Rodale, Maya. It’s Hard Out Here for a Duke. New York: Avon Books, 2017. ISBN-13: 978-0-06-238681. $7.99 USD
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that dukes are everywhere in historical romance, a fact that I must begrudgingly accept. But when I read the first three installments of this series, I looked forward to James’ book, as he is not your typical stuffy and/or rakish duke.
But sadly having an atypical hero did not guarantee I would love this book. In fact, despite a few moments of funny banter, keeping it from being a total bore, this book was a slog with two characters that it appeared Rodale was trying to force together, considering the lack of chemistry, or reason for them to like each other.
I feel like if the book was about him and the other horse-mad girl he meets, I would have believed it more, as they share something in common. But I just found it unbelievable that one “passionate” night could lead to lasting love, even in the circumstances Rodale was trying to set up, with the conflict being that he’s meant to be a duke, and she’s a commoner.
I also found it woefully ironic that Meredith and the dowager duchess were meant to be educating the American Cavendishes about English society, including forms of address, given the fact that Rodale doesn’t seem to have a firm grasp on the system herself. In one instance, she has the two of them setting up a hypothetical scenario with James in which Meredith is meant to be an earl’s daughter, and both say she is meant to be addressed as “Lady Wyndham” (which is the way an earl’s wife would be addressed). And in another scenario, Meredith, when hearing about the other woman, Lady Jemma Winston, she refers to her as “Lady Winston.” However, sometime later, she lectures James about his “stubborn American refusal to learn and adhere to titles and proper forms of address.” (156) This is something I thought Rodale had learned, as she addresses each of James’ sisters formally as Ladies Bridget, Amelia, and Claire, and none of them as “Lady Cavendish.”
On the whole, this book did not work for me. But judging by the variety in reviews, this could be yet another case of “it’s-not-you-it’s-me.” If you like the Cavendishes, or Maya Rodale, or dukes that are different from the norm, or even stories built on “one passionate night” (and anachronisms and other inaccuracies don’t bug you), I would suggest giving it a try for yourself.