A few days ago, I asked for a recommendation on goodreads:
“Recommend a romance novel to a romance-novel addict who is really really bored and tired of reading romance novels!”
I have been so sick and tired of reading historical romance novels where it is continuously reminded to the girl to be a proper young lady if you want a desirable catch, ( what the heck- are we bartering spices and bolts of fabric?)’ women who sew all day ( i can’t even put a thread in the needle) and think that knowledge is taboo, sharing separate bedrooms, noble men being rakes, keeping mistresses at the age of seventeen(honestly, how is that possible, wasn’t the historical period more rigid before marriage?)., men not believing that they can fall in love, hero feeling that the heroine is tpretty but not traditionally beautiful, etc. And then back to ‘life is all about gettting married and then getting an heir– yep heir, not a child, sigh sigh, stop boring me. Shut up already!
And then I came across the book and ta da! I fell in love with it completely. I read the book in bits and pieces listening to Two pieces, Heart Attack and Nightingale by Demi Lovato at the same time. Every single scene made me feel warm and fluttery all over and the best thing was that the story proceeded the way I anticipated it to ! A breath of fresh air. None of that nonsense, I mentioned above.
And before you read it, check out Romreader’s picture review
-those pictures really gave me a visulaisation and I felt like the book was being replayed out like an epic historical drama.
Twenty-five year old illegitimate Olivia is on the run from her politician father Bertram who has been sending assassins to kill her for the past seven years. She finds letters at her previous employer’s home which reveal that the famous politician-duke Alistair de Grey-Marwick is in possession of certain documents which could ruin Bertram’s career. Olivia decides to steal these documents from Marwick which she can use to blackmail Bertram in order to ensure her safety.
So, she enters Marwick’s mansion in the guise of the new housekeeper. But then she realises that stealing those documents won’t be as easy as she thought because:
1.) The servants are the most disorganized bunch, flirting and carousing around and not doing their job at all because their employer- the duke has no care for anything anymore. And she needs predictability, to know who is where at what time so no one catches her stealing.
2.) The duke is under depression because his now-dead wife and political opponents betrayed him. So, he never leaves his rooms and drinks all day. And since the documents are in his room, Olivia has to find a way to get him out.
Basically, the plot has 4 parts:
a.) Olivia trying to get the duke out of his room and help him overcome his depression
b.) Olivia and duke slowly becoming friends.
c.) The betrayal-when Olivia finally steals from him and runs away.
d.) Olivia and the duke working together against their common enemy.
What I loved about this story:
– Its realistic and the story actually has substance. The motives were real. I really could understand the duke’s depression. To be in love with your wife for 5 years and hen realize after her death, from an outside source, that it was all a sham and that his defeats in the parliament were planned together by his cheating wife and his enemy. To think that you are a perfect judge of character and then realise you couldn’t spot the biggest lie of all.
In ordinary romance novels, I am absolutely exhausted of the hero being depressed because of his scarred features or cause his ‘true love’ left him. Seriously, get over it ! So, it was great to meet a real hero with real problems.
– Olivia character: She is the first heroine I have found I can relate to. She wants to be safe and feels extremely guilty of stealing. In fact she often decides to give up and continue running for her life but then continues with her goal as she is desperate.
[So desperate that she evens threatens the hero with a gun when he catches her stealing. And then how she tosses on him the letters and locks him up in his own bedroom and flees (hide spoiler)] –> Absolutely love this scene :)
He leaned forward onto his elbows, nostrils flaring. “You paint a very rosy picture of yourself, don’t you?”
“And you paint a very black one.”
In ordinary romance novels, I wonder how can the heroine be so feisty and so packed with courage. How? I can’t have so much of confidence and courage to take over the world and complete my goals. So, that’s why, I could relate to Olivia’s mixed emotions and how she continues to waver.
I also loved what she did at the end. [ Bertram committed bigamy and therefore she is not illegitimate but her step-siblings are. But she decides not to reveal that to the world because she does no want to impose the bastard title on her step-siblings who would thus suffer much censure from society, like she did. (hide spoiler)]
– The Power Play & Class differences:
* The duke is not afraid to use his power. He behaves as a figure of complete authority, intimidating everyone. [ Especially the scene where he rescues the heroine from jail and then proceeds to blackmail her in to obedience (hide spoiler)]
He made a contemptuous noise and dropped his hand. “Disobedience,” he said. “The taste of it does not suit me.”
He took another step back, looking at her with sudden cruel amusement. “However. The correction of impertinent domestics has always been one of my skills.”
* The duke knows that the master-servant relationship is forbidden and he does his best to stay away from her sexually. He know their differences in station and hence tries to remain honorable.
These aspects of the story really made my feel like I am reading a historical story and not a modern one. Keeping with the culture, customs and demands of the olden society is what makes a story feel like you are reading into history. Often, romance authors, for convenience sake, to get the hero and heroine forego this ‘major’ detail.
– The hero’s drunken antics: Throwing glass bottles at the heroine, punching the wall where she is standing, sacking her-who knows how many times. And then the heroines continuous spunk and determination to get him out of his hell-hole.
She turned her face away. Staring at the wall, she said rapidly, “The staff assures me that you have never been the kind of cowardly man who abuses his servants—”
His fist slammed into the wall.
She opened her mouth. Nothing came out. His fist had missed her ear by an inch, no more.
“I beg,” he said softly, “your pardon, girl. And now, I advise you to go downstairs and pack your things. You are sacked.”
As simply as that? No. She did not dare glance over her shoulder to find out if Jones had heard the news.
“That would be foolish, Your Grace.”
The sound of her voice, so fierce, gave her fresh
courage. “Your staff is running wild. They need a strong hand to put them to rights.”
A wild idea came to her, borne of desperation. Lowering her voice, she said, “I should hate to be forced to tell the newspapers that I was attacked by my employer, and then thrown out on my ear for
complaining of it.”
He stepped back as though to see her better. But as he studied her, his perfect face held an absolute
lack of expression. “Was that a threat?”
– The whole political scenario. Rather refreshing to find a duke who actually works to help the poor and slum-dwellers to rise.
– The duke always longed for a family unlike his own scandalous-always fighting parents and so he actually remains virgin for his first wife! And then celibate till the heroine! Love that about a hero. You know, I often find it hypocritical in many romance novels, where a hero loved his childhood friend but still does not mind to sow his wild oats. Honestly, Where is the commitment?
– The truffle mystery : Yeah, read that to find out: who stole 5 pounds of dirt looking fungi!
– The reactions and emotions after the betrayal.
“So you continue to protest. Very well.” He reached into his jacket and extracted a pocket watch that he laid beside him. “You have five minutes to tell your story. If I am satisfied, we will discuss
the specific nature of my offer. And if I am not . . .” He made a soft click of his tongue, a preemptive chide. “The authorities don’t know the half of what you’ve done. In addition to forgery and extortion,
there is also the matter of your theft from me.”
She stared at him. He had not managed to intimidate her when she’d been his servant. Why permit him to do so now? Her pride demanded better of her. “Not only that, Your Grace. You mustn’t forget
my theft from your brother’s wife. I was her secretary—did you know that? All those letters, I stole from her. Indeed, in the interest of good relations, you should give her a chance to convict me, too.
And perhaps Lady Ripton?” She would make sure he never blamed Amanda. “For I forged a reference from her. Yes, why not contact her as well?”
His pause suggested surprise. She took a ridiculous pleasure in it.
But then, with a shrug, he said, “Good. A piece of honesty; you are learning. Well, do begin your tale, Miss Holladay. The clock ticks.”
– The title; Fool me Twice. Very apt. Thankfully, it was not a crazy title like – The virgin secretary, falling in love with the mistress, blah blah, you get it.
– In ordinary romance novels, to resolve the conflict between the hero and heroine, the author adds in a bad guy who kidnaps the heroine. The hero rescues the hero-they kiss, make up and confess their love. (Ugh, hate it when a near-tragedy has to make you realize that you love someone) The heroine happily forgets the whole scary encounter of kidnapping and then the novels ends. No therapy needed. How abrupt!
So, I can’t explain how much relief it was when did not happen in this story ! :)
I could go on and on about how much I have adore–love this story. But now, its time for you to read it.( they really should make a movie on this- at least it would have a happily ever after-unlike the current historical drama movies)
And I could seriously go with a part 2 of this book; their life after marriage. I bet Meredith Duran would make that a great story too.
My Favourite line, said by the duke repeatedly to Olivia:
“How do you dare?”
Two of my favorite scenes:-
Imitating the dog scene –> [
He filled the doorway again, a book in his hand—something very old by the crumbling cover. “Do you know,” he said pleasantly, “what distinguishes man from beast?”
A very good question. “I should think . . . a haircut.”
He made a contemptuous noise. “The ability to make fire, you tart.”
“Tart?” Aghast, she crossed her arms. “Termagant, perhaps, but tart, I think not!”
And then suddenly it dawned on her what he was threatening. “You can’t mean—”
“Say good-bye to this book.”
“You heathen,” she cried. “You shaggy mongrel!”
“Mongrel I am not,” he snarled. “And so help me God”—he smirked—“or shall I say, the Devil”—she gasped—“but if you do not bring me those goddamned newspapers this minute—”
“Woof!” she cried. “Woof woof, yap away!”
She clapped a hand over her mouth, horrified. Where had that come from?
He, too, seemed shocked. He gawped at her for a long, silent moment. Then he pivoted away.
“No—wait!” That poor book!She started around the chiffonier—checked when she heard him loose a roar—more leonine than canine, to be fair—and then came a great, thunderous crash.
He swung back into view. “Your books,” he said with a savage grin, “have seen better days.”
He had toppled the bookcase. “You boor! You—” She hauled together the newspapers and carried them in a great armful toward the sitting-room hearth. “Fuel for the fire! What use has a hermit for
Hands closed on her shoulders. They spun her around so violently that she lost her balance, and grabbed onto the nearest support, which turned out to be—him. (hide spoiler)]
Sitting by the pond scene –> [
“You still care.”
“I’ve learned to care about different things now.” Very gently, he reached out to brush her cheek.
“You should call me Alastair,” he murmured.
She swallowed. Suddenly it seemed important to say something. “We would have been true friends, had we both grown up here.” She made herself say it: “Alastair.”
“I think you’re right. Olivia.” He stroked her face. “And we might have come here, to this very place, to sit and talk, as friends do.”
“Very often. And perhaps . . .” She smiled. “Not only to talk. This is where you would have kissed
me, I think. The first time. When we were both . . . sixteen?”
“Fifteen,” he said. “Fourteen.”
“Precocious young things!”
“Yes,” he said. “Brash. Barely out of childhood. And the first time I kissed you . . .” He leaned toward her, and she inclined to meet him. “It would have been like this,” he said against her mouth. (hide spoiler)]