Padraic, Duke of Waterford, is rather relaxed for a member of the nobility. He feels confined by his title and by the demands of society. He has certain responsibilities ahead of him, but he isn’t inclined to rush towards fulfilling them. And then a late night encounter with a charmingly gruff highwayman turns his world upside down.
Raff of the Rookery thinks this night will be like any other. A rich toff has left himself unprotected and ripe for kidnapping. Raff expects the Duke to provide a handsome ransom. But the Duke proves to be attractive and quickly gets under Raff’s skin. Life is hard enough on the wrong side of the law and Raff doesn’t need the complication that Padraic represents. But neither man seems capable of resisting the other, dangers be damned.
The Duke and the Dandy Highwayman is the first in a trilogy and currently all three books are being offered in a bundle or you can get the first individually. They do involve the same characters throughout, but for the purposes of this review, I only focused on the first in the series.
I wanted to like The Duke and the Dandy Highwayman, but almost from page one it stumbled and it never managed to recover enough to bring me on board. The plot is fairly straightforward and while not particularly original, it had potential that unfortunately failed to materialize. The entire book takes place over the course of the evening, so the character exposition is pretty limited and neither Raff or Padraic felt particularly defined or dimensional. As a result, their motivations don’t make a ton of sense and it was hard to understand why Padraic would jump into bed with Raff a couple hours after being kidnapped. We realize that Padraic is bored with his life and certainly Raff represents an element of dangerous eroticism, but there’s not enough substance to either of them to give their decisions much weight.
I appreciate the author tried to give The Duke and the Dandy Highwayman a true sense of time and place and achieves some limited success in the attempt, but it’s ultimately crippled by excessively purple prose. There should be a limit to the amount of times “‘twas” can be used in a single chapter of any writing and that limit is exceeded here. I assume the author was attempting authenticity in language, but the dialogue between characters instead becomes tangled and distracting. It was utterly off-putting and more than once I set the book aside.
The Duke and the Dandy Highway had a decent structure and a plot that might have worked under different circumstances. But it collapsed under the weight of poorly constructed characters and dialogue that frustrated instead of enraged. I’d have to recommend giving this one a pass.