Friday, June 13, 2014

Review: Bewitching the Duke by Christie Kelley


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Selina White serves as wise woman of Northrop Park, the seat of Colin Barrett, the Duke of Northrop, a man who has very strong reasons for hating the ancient practice. Years before, Selina's mother was called to help in the birth of Colin's heir, but the tragic turn of events resulted in the death of the child and of Colin's wife. The duke left the estate soon after intending never to return to Northrop Park and all the painful memories that lingered there.

Colin is reluctant to return, but he must at his sister's request -- and the first thing Colin does is confront the reason for his misery: Colin tells Selina to leave his estate while he is in residence. But Selina cannot simply leave, because she has responsibilities to the tenants of the estate.

This is the aspect of the novel that really irritated me:
1. When the duke told Selina to leave his estate, I really wondered about the plan that the housekeeper (and staff) devised to keep her in the estate. Why hide her in the duke's house? Why couldn't they have found an abandoned or unused cottage and moved her there instead?
2. The plan really bothered me because the duke kept thinking he was seeing the ghost of his dead wife. And, when he revealed this to Selina, she did not correct him or reassure him or confess to him, but allowed him to continue thinking he was being haunted. (Read Chapter 13)

I know this was to get Selina and Colin closer together, so that the love story could develop, but all the sneaking-about just bothered me. I had a hard time writing this review for this novel because of what I've enumerated above, but the premise of the series intrigued me and continues to intrigue me.

Bewitching the Duke is the first book in Christie Kelley's Wise Woman series, which centers on a group of "wise women" and the estates they serve. They are young women, who have inherited their gifts from their mothers and expect to hand them down to their own daughters some day. But the world is slowly changing and the need for wise women is slowly dwindling with the advent of modern medicine. They are a dying breed, but they push forward and bring their talents with them as they forge forward (and against) the future.

The cleansing was one of the few rituals a wise woman still performed. Not that there were many of the women left. Generations of ridicule and threats of being labeled a witch had forced many to give up the ancient ways. Selina only knew of three other women who kept up the practices.
- loc 107

I continued to read this story, though -- because I was curious how the author would address the issue of traditional vs. modern medicine. It's also interesting because the hero is representative of this opposition and is one of the most vocal opponents of Selina. Finally, there's also the clash between the two genders as medicine was viewed as a man's field.

The last thing he wanted or needed in his house was some woman who believed she held a type of mystical power or could cure all ills. No woman had such power. It was 1814; medicine belonged in the hands of educated men.
- loc 120

The story progresses and we get a glimpse of estate life: of the life of ordinary people and their daily needs. Also, of a lord's responsibility to his estate. We also see Colin slowly soften in his stance against wise women, and he begins to understand Selina's value and place in his estate. Because Selina is a wise woman, she isn't governed by the same rules as society and it allows her to express herself and her needs very directly, without false modesty or restraint. The love that develops between Colin and Selina develops alongside Colin's rekindled love for Northrop Park and Colin's own acceptance of Selina and her work. In the end, the author resolves everything quite nicely -- not as an either/or but as having both.

Now I want to read about Mia and Tia, and Viscount Middleton and the Earl of Hartsfield (who respects Mia, her mother and the work they do = interesting dynamic).

To find out more about Christie Kelley and her books, click below:
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