The Duke of Shadows by Meredith Duran

Published March 25th 2008 by Pocket Star, Mass Market Paperback, 384 pages, ISBN-13: 9781416567035

In a debut romance as passionate and sweeping as the British Empire, Meredith Duran paints a powerful picture of an aristocrat torn between two worlds, an heiress who dares to risk everything…and the love born in fire and darkness that nearly destroys them.

From exotic sandstone palaces…
Sick of tragedy, done with rebellion, Emmaline Martin vows to settle quietly into British Indian society. But when the pillars of privilege topple, her fiancé’s betrayal leaves Emma no choice. She must turn for help to the one man whom she should not trust, but cannot resist: Julian Sinclair, the dangerous and dazzling heir to the Duke of Auburn.

To the marble halls of London…
In London, they toast Sinclair with champagne. In India, they call him a traitor. Cynical and impatient with both worlds, Julian has never imagined that the place he might belong is in the embrace of a woman with a reluctant laugh and haunted eyes. But in a time of terrible darkness, he and Emma will discover that love itself can be perilous — and that a single decision can alter one’s life forever.

Destiny follows wherever you run.
A lifetime of grief later, in a cold London spring, Emma and Julian must finally confront the truth: no matter how hard one tries to deny it, some pasts cannot be disowned…and some passions never die.

Review: Set in the mid-1850’s. It opens with Emmaline Martin, holding on for dear life to an overturned rowboat. The ship had gone down during a ferocious storm. The crew was lost, and so were her parents. Emma, the sole survivor, clung to that rowboat until rescued by a freighter and brought ashore.

Her intended, Marcus Lindley, is introduced early in the story. An idiot and a complete jerk, his attitude towards her wouldn’t surprise me in this day an age. But for him to be so hurtful toward her is uncalled for, and only angers the reader.

Emmaline is a very intelligent young woman, educated well. But she is not celebrated for her brain; women are not meant to concern themselves with a man’s job. She’s berated for her talent in art.

We meet the Marquess, Julian Sinclair, early in the story as well. He’s quite taken with Emma, and not just for her looks.

When war breaks out in India, Emma is forced to save herself, for Lindley left her to the wolves. The only reason he agreed to the marriage was because of her money. But he was also left as her guardian, which means he can access those funds, even before marriage, as long as she is with him. Saving herself, she ends up running into Julian, who helps her escape.

Half-Hindu, half-English, Julian is welcomed in certain circles, and hated it others. He does what he can to keep Emma safe, and falls in love with her at the same time. He leaves her in a safe city, to return to Dehli to save his cousins, when the palace is attacked, and Emma is forced to flee.

Years later, then end up ‘bumping’ into each other when her paintings are put on display. She’d fallen in love with him as well, and it hurt to see him. He had promised to come for her. He never did. She no longer wants anything to do with him. For everyone she’s ever loved left her in some fashion, and she won’t subject her heart to it again.

Julian, now the Duke of Auburn, becomes rude and cruel, not wanting to show how much seeing Emma hurt, not wanting to show how badly she’d gotten under his skin. Being rejected by the one person he wanted singed just enough.

But can he figure out how to keep her out of trouble?

**Okay, I liked Emma. I thought the girl had spirit, gumption and brains. I’m very glad that she had finally agreed to put her paintings out there. A great heroine indeed, never caring what others thought of her, and I liked that about her immediately.

Julian is a hero in true fashion. Even after the attack on the palace, he’d continued looking for her. For 6 long years. And never found her, until that moment. No matter what happened before, or for his rudeness and cruelty after, his reaction to seeing her again endeared me to him.

Marcus … oh, if I could have jumped into the book, I’d have beaten the crap out of him. He was a selfish son of a … right from the beginning, and I hated his attitude.

Emma’s cousin, Delphinia, drove me nuts, believing she had the ‘right to look out for her cousin’. Give me a break.

All the attacks bugged me. While I do like a good fight scene, there were too many attacks. Especially on Emma. If the author wanted us to feel badly for Emma, she got that right from the start. But enough was enough, already! Being subjected to Marcus was more than enough, at the beginning and then after. There’s only so much a person can take before going mad, and I think if one more had happened to Emma, a straight jacket would have been called for. And I think perhaps that’s what bugged me. All the crap that was being loaded on Emma, just to have Julian treat her like he did in the second half of the story… The scenery was, I think, perfect. It’s not often we read a historical romance set in that scene.

And I can say I’m very glad that I don’t life in those times. I hate it very much when men put women down, and I think that’s why I have a hard time reading some historical romances.

I can say bravo to Ms. Duran, who deserved to have her book with the Gather.com First Chapters Romance Writing Competition win the top prise. I’ll be looking for more of her work for sure. I very much like her writing style, and she can suck you into the story. It is quite possible I wasn’t in the mood to read a historical romance, which happens occasionally.

Rating: .5

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