten. Third, despite the fact that the world views Alexander as a mute, he actually can talk, although he becomes excruciatingly tongue tied and anxious in any social situation. Then there is Elsie Stanhope, who has commissioned a mural in honor of her upcoming twenty third birthday where her engagement to Lord Hathwaite will be officially announced. This arranged marriage has been planned since she was a child, and it will not only help her family financially, but it will one day provide her the title of Duchess. Elsie also has some baggage, including a fear of sleep due to the sudden death of her twin sister, and the dread of the upcoming loveless marriage her father has orchestrated. Is it any wonder that these two loners are drawn to one another in the Victorian Romance, When a Duke Says I Do by Jane Goodger?
This unusual premise captures the reader’s interest as the young lovers share their secrets and find comfort in their mutual struggles. Unfortunately, there are so many twists and turns, that much of the endearing qualities are lost. Some of the plot is so convoluted that there is quite a bit of confusion and/or disbelief. Goodger needs to learn how to self edit and save some of her ideas for future novels or even a novella or two. More is not necessarily better. In addition, although I liked the sweetness of Alexander and Elsie’s relationship at the beginning of the novel, Alex become an unlikable bully and Elsie a battered bride towards the end. Thank goodness there was some resolution in the last chapter or I would have totally hated this book.
Despite facing numerous life-changing obstacles, the characters need to be consistent. As an aside, I thought it was kind of wimpy to kill off the evil father instead of having him deal with the repercussions of his actions.
Jane Goodger has a breezy writing style and some unique ideas, but her attempts fall short. In order to up her game, she needs to work on the consistency of character behaviors, tighten up the plot, eliminate unnecessary or repetitive verbiage and actions, and try to wrap up as many loose ends as possible (unless they are to be answered in another book in the series). What she has definitely mastered is the romance, with some steamy lovemaking between our two protagonists. Three stars for a decent premise.
This is Book One in the Lords and Ladies Series.