Wednesday, June 23, 2010

ARC Review: The Making of a Duchess

The Making of a Duchess
Shanna Galen
Historical Romance (1801)

Sons of the Revolution/Book 1
Sourcebooks/June 2010

ARC from Publisher

From the publisher's website ~

A very dangerous attraction…

Julien Harcourt, duc de Valère, is more than willing to marry the lovely young lady his mother has chosen. Little does he know, she’s been sent to prove him a spy and a traitor…

And an even more dangerous secret…

Sarah Smith’s mission is to find out whether the Duc’s trips to the Continent are as innocent as he claims, but the way he looks at her is far from innocent…

Their risky game of cat and mouse propels them from the ballrooms of London to the prisons of Paris, and into a fragile love that may not survive their deceptions…

The story opens with a young boy running for his life and leaving nearly everything and everyone he loves behind. It's a brutal look at what happens when the mob mentality strikes and both the guilty and the innocent are caught up in the violence. I was quickly swept up in the story of what happened after that young boy becomes a man. What happens when the same young boy who ran for his life is now a wealthy and powerful man.

Julien Harcourt is a man with a life mission. He desperately wants to find his brothers. He has to believe that they are still alive and that he has not worked so hard in vain. He will do whatever it takes to find them even if that means placing his trust in a woman whose allegiance he finds questionable. He needs her help and he's willing to use her to get what he wants. I liked that Julien never gave up hope of finding his brothers alive. It's been years since he fled from the Revolution in France and now that he has established himself in England he hasn't forgotten his brothers. He uses his connections and wealth to continue looking for them and following any lead.

When Julien's mother tells him the daughter of an old family friend will be visiting he knows his mother hopes there will be a marriage between Julien and Serafina. Julien accepts the fact that it is time for him to start thinking of marriage and heirs. When he sees Serafina aka governess Sarah Smith, he is a bit surprised. She isn't at all what he was expecting. Their first meeting is certainly memorable with Sarah leaving a distinct impression on Julien. Sarah is a nervous wreck and totally unfit for her role as spy.

Governess Sarah Smith is in shock when told she must act as a French noblewoman to uncover a spy and traitor to the crown. She may speak French but she is far from nobility. She works for the nobility but acting the part puts her out of her element. This is where I had problems with the story. Sarah was so unbelievable in her role as Serafina Artois, noblewoman. She was young, (20ish) so she didn't even have any real maturity or much life experience to fall back on. The reader had to really stretch reality to believe that this young woman was able to continue in her deception of Julien. She kept making one bad decision after another. Her inexperience when dealing with stressful situations and drama was obvious. I think it would have worked better had she been a bit older and more assure of herself. It would have made her character more believable in her role as a would be spy and her deception of Julien.

Julien was a fascinating character whose past shaped him into the man he had become. He could be ruthless when it came to getting what he wanted but he still held enough compassion for those in desperate situations like Sarah was. I did like how Julien treated Sarah, trying to keep her safe while still searching for his brothers. He was terribly attracted to her but didn't completely trust her which made for some interesting sexual tension. And he found that he was not only attracted to her but he liked her. Which took him by surprise. Love when that happens. I enjoyed his honesty and his honor even when he had no reason to trust.

The plot of this French exile doing well in England while still maintaining ties to France was interesting. I liked the way the politics of the time period were woven into the story but didn't overwhelm the characters or the romance. The romance between these two seemingly opposites started out as a business transaction, much like many marriage proposals between aristocrats of that time. In the end they of course, fall madly in love and will do just about anything for each other.

Unfortunately, what started out well didn't hold together as well. It all kept coming back to the character of Sarah and the fact that she just didn't fit. I get that she wasn't suppose to fit the role of spy, since she didn't have any experience and only three days of training but it was more than that. It was the fact that she kept going with the role and began to believe in what she was doing, that she could play the spy when she kept screwing everything up. It was out of character for her and made that aspect of the plot unbelievable.

The next book in the series, The Making of a Gentleman, is due out in October. I will admit that I am curious about it and will probably read it due to who the hero is. As long as the heroine isn't another Sarah, I'm willing to give it a try.

Rating: B-


  1. Hmmmm.. I've liked Galen in the past. I will likely get to this one eventually. Julien sounds like a really interesting character, and that is enough for me to start off with.

  2. Lori ~ This was my first Galen. I'll have to check out her backlist.

  3. It sounds like an interesting series, Leslie. Is the next book one of Julien's brothers? Just curious, because even with the weaknesses in this book, I think this might be a good series.

  4. Hils ~ yep, next one is one of the brothers.

  5. Oh hmmm.. I just read another so-so review at another blog. And I was so excited about this one. I'll probably still get it and read it, because I do like the spy angle. And the other reviewer also expressed interest in the next installment.

  6. Christine ~ even with the problems I had with the heroine, I'm still interested in the next book.

  7. Okay, the book sounds okay... my only issue is that the back blurb sounds so much like Katherine Kennedy's next release. ugh.

    I do admit that the French duke in England, that's pretty interesting premise.

    Hmm, wonder how is the French in the book LOL.

  8. We pretty much agree. I find the hero to be fresh and interesting to read about, but the heroine just didn't work for me. I am definitely planning to read the next book. Hopefully it will be better.

  9. Nath ~ The French was, um, French? LOL I don’t speak French so unless it’s really bad I wouldn’t know it. I don’t remember there being that much.

    Marg ~ I liked Julien, I just wish Sarah had fit better with him. I'm pretty sure I'll read the next one just find out about the brother.