Thursday, 26 June 2014

A Duchess Enraged by Alicia Quigley

Book cover A Duchess Enraged by Alicia Quigley
I was first attracted to reading this book by the fact that according to the blurb it is inspired by real-life events. This is pretty much what it says:

‘The novel is based on actual history, that of the Earl of March and Lady Sarah Cadogan. The Earl of Cadogan married his daughter, Lady Sarah Cadogan, to the Duke of Richmond’s son, the Earl of March, sight unseen, as a way of settling an enormous gambling debt he owed the Duke. They were married the day after the agreement was made, and the infuriated Earl of March departed on his Grand Tour immediately thereafter, not to return for four years.’

Picture of the real Duke and Duchess of Richmond
According to Wikipedia, the bride was only 13 years old at the time and the groom 18.  Obviously arranged marriages were not uncommon, but this seems really sudden and very unfair to both of them. I was pleased to see that the real life couple actually had a happy marriage, as far as can be told from surviving letters. Other snippets of interest are that Lady Sarah shared my birthday, and that her husband, Charles the second Duke of Richmond, is now best remembered for being an important early patron of cricket! The picture here is a portrait of the couple.

In ‘A Duchess Enraged’ the couple in question are renamed to Allegra and Adam. I think the man who lost the fortune has been changed to be the groom’s father here. Allegra’s father, in lieu of receiving £20,000, offers to have Adam as a son-in-law instead. This has the benefit for the Duke that Adam won’t come back from his Grand Tour with an unsuitable wife in tow. Allegra is extremely frightened at being made to marry and Adam is livid with rage. He finds her unattractive and is completely uninterested in her. The plan is for her to return to her family’s home and await his return from the Grand Tour.

‘Any hopes she had cherished of possibly striking up a friendship with her husband withered away. This marriage, it seemed, was doomed from the start.’

The story then fast forwards four years. Adam’s father has now died, meaning that he is now the Duke. He has a very beautiful mistress, a widow called Lady Lousia Manning, who is hopeful that he will have his unconsummated marriage dissolved and make her his duchess. Adam’s mother has been asking him to go home and take up his life there, and he goes – taking his mistress with him. He sets her up in a house, as was common with a kept woman.

For the first few nights back in London Adam doesn’t go home, but he accompanies Lady Manning to a function. While she gambles at the card table, he wanders about, and a very beautiful lady catches his eye. She is happy to flirt with him, recognising him as her husband. He has no idea who she is, at this point. He finds out the next day, and is hypocritically unhappy about his wife behaving in such a way. She is unhappy that he is openly keeping a mistress. And so sets up the story, with Adam finding Allegra unmanageable and stubborn, Allegra trying to show Adam that he can’t control her while struggling with feelings of attraction towards him, Adam’s mother and sister trying to sort out their differences and other parties trying to cause trouble between them and force them apart.

Book Cover: A Most Unusual Situation by Alicia Quigley
This book is available in two versions – ‘A Duchess Enraged; An After Dark Version’ which has sex scenes, and ‘A Most Unusual Situation: A Traditional Georgian Romance’, which doesn’t. From the reviews on Amazon UK it seemed as though there wasn’t much in the way of sex scenes so I got the 'after dark' version but to be honest, I think I’d have been better off with the version with none, there were too many scenes for my liking, the style of them wasn't really to my taste, and there is literally a bodice-ripping scene, which I found brutish rather than romantic.

I was hoping for this book to deal with the couple’s unusual situation, and show how they worked through their differences and build a relationship but I didn’t really get that from this book. They just seemed to really lust after each other and that was the main driving force of their relationship. Allegra was a bit childish and naive, but she was still only 18, so that wasn’t too hard to deal with, although she made some tiresomely stupid decisions. I really wasn’t fond of Adam. Firstly, he is a bossy alpha-male type, which isn’t the type of hero I'm fond of, but the real issue was his double standards. Both his wife and his mistress are sex-mad. In his mistress he interprets this as her devotion to him, but in his wife he decides that she is untrustworthy and will very likely be taking lovers left, right and centre. He never applies this logic to his mistress’s likely behaviour, just his wife’s. It was just completely illogical. Both Adam and Allegra are also very gullible.

Some of the secondary characters were interesting, such as Adam's sister Caroline, and a beau of Allegra's, Lord Gresham, but neither of the main protagonists came alive for me here; I felt the characters needed to be fleshed out more. I felt like this was such a missed opportunity, because the bare bones of this story is fascinating and I’d have liked to see the characters come to life, and their relationship grow and develop.

3 star read

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