Monday, August 27, 2012

Review: Between the Duke and the Deep Blue Sea by Sophia Nash

Alexander Barclay, Duke of Kress, has experienced a disconnection from his life ever since he inherited the title. He does what dukes do and indulges in all the things dukes are allowed to indulge in --

After a most forgettable evening (he can't remember anything that happened -- he can't even remember how he lost his entire fortune!), he wakes up to the wrath of the Prince of England -- and an ultimatum: one month to restore his principal seat in Cornwall, mend his rakish ways, and find a wife.

Roxanne Vanderhaven, Countess of Paxton, was unaware of her husband's plans for her -- until it happened and now she finds herself clinging to the side of a cliff. Being thisclose to death, she's realized what a muddle she's made of her life by following only what is expected of her and she's hoping for a chance to live her life properly.

Hope and her second chance comes in the dubious form of Alexander, who really doesn't want to get involved (as he has problems of his own) -- but something about Roxanne's situation that captivated him -- correction: there's something about Roxanne that captivated him.

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt cautions about the unlived life, but that is exactly the life our hero and heroine are living at present. It takes a rather rude wake-up call before Alexander and Roxanne realize this --

Before they met each other, neither one seemed to be engaged in the art of living. Alexander could not even remember the spirits he brought to Candover's party or what happened to his friend, the Duke of Norwich. And Roxanne was living her life on auto-pilot:

Her aim in life was to provide Lawrence his ease, anticipate every need in the household, oversee the entire estate during Lawrence's trips to search out new, exotic plants, and to do him proud as his countess.
- p. 19

Now both of them are being given a second chance to make amends with themselves -- and Sophia Nash does it in a spellbinding and heartbreaking way.

The one element that stands out in this novel is the humor -- it is very cleverly executed and serves to highlight that which is missing from our hero and heroine's lives --

From their very first meeting (and conversation), one discovers the wit they both possess ... and how absorbed they are in the experience of each other. (The fun starts at page 24. ^_^)

... "Planning your departure already?"

"Yes, now that you ask."

"Well, it appears your dear husband is ahead of you on that score."

Her startled blue eyes swung up to meet his gaze, And not for the first time, he was pleasantly surprised by her appearance. She was tall, and spare to be sure. Her large eyes dominated her oval determined visage. A long, straight nose sloped to lips with a prominent bow shape. And a single freckle rested an inch below the outer corner of her left eye. The aspects of her open countenance somehow came together to make for a fascinating face.

"Whatever do you mean?"

"Your funeral is set for a week from today."

She snatched the newspaper and quickly scanned the page. "The devil. The absolute wretch of a man. And what will he bury?"

"It's on page two. I think he means to bury your hat..."
- pp. 54-55

(I had a hard time choosing an excerpt to feature because the whole book is a quotable quote. I was smiling as I was reading this book -- it's light-hearted but not silly and playful without being ridiculous.)

It is not all banter and witty repartee -- as the story progresses, Alexander is forced to confront parts of himself and his past life that he has long kept contained:

After many minutes, he stepped onto a secure rocky ridge and scanned the vast wild beauty of the coastal landscape and crimson rays of the setting sun. Not twenty miles to the southwest, he could see his future -- St. Michael's Mount. The magnificent castle was perched on an outcropping of granite, rising from Mount's Bay. All was swathed in an eerie, golden mist.

A long-dormant emotion pushed past the hard edges of Alex's heart and a sudden sense of deja vu filled him. He forced the emotion back into the compartment he rarely opened.
- pp. 21-22

Roxanne has provided Alexander the reason to open himself up -- even when he didn't want to yet.

Sadly, our hero and heroine are not free to be with each other. Roxanne is married and Alexander needs to marry a woman from a list of candidates approved by the prince. And time is running out.

So much is at stake for Alexander and Roxanne:
- to lose each other is to lose joy and laughter
- to lose each other is to lose that one person who challenges you and pushes you to be a better version of yourself
- to lose each other is to lose life as they have come to live it

This was one of the most enjoyable books I have read this year. I loved all the dukes and the one duchess -- and I am looking forward to reading about the rest of them.

Between the Duke and the Deep Blue Sea is the first book in Sophia Nash's The Royal Entourage series. The second book, The Art of Duke Hunting was released last March 2012. The next book, The Duke Diaries, will be released in Spring 2013.

To find out more about Sophia Nash and her books, visit her website. She's also on Facebook.

Final note #1: This was also one of the most intelligently-written books I have read this year.

"...Can you explain why females are so entranced by the notion of a tortured man? Why does this make him beautiful? Why does this make a lady instantly want to nurture, and even admire him? And worse yet, fall in love with him and imagine he will fall in love with her if she is only allowed access to his heart, which the woman believes she alone can mend?"
- p. 151

I loved the metafiction at play in the story. Nash artfully plays with (and refers to) popular tropes in romance novels in her story. In the story, Roxanne is also busy trying to determine what Alexander's "tragic flaw" is --

Final note #2: My friend, Stacy, shared this book with me. (The book traveled all the way from Michigan to the Philippines! Thank you, dear!) And I clearly remember that, when she finished this book, she immediately went out to get the second book in the series. Now that I've read this, I understand why. ^_^


  1. I'm glad this one worked out for you - it sounds great. I have to say, though, that I'm not a fan of this trend of cutesy titles in historicals. This isn't as bad as some, but it still makes the books seem cheesy. I think it sells so many of these books short to see them trivialized like this. Many people may not agree with me - just my $0.02!! :)

  2. Hi, Sarah!

    I seem to be in the minority with this book -- the humor can be a bit off-putting but I really saw it as essential to their story -- it did take me a while to sort out my thoughts and write this review.

    re: the cutesy titles -- it _is_ a trend, isn't it? Reminds me of the ongoing trend of having the word "scandal" in the title. (According to -- 39 books last year. ^_^)


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