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We've read about different kinds of brokenness in romance novels, and how love heals this. But, in the case of Jasper (and of Ryder from Eva Devon's Once a upon a Duke), love itself is what needs to be healed. The problem with these two heroes is not that they lack the ability to love, but at they had loved so much and had gotten burned in the process.
The challenge for them to learn to love again. Romance is always about the idea of finding "The One" and Jasper had found her, and lost her. Is it really possible for him to find another "one?" It's a question that Jasper thought he had answered with a "no" and this is where the problem begins: when he meets Katherine, a spark lights up in him, and he struggles to squelch it, fearing that he is betraying his late wife's memory.
...Since Lydia's death, he'd lived the past three years, three-hundred and ... his mind spun ...
Was it fifty-three days?
Panic built in his chest; it pounded away at his insides as he confronted the nauseating truth -- he'd lost count of the days since Lydia had been gone.
His gut clenched. How, in a matter of days, had this happened?
- loc 1288
Katherine knows that Jasper has experienced a terrible tragedy, and she wants to help him move forward. But, how? Katherine is a wonderful heroine. She's a pragmatist, in contrast to her twin, who is a bit more romantic. Katherine is a bit wary of love because of her father's betrayal and has vowed to protect her own heart from such devastation. At the beginning of the story, Katherine seemed a bit passive, allowing her twin, Anne to take the lead in their quest for a heart pendant believed to win whoever wears it the heart of a duke. As the story progresses, Katherine shows her real self -- a woman who thinks and acts for herself. When faced with the very real and immediate danger of her marrying her despicable cousin, Katherine takes it upon herself to find a way out: she arranges her own marriage of convenience to Jasper. She's not perfect, though -- or infallible: she believed she would be able to guard her heart against Jasper and that they would have a relationship free of messy entanglements.
Christi Caldwell was really able to tap into the deeply painful and emotional wellspring of loss and grief. I understood Jasper's confusions about what he felt for Katherine juxtaposed with his feelings for his late wife. In her bio, the author cites Judith McNaught as a writing influence, and I could feel the same high drama and strong emotion in her novels.
The dialogue was excellent and I enjoyed the interaction between Jasper and Katherine, especially the scene in the bookshop. I loved the dynamic between Katherine and her sister -- twins, who are physically alike, but who react to the world so differently from one another.
"Does the pendant stipulate as to the qualities of the duke? Must he be handsome? Or can he be a doddering, old letch?"
Anne wrinkled her nose. "Whoever would any young lady desire a doddering, old letch?"
"Why, indeed? So then, it is the heart that is more important? Or the ducal title?"
Anne angled her head, and again the bonnet pitched lower over her eyes. She nibbled at her lower lip, and then said, "Why, I rather think they are of equal importance."
Katherine took a deep breath and forced herself to count to ten before speaking. "Anne, there is not an overabundance of eligible young dukes in the market for a wife."
Her sister held up a finger encased in the white kidskin glove. "Ahh, but we do not need an overabundance of dukes, Katherine. We merely require two."
- loc 49 to 60
The one character I didn't like so much was Jasper's friend, Guilford -- who had taken on the role of therapist. I appreciated his support of Jasper, but he seemed very one-note in his repeated attempts to help Jasper heal. (Too proselytizing)
I really enjoyed this novel, and plan to follow this series.
For Love of the Duke is the first book* in The Heart of the Duke series by Christi Caldwell. To find out more about the author and her books, click below:
Disclosure: I won this book from a giveaway hosted by the author. Yes, this is an honest review.
*There's a prequel to For Love of the Duke called In Need of a Duke , which is a 94-page novella and tells the story of Aldora, Katherine and Anne's older sister.