Meredith Duran writes character driven historical romance. She’s sometimes a little more serious* than I prefer, but her latest release, Fool Me Twice, strikes a fantastic balance. I suspect it’s her best yet, but I am too busy working through her back catalogue at the moment to make any kind of judgement. It is very, very good. I highly recommend this book and will be adding Duran to my autobuy list forthwith.
Alastair de Grey, Duke of Marwick is nothing to write home about as the story begins. The villain of Duran’s last novel, That Scandalous Summer, Marwick was a fiercely intelligent polymath and active political figure when at his best and before his monumental pride was reduced to ashes. Having learned that his almost beloved wife manipulated and betrayed him, Marwick has completely withdrawn into himself. Enter Olivia Holladay who has problems of her own. On the run, she uses a trumped-up reference letter under an assumed name to get hired on as Marwick’s housekeeper. Olivia knows he has the material she needs to blackmail her pursuers into submission. The only problem is that, having made a survey of the house, she knows the incriminating information is in Marwick’s own bedroom. The bedroom he refuses to leave, or have cleaned, or let anyone near, much like the man himself.
Marwick was quite the autocratic bastard in the last book and his road to redemption is long. If he hasn’t been in a clinical depression, it’s damn close. Olivia falls for both the wounded man he is and the formidable man she knows is lurking under all of his unkempt surliness. She appears to have arrived at the right time to draw Marwick out and support him as he gets back on his feet. It’s an interesting pairing with a hero recovering from betrayal through the help and ministrations of someone else seeking to betray him. Olivia’s efforts don’t cure him, Duran is too sophisticated and talented a writer for such facile plotting, as much as she goads him into action. Marwick’s withdrawal has had a negative effect on virtually every aspect of his life. It’s a painful and necessarily humbling journey back to himself.
The complexities of Olivia and Marwick’s personalities make for compelling reading. Fool Me Twice stumbles in tone, in a very minor way, around some of the downstairs household politics and with a blessedly brief twee incident, but overall it is superlative. That it’s not a neat and tidy romance is the novel’s greatest strength. Moreso than in many romances, and in keeping with the great ones, Olivia and Marwick feel like people doing their best to make their way in the world and discovering a counterbalance in each other along the way.
Also by Meredith Duran:
Also by Meredith Duran:
Rules for Reckless Series (not entirely interconnected, more of a theme)
That Scandalous Summer – very good
Your Wicked Heart – delightful novella
Fool Me Twice – excellent
Lady Be Good – nothing special
Luck Be a Lady
*If you like serious romances, try Sherry Thomas.