23 May, 2013

DNF Review: When You Give a Duke a Diamond by Shana Galen

I've been doing a lot of DNF reading lately. Sometimes I set a book aside and try again. Sometimes I soldier on, carried aloft by the wave of hate reading. It's pretty rare that I hit a book two, three, four times and just say forget it. (2013 has not been a good year for me.) Lord & Lady Spy was the first Galen I abandoned. When You Give a Duke a Diamond is the second.

Meet Juliette. She's famous for being famous. She plays men off each other, collecting their offerings of wealth. She has a scandalous protector who is actually, um, something that gets revealed in the part of the book I didn't read. In the first half he's off the page. Apparently she and two other women are pretending to be his lover. He sets them up with the cash and the flash and they're going to find aristocratic husbands. Because that is the natural outcome of life at the high end of the sex trade. (If the Hermetically Sealed Heroine had a cousin, she'd be the Secretly Chaste Courtesan.) Juliette is divorced yet oddly eager to reenter the matrimonial state. Given that Juliette's ex husband is a scary abusive creep I would've expected her to have some reluctance. Perhaps, with her gift for social climbing, she might have considered actually becoming a courtesan. In that life she would have an escape hatch. But this is a tale where abuse issues are excuses for bonding. Or bondage. We'll get to that.

Juliette meets William in a series of nonsensical events. They aren't just tedious to follow, they don't pass the logic test. William leaves his fiancee on the balcony. When he returns she is missing. Juliette claims the woman has been murdered. There is a bullet in the wall and no sign of dead fiancee. Since dead fiancee has been having extramarital sex (unlike Juliette) no one but her parents worry much about this. William wavers between believing Juliette and repudiating her. They engage in some public scenes where neither of them are terribly lucid. Juliette runs to William (whom she barely knows) for protection from a known threat rather than the men she already has on the string. Once forced into his life, she challenges him at every step with such stunningly tone deaf antisocial behavior that my sympathy began shifting to her ex husband. Juliette wears entitlement like a perfume. Bravado or not, it's shocking when William begins craving her company. Of course, William is a Duke. And Juliette is known as The Duchess, one of the Three Diamonds who are the alleged lovers of the Earl of Sin.

I just typed that. With my fingers. I could insert a lecture on the mine cut diamonds of the pre-1900 era and the frequency of foil backing as a method to improve their appearance, but I will just bow to the De Beers machine and move on.

William has OCD from his abusive father's questionable parenting methods. Rather than act like almost every formerly abused child I've ever known (and I've known plenty) William acts like the Abused Child of Fiction. He cannot be free. He lives his life, despite unimaginable access to power and resources, in the narrow constraints his father dictated. He upholds the order bequeathed to him without question. Having been unloved, he does not form attachments. He is a stern and rigid man. He and Juliette bond over tales of - what is the word for dog murder? Is there such a word? Canineicide? Anyway, they had a puppy and then they didn't and it was their fault for being such bad, bad boys and girls. (Take a moment here to wonder why William didn't buy a litter of puppies to piss on his father's grave daily.) Dead dogs mean I love you. Or something. Soon Juliette is introducing Surprise Bondage to their lives and trying my nerves in new and inventive ways. Someone attempts to rape her. Is it the guy who killed William's forgotten fiancee? Is it Juliette's ex husband? (She not only dismisses that possibility she fails to share  the thought.) I suddenly realized I didn't care. I was more interested in the dead fiancee than either of the people pretending to look for her.

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