The Duke of Shadows, Meredith Duran

the-duke-of-shadows-duranThe 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.

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17 Responses to The Duke of Shadows, Meredith Duran

  1. I’m glad you liked this one! Duke of Shadows really stuck with me, plus I loved the setting and how she handled it. I’m looking forward to her new books which I think should out soonish.

  2. Janine says:

    Well-written review! So glad you enjoyed this one, Keishon. I also think that Meredith’s writing is somewhat reminsicent of Kinsale and Ivory’s. When I did my “If You Like Laura Kinsale” piece for Dear Author, I listed her as one of the authors Kinsale readers might enjoy.

    Did you have any favorite scenes BTW? Mine were the scene with the globe, and the second love scene. So sexy!

    I’m look­ing for­ward to her new books which I think should out soonish.

    Jorrie, I believe Bound by Your Touch is coming out at the end of June, and Written on Your Skin at the end of July. There are excerpts posted on Meredith’s site.

  3. Avid Reader says:

    Hey Janine, of course I had favorite scenes! The two you mentioned of course. In the ruins when they first became lovers, on the run from the crazy natives, the reunion scene at the art gallery, I think my heart was galloping at that point. I love it when we have a couple who separate for whatever reason and then they see each other again after x amount of time. Love that and I do believe that Judith McNaught did that a lot in her books which gave them the winning touch for me.

  4. jmc says:

    I really enjoyed the first half of this book, but the second half felt like it was written by a different person. The suspense plot fell wedged into the story for their to be some sort of additional conflict, and the conflict between the heroine and hero felt extremely forced (to me). I’d love to read more from this author if it was like the first half of the book.

  5. Avid Reader says:

    Yes, the first half was excellent. This author shows potential and since this is her first book, I’m hoping to see some improvements but I agree with jmc, the conflict did feel forced. As soon as he gave her his explanation, it should have been a non-issue at that point.

  6. Janine says:

    I actually preferred the second half, because it was angsty and I love angst. Emma was suffering from depression and PTSD; she had lost her parents as well as Julian, so I understood why she was afraid to let herself be happy again. I didn’t feel that this was prolonged in a contrived way, and I loved how Julian tried to break through to her. With that said, I do agree the suspense plot had its flaws. It was still one of the best book of the year for me, though of course I might be biased.

  7. SarahT says:

    I have to agree with Janine and say that I also preferred the second half. My other quibble was that Marcus was almost too evil. I prefer villains to have just a little more complexity.

    Still, ‘Duke of Shadows’ is beautifully written, and I loved the unusal setting. I definitely want to read her next book.

  8. Jessica says:

    I really enjoyed both halves, although I guess I preferred the second half slightly more.

    I loved the scene in the ruins when he said “you cannot trust me in this”. And the scene at the decadent party when they kept telling themselves it didn’t mean anything — and I remember vividly how heartbroken I was that the lovemaking did not generate a break in the heroine’s wall of denial.

    I did feel that she was a bit too hard on him.

    I am very excited about Duran and eagerly await her next book.

    Great review!

  9. willaful says:

    Hey, finally some people who agree with me about liking the first half better! I agree that the first section was up there with the romance greats… if only the second hadn’t disintegrated like a confused Harlequin Presents that can’t decide which plot it’s using. 😦 Really looking forward to seeing how this writer progresses.

  10. I find this split interesting, in terms of who liked which half. I loved the Indian setting too much not to love the first half a little more, but the second half was not a disappointment to me. I should probably refresh my memory before I state this, but the structure and the heroine’s resistance in the second half did remind me of Kinsale’s The Dreamhunter.

    I’m tempted to reread both books!

  11. Avid Reader says:

    Janine: I actu­ally pre­ferred the second half, because it was angsty and I love angst. Emma was suf­fer­ing from depres­sion and PTSD;

    Hmph. PSTD I didn’t pick up on or it never occured to me but in a brief moment. She seemed to have (I thought) conquered her fear of water when she sailed back to London. I love angst too but I was more or less impatient with the drawing out of the conflict between the two lovers. I didn’t think that that would be the main conflict between them when he told her (trying to avoid spoilers). But we all agree, this author has potential.

    Jorrie Spencer: but the struc­ture and the heroine’s resis­tance in the second half did remind me of Kinsale’s The Dreamhunter.

    That briefly crossed my mind, too! I’ve not completed The Dreamhunter by Kinsale and knowing that Janine loves it is enough to have me keep trying. I don’t know why it breaks down for me when the two are back at home in London.

    Everybody, thanks for sharing your feedback. Appreciate it.

  12. Janine says:

    Hmph. PSTD I didn’t pick up on or it never occured to me but in a brief moment. She seemed to have (I thought) con­quered her fear of water when she sailed back to London.

    I was thinking it more in regards to what happened to her in India after she and Julian were separated. I have a friend with a psychology background who read the book and felt there was a combination of depression and PTSD.

    I’ve not com­pleted The Dreamhunter by Kin­sale and know­ing that Janine loves it is enough to have me keep trying. I don’t know why it breaks down for me when the two are back at home in London.

    The Dream Hunter is one of my favorite books but the first time I read it, I found the beginning of the England section difficult too. The first half was so romantic and I was not expecting the setbacks in the relationship. I was angry at Zenia for her attitude. It wasn’t until very late in the book that I understood her. The ending was so wonderful in terms of offering insights into her character that I went back and reread the book with a whole new understanding of her, and that was when I really came to love the book.

  13. Yes, the ending of The Dream Hunter made the second half of the book for me. I need to, someday, reread it, and Seize the Fire.

  14. willaful says:

    I didn’t care much for The Dream Hunter — until the ending. It made me wonder if the heroine was a bit autistic, because the charm reminded me of things we do to sooth my son’s anxieties. I really should reread it, see if the rest works better for me.

  15. Christine says:

    I love this book! It was one of my favorite books of 2008, actually. I adored the setting, found the writing to be intelligent and beautiful, and the level of tension and angst throughout the novel was fantastic. I also thought Emma was hard on Julian toward the end, but knowing how depressed and traumatized she was, I still empathized with her.

  16. willaful says:

    I just finished Scandal by Carolyn Jewel and there’s another resistant heroine ending. This one seems to be irritating even readers who otherwise love the book (though I thought it mostly justified myself.) Made me wonder about what Kinsale did differently that pulled it off so well.

  17. Janine says:

    Willaful, I think some readers of The Dream Hunter were very unhappy with Zenia. I was for most of the second half of the book, but the ending was so spectacular that it turned that around for me, and in later readings, I came to love Zenia.

    I think there’s just no way around it, most of the time, there will be some readers will have a problem with resistant heroines. I love them myself, though, so I’m very glad authors write about them.

    I loved the heroine of Scandal, and was really glad that she resisted for as long as she did.

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