This is the second story that derived its title from the rom-com movie "How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days" and, while the first book didn't really have anything in common with the movie, Kate McKinley's reworking is more faithful to the original. Lucas and Pippa are both bold and audacious and outrageous in how they try to one-up each other (and Pippa really does try to get rid of her unwanted suitor, Lucas).
Lucas, the Duke of Arlington, saw Pippa six months earlier and had been so captivated by her beauty that he couldn't speak or act in her presence. Unfortunately, the Duke's inaction was mistaken by everyone present as a cut-direct and has tarnished Pippa's reputation in society. Pippa has vowed never to marry into such a cold and ruthless society. It comes as a surprise to her when, six months later, the Duke arrives at her house, announcing his intention to make Pippa his wife.
Pippa refuses and the Duke leaves, but not before he gives Pippa an invitation to her own engagement party to him in ten days. Pippa is determined to break the engagement, and Lucas is determined to convince her otherwise. It's a battle of wills and both sides are evenly matched -- and it was exciting to see sparks fly between the two.
"I'm a woman, not property. I will not be taken, as you so eloquently put it,:
* * *
"I happen to adore animals," she said. "And I do believe it was you who said 'whatever you wish, it's yours' just three days past." She pulled her glove back on, then smiled up at him. "I'm afraid I don't have much use for rubies or diamonds. But dogs, on the other hand, add life and vivacity to a household. You wouldn't deny me that, would you?"
She was challenging him again -- always challenging. He wasn't surprised to have his words flung back at him. He should have known better than to make such a broad and undefined statement. If he gave in, he risked appearing weak. If he denied her, then there was little doubt she'd use it against him at some later date.
- p. 90
McKinley's How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days has all the classic elements to make this a fun, light-hearted read (The bit with the decorator and the lace was funny. pp. 36-37 ^_^) -- and I appreciated the author's decision to infuse a bit of dimension to the characters by delving into their backstory. Lucas hints at an unhappy and neglected childhood, and these are the things that have shaped him into the person that he is. There is more to Lucas than his domineering/bossy ways and there's more to Pippa than her defiant/impulsive self. McKinley exposes the difficulty young women like Pippa encounter when they enter society: tolerated, but not completely accepted -- talked about and speculated about behind their backs. In Pippa's case, the attacks weren't even done behind her back but were done directly to her -- and you have to admire her grace, patience and forbearance for handling such terrible situations with dignity.
However, I felt that there was so much material and there was opportunity to do more. It might have been too much for a novella, which is why, while the components are all present, they weren't maximised.
I was also confused by Lucas's motivation for pursuing Pippa. The very first time Lucas addresses this, he mentions how taken he was taken by Pippa's beauty and freshness. But, then, the issue of the coal mines, which Lucas wants and Pippa's family owns come up -- and Lucas thinks about it four times (p. 15, p. 16, p. 38, and p. 57) . Up to the middle of the book, Lucas seems to think the latter, so, when he is confronted about his reasons for courting/wanting Pippa, it came as a surprise to me when he said it was love. How? When did it happen? When our hero and heroine weren't matching wits, they were indulging in their physical attraction to each other. There were some conversations that revealed a bit about them, and, again, this was a point I wish was explored more in the story.
I've read McKinley's debut, A Duchess in the Dark, and the tone of the love scenes were clear and consistent with the rest of the story. In How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days, I was a bit shocked by Lucas's darker inclinations/intentions (p. 61) -- and I didn't see it meshing well with the light/fun premise of the story. (He never acts on it, btw.)
Despite my reservations, I thought McKinley was really able to cover a lot of ground and present us with a complete picture of the courtship and love between Lucas and Pippa, considering the limitations of the length of the form. There are scenes in How to Lose a Duke which presents the characters and story for the second instalment in this series (Lord Crawford and Lucas's sister, Lady Evelyn). It looks to be a very interesting read. ^_^
How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days is the first book in Kate McKinley's What Happens in Scotland series and will be released on April 21, 2014. To find out more about Kate McKinley, click below:
Disclosure: I received this review copy from the author. Yes, this is an honest review.