Saturday, September 5, 2009

REVIEW: The Duke of Shadows by Meredith Duran

(c) 2008, Pocket Star Books, Simon&Schuster
371 pages, Mass Market Edition
Author's Website


Emmaline Martin travels to India to be with her fiance, Colonel Marcus Lindley. Though captivated by the country, she is made aware of the stirring unrest among the troops by Julian Sinclair, heir to the Duke of Auburn, who captivates her and for whom she feels an attraction. On the heels of her fiance's betrayal and mutiny among the native troops, Emma has no one to turn to except Julian.

As they flee toward safety, Emma and Julian fall in love, but due to circumstances, they are separated, only to meet again at a London ball years of grief later...


Meredith Duran brings a refreshing voice to historical romances, partly because of her exotic setting and mainly because of her irresistible writing style. She has a different way of looking at things and this shows in her characters' thoughts and feelings. The words she used are beautiful and perfect, and evokes emotions that make me want to read that particular sentence or paragraph over again.

The Duke of Shadows is divided into two parts, and the first part utterly charms me. Funny how war-torn India could be charming, but I like reading about Emma's and Julian's interactions and the gradual way their feelings for each other developed as Julian tried to bring Emma to safety. I like that Julian is different from other heroes that we normally read about. Though he is dangerous with a rakehell charm, he is kind and patient with Emma, even when there is nothing between them yet. He is also a complex man with hidden depths, brought about by his myriad heritage.

And here is one example of that wonderful inner dialogue of Julian's that charmed me:

...She had not felt like a woman who shared an understanding with
someone else. She had felt like a woman who shared an understanding
with him.

Emma, in this first part as described by Julian, is captivating, a girl who rushes headlong into life, unafraid and excited. And it is so easy to weep with her as she lost her parents and to cheer for her as she takes control of her life, and as she falls in love with Julian.

Here's another passage. The sheer poetry of her words/descriptions astound me:

His hands had performed miracles. Her life had rested in them, balanced in
their capable grace. And now they rested on her, and their grace infused
her as well.

And inevitably, war changes everyone.

I'm torn with the second part. On the one hand, the fairy-tale charm has gone, leaving behind the grim realities of life, wherein we see how Julian and Emma have changed due to their experiences. And on the other, we see a love that has endured through unimaginable sufferings (both characters'), and a love that has matured and is all-encompassing (Julian's). I love that Julian is constant, that his love never wavers, despite what his beloved has turned into. One of the best heroes I've read, and one that makes me want to keep him. This scenario--that of the heroine deteriorating into someone not so lovable due to her experiences--is something we don't often see in books.

And so, one of the brilliant passages in this half of the book is the one wherein Emma was enumerating the places where Julian has searched for her in war-torn India. He said he searched for her everywhere, but he hadn't named London, because he hadn't conducted the search in that city.

"I thought you had not found me here," she whispered. "Or I thought you
would not want me, as I am now. But you
did find me here. Didn't you?"

The words are ordinary, but I love the double meaning here, because it is in London that he has found her--both physically and the real Emma, who was "lost" after the war.

And another:

...Yes: everything was coming alive. Plants with deep roots, that had gone
underground for winter, would be rising again through the soil. She had
always loved him, after all. And perhaps he knew it. Perhaps he saw more
than she had suspected. And despite it, he did not look away.

I love the words "he did not look away". Despite my ambivalence, this second part for me is gripping because we see how the characters have changed and there I was, reading as fast as I can to see how they'll get back together again. I don't understand Lockwood's part in all this, though, except for being instrumental in arranging the venue for Emma and Julian to meet again. Nor that of his wife. (Someone enlighten me?) I feel there's a mystery here, and I have a feeling Lockwood would have his own story someday, but thus far, I don't believe he's the hero of the next two books from Meredith Duran. The fourth maybe?

One thing about this book is that after I read the last page, I immediately opened to the first page again to take a second journey through that wonderful interaction between the characters. I highly recommend this book. I've also heard good things about the next two books by Meredith Duran, Bound By Your Touch and Written On Your Skin, and I can't wait to read them.

Book Rating: 4 stars


Leontine said...

I have read this book a couple of months ago and loved it. You bring back what I really enjoyed in this tale and the first part held me spellbound. The second part it is the interaction and the coming together that made me flip the pages. Your review brought it all back for me :) Thanks.

Mandi said...

I loved this book too..such a refreshing book. I loved that part was set in British India. I have her next two books in my tbr. Nice review!

Silver said...

Leontine, you're welcome! :)

Mandi, I look forward to read your reviews of her next two books. I haven't bought them yet, but I'm sure I will before the year is over. :)

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