Thursday, January 12, 2012

Review: How to Dance With a Duke by Manda Collins

How to Dance With a Duke by Manda Collins
Series: Ugly Ducklings, Book 1
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Historical Romance How to Dance With a Duke Cover
ISBN: 9780312549244
Release Date: January 31, 2012
Pre-order it here: Amazon | B&N

Cecily Hurston has long been wary of marriage, as she has no desire to wed a man like her father – one who would try and curtail her studies of ancient Egypt. But a disaster on one of her father’s expeditions has Cecily hearing wedding bells, for there is no way she can gain entrance into the Egyptian Club and find the proof to clear her father’s name unless she marries a member of the club. Though Cecily and her cousins are known as the “Ugly Ducklings,” Cecily must learn how to become a swan in order snare a husband. There’s just one unexpected complication…

Lucas Dalton, Duke of Winterson, is determined to find out what happened to his brother, Will. Will went missing during Lord Hurston’s last expedition and the gossips are whispering that Hurston may have killed Will. Hurston’s daughter is Lucas’s best chance of learning what happened to Will, and he won’t let the opportunity slip him by. Cecily’s plan to gain entrance into the Egyptian Club through marriage may make sense to her, but Lucas cannot bear to see the beautiful bluestocking wed one of the nodcocks now dancing attendance on her. Cecily needs someone who will not only aid her in her quest to uncover what happened on Huston and Will’s last trip to Egypt, but will also appreciate and adore her for who she is. Though Cecily doesn’t see it, she needs someone like him.

An “ugly duckling” comes into her own in Manda Collins’s debut novel, How to Dance With a Duke. I was delighted by the premise of How to Dance With a Duke — it reminded me of the vintage Amanda Quick books. Yet while I think Ms. Collins has a promising future in historical romance, How to Dance With a Duke fell a bit short of my expectations. The elements of a good story were there: bluestocking heroine, considerate hero, mystery, murder, and romance. However, the story was weighed down with repetition, slow pacing, and a bunch of overused historical romance tropes. It took a long time for anything to actually happen in How to Dance With a Duke and Cecily seemed to reiterate the same information ad nauseam. I understand this was meant to highlight information that would come into play later on in the book, but it became a case of beating a dead horse very early on.

For the most part, Lucas and Cecily were likeable protagonists and it was easy to be charmed by their love story. Cecily is prone to pushing Lucas away as a defense mechanism, but at a certain point it got to be annoying. Lucas, in turn, is patient, kind, and all things wonderful, which made him a bit flat at times, but I could overlook it. What did pull me out of the story a bit in How to Dance With a Duke was that — when talking amongst themselves — Lucas and the men Ms. Collins sets up to be potential future heroes tended to talk like women rather than men.

Overall, How to Dance With a Duke was a decent read. Its flaws shone brighter than its strengths, but I could see the author’s potential nonetheless. While I’m not sure I’ll be revisiting How to Dance With a Duke, I am interested in reading Ms. Collins’s next Ugly Duckling book, How to Romance a Rake.