The Duke of Shadows (2008) by Meredith Duran is a historical romance set outside Regency England. The story is partially set in India during a most turbulent time when the British military was in occupation of the country. The growing tensions between the natives and the British officers leads to what some refer to as the Indian mutiny. Sepoys rebel, tearing down the city and killing British soldiers outright. The story starts a few days before all of this upheaval takes place.
Plot Summary, The Duke of Shadows
Emma Martin is an English heiress betrothed to an British officer stationed in India. Her parents decide to accompany her to India to ensure she arrives safely and into the arms of her future husband, Colonel Marcus Lindley. Unfortunately, disaster strikes. Emma finds herself the sole survivor of a shipwreck that kills her parents. Stranded for several days, she is rescued by sailors but Delhi society labels the outcome, a “dishonorable rescue.” As if saving her life implied that they, the sailors, stole her virtue for services rendered.
Enter Julian Sinclair, a Marquess and future heir to a dukedom and cousin to Marcus Lindley. No, the two cousins are not close. In fact, Lindley labels Julian a “half-breed,” a derogatory term to describe someone of mixed heritage. But Julian is, in fact, half British and half Indian. Of course neither half is very accepting of the other which leaves him in the middle or in the “shadows”, if you will in regards to his blood loyalty. He grew up in India but was whisked off by his grandfather, the Duke, who makes him his heir.
To briefly summarize the events of the story, Julian’s been labeled as an “alarmist” because of his continued warnings to the British military about the natives threat to turn on them. No one believes him. In fact, many snidely think that he is in collusion with them, since he is part Indian and all. It isn’t too long after Julian meets Emma in Delhi that the two end up running for their lives out of the city. The natives do turn and chaos erupts everywhere thus leading to what is historically referred to as the Indian Rebellion.
It’s advantageous that Julian is part-Indian. He saves them both by shedding all hints of his Englishness by blending into his surroundings while the natives rebel all around them. This change shocks Emma but the fear of death supersedes any ideas she had about his loyalties to the British. They get separated when he leaves her with the royal family. This is after they’ve become lovers. Julian decides to go back and help the British and Emma was supposed to wait for his return. The sepoys attack the town and Emma must run again. Julian tries his best to find her after learning what has happened to her. Things don’t work out as planned. The two meet again some 4 years later in London, during an art exhibit.
My Thoughts on The Duke of Shadows
This is a good story. In fact, Ms. Duran’s writing is spectacular and reminiscent of Kinsale and Judith Ivory to me. First, let me dish out the praise: the first half of the story was excellent. You have war with violence galore, a romance developed during wartime with a hero with mixed heritage that add complexity and a heroine educated with a backbone. I also enjoyed the dialogue and the indulgent and memorable amount of time the h/h spent with each other especially at the start of the story. Unpredictable plotting with decent characterizations had me fully engaged in this story.
Now for the criticism(s): some scenes were overly long and some characters didn’t need the added screen time, Lady Chad anyone? I was, quite honestly, sick of her chatter. The conflict that held the two lovers apart shouldn’t have lasted as long as it did to me but I did appreciate the fact that both characters didn’t let this conflict between them develop into some huge misunderstanding. The suspense part of the story developed kind of late and also I thought it quite thin and somewhat unclear regarding a treasonous soldier.
I haven’t touched on all the plot points in this story. Leaving that for you to discover. The heat level in here is quite hot but not searing. I loved that this story was based on historical facts mixed with fiction. The setting was not wallpaper and didn’t detract nor interfere with the story. I really liked Julian with his faint smile and burning green eyes. Reserved and not afraid to let his feelings show in front of a woman, thus he made for a magnificent hero. Overall, this is a good story and I’m glad to have read it. This writer shows promise in delivering the historical romances I used to love and enjoy back in the day. B. Look forward to reading more from this talented writer. Decent debut.