Tag Archives: spies

A Princess in Hiding Series: The Duke of Olympia Meets His Match

Despite the wonderful writing and Juliana Gray’s consistent ability to create interesting characters and throw in some excitement, I couldn’t fully enjoy the Victorian romance novella The Duke of Olympia Meets His Match, but I didn’t mind. I paid a reasonable sum for the book, and since I borrowed all of her other novels from the library, I am happy to have contributed to Gray’s coffers. May she enjoy my shekels in good health and continue to devise the complex, dovetailed series plots and wonderful characterizations at which she excels.

From Amazon: Aboard the luxuriously appointed SS Majestic, the duke is on a mission to retrieve a most important portfolio of papers and thwart a known anarchist. As the ship steams across the Atlantic, the duke’s search for the notorious master of disguise forces him into close quarters with an American heiress and her widowed governess, Mrs. Penelope Schuyler. While Olympia has known his fair share of intriguing women, Mrs. Schuyler seems to have a way of challenging his expectations at every turn. But as their clandestine meetings lead them down an unexpected path, the duke must determine if Penelope is a woman to be trusted.

The Duke of Olympia appears in both of Gray’s published trilogies and I have described him previously as “a conniving old son of a bitch thoroughly experienced in shenanigans”. A compelling character, there is just one problem with giving him his own book and a love interest. He may be 6′ 5″ tall, hale and hearty, broad of chest and deep of voice, but he is seventy-four years old. It’s a perfectly reasonable age to fall in love in the real world, but for a romance novel he falls beyond the line for me. I could have lived with sixty. The heroine, Penelope, a delightful character, is just about fifty. Age differences, of course, grow less important in relationships the older we get, but Olympia is SEVENTY-FOUR years old and Penelope is young enough to be his daughter. I am a Woman of a Certain Age and The Duke of Olympia Meets His Match has the character equivalent of me becoming romantically involved with my father-in-law. I couldn’t get past it. If Penelope had been a decade older, or the Duke younger, I would have been delighted to read their story, but the combination of the vast age difference and his septuagenarian status became an insurmountable combination.

For a historical romance with large age difference that works, I recommend Julie Anne Long’s genre classic What I Did for a Duke. He’s pushing forty, she’s twenty and Long absolutely pulls it off.

Also by Juliana Gray:

The Affairs by Moonlight Trilogy
A Lady Never Lies
A Gentleman Never Tells
A Duke Never Yields – most recommended of the three

A Princess in Hiding Trilogy
How to Tame Your Duke
How to Master Your Marquis – most recommended of the three
How to School Your Scoundrel
The Duke of Olympia Meets His Match

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

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Written on Your Skin by Meredith Duran

He had made jokes for himself, expecting no one else to catch them,
and indeed no one else had.” (103) Yep.

While as well-written as all of Duran’s Victorian romances, Written on Your Skin never really captured my interest and wasn’t my cup of tea, although it did have some great moments. To find out if it might be your cup of tea, please read on.

Phin is a spy working for Her Majesty’s government in Hong Kong. Poisoned at a party, he finds help in the surprising form of Mina Masters. A beautiful flibbertigibbet to whom he is attracted against his better judgement, she surprises him by saving his life and helping him escape. Four years later, Phin’s inheritance of an earldom has allowed him to leave the service and he is flailing against himself and his past with a controlled, narcotic enhanced stupor. Mina re-enters his world when she calls in the debt owed for his life. Together, they are trying to track down her missing mother, but Mina is a complicated woman hiding behind as many masks as he is. Phin, for his part, is also trying to keep Mina safe by limiting her participation and, very much against her wishes, her appearances in public.

Trust is the through-line in Duran’s work and Written on Your Skin is no different. Both Phin and Mina have life experiences that have driven them to create false fronts for the world. He simply doesn’t know what to do with himself or how to act naturally around his old friends, in particular the louche set he used to run with. Mina has learned to play dumb, coquette, bohemian, or whatever it takes to protect herself and control her circumstances. Each has fought battles to get where they are. Magnetically drawn to each other, they have to break through all of their posturing and self-protection. How do they trust each other? Can they trust themselves?

The quality of the writing is consistent with the rest of Duran’s books, I just don’t really enjoy a lot of MacGuffin-y machinations. I’m not sure if the book had too many, or if it just felt that way because I was never really that engrossed by the story. It’s probably the latter.

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

Not Rules for the Reckless Series
Bound by Your Touch – excellent
Written on Your Skin – not my style, but very good

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.