Meredith Duran – “The Duke of Shadows”

24 Dec

GENRE: Romance / Historical
PUBLISHED: Pocket Star Books, 2008


WHY THIS NOVEL: Part of my attempt to read some books published in 2008 before it’s 2009.

The back blurb:
“Sick of tragedy, done with rebellion, Emmaline Martin vows to settle quietly into British Indian society. But when the pillars of privilege topple, her fiancé’s betrayal leaves Emma no choice. She must turn for help to the one man whom she should not trust, but cannot resist: Julian Sinclair, the dangerous and dazzling heir to the Duke of Auburn.
In London, they toast Sinclair with champagne. In India, they call him a traitor. Cynical and impatient with both worlds, Julian has never imagined that the place he might belong is in the embrace of a woman with a reluctant laugh and haunted eyes. But in a time of terrible darkness, he and Emma will discover that love itself can be perilous–and that a single decision can alter one’s life forever.
A lifetime of grief later, in a cold London spring, Emma and Juliai0n must finally confront the truth: no matter how hard one tries to deny it, some pasts cannot be disowned…and some passions never die.”

I thought I had my favorite of the novels I read this year. Until I read Meredith Duran’s The Duke of Shadows. Now I’m not so sure any longer. To think that I nearly wouldn’t have read it because, while I noticed it when it was published, I now couldn’t remember the title…thank you Christine for suggesting this book and reminding me.

Like my favorite novel so far this year, The Duke of Shadows also has some kind of role reversal. In this novel, it’s the heroine, Emma, who is the tortured character. But what makes this novel so special to me is a different kind of appreciation than the one I have for the novel I considered my uncontested favorite until now. This time, my appreciation is much more emotional based. That’s not to say that I thought The Duke of Shadows has “no artistic value,” it’s just that I didn’t bother, or more precisely, I couldn’t be bothered to think about it while reading. I was caught up in the story. I noted a few things, one could hardly miss them I think, but I’m not distanced enough right now to think about them. Equally, I didn’t think about if the villain was perhaps too cardboard-like or if there was enough character development or if things like the mystery sub-plot didn’t fit completely. I just didn’t care.

The Duke of Shadows is very much Emma’s story. She goes from a woman who fights to stay alive in the prologue, to a woman who becomes disenchanted with the life she is expected to lead:

“And this is my life,” she whispered. this was what she had fought so hard to survive for when she had floated for endless hours on the breast of the ocean, the sun cracking her skin and settling salt beneath her fingertips. With, yes, every soul of that ship lying lifeless beneath her. What a dreadful, horrible image. Her feet so smale, bare and pale as they paddled, churning the water far above her mother’s staring eyes… (50)

to a woman who thinks she has found happiness after all:

“I’m here,” he said into her ear, as the tears came faster. “Emma, i’m here with you now. Listen to me: I will always be here.”
Always, she thought. He said “always,” but he had forgotten to say finally. Finally you are here. Thank God, finally at last. (137)

only to lose it all again and very nearly her will to live, too, because of what happens after that.

There are quite a few scenes I liked very much – the pond scene, for example, or the globe scene, or Julian’s reaction when he sees Emma again:

“Julian,” said Lady Edon, “do come over here.”
And now they would be introduced. Now Lord Lockwood would say, “Miss Martin, this is the Duke of Auburn.” And Emma would say, “How do you do, your grace,” as if nothing had ever passed between them. He so clearly had forgotten it–
He moved all at once. He was in the far periphery of her vision; and then he was coming up to her in two long strides. He grabbed her by the wrist and pulled her around to him, the spin so fast and strong that her skirts belled out. “Emma, he said. His hand run up her arm to her shoulder, while Lady Edon gasped and Delphinia said, “Jules what the–”
His hand stopped at the curve of her neck. “You are here,” he whispered. “It is you.” (208/209)

Julian’s attempts to reach Emma again after that are sometimes really heart-wrenching to read.

The Duke of Shadows is a story of two outsiders finding love with each other. But even more, it is a story of a love severely tested. And most of all, it’s a story about a love that accepts the other just as he/she is.

[Lady Chad, Emma’s cousin:] “Why–are you in love with her? Have you been, all this time?
He studied her in return. “She is not the woman I knew in Delhi, Lady Chad.”
She sat back, disappointment clear on hr face. “What do you mean?”
He shrugged. “Simply that had you asked me to characterize her then, I would have called her bruised, but ultimately…unscarred. She had a joy for life that was rare. It illuminated her; the shipwreck had not destroyed it.”
“Yes,” Lady Chad murmured. “I remember. Such a laughing, vibrant girl.”
“but not now,” he continued softly. “That is what you are thinking; no not bother to deny it. And a stranger, looking upon her at present, would not be nearly so charitable. What would he see in her? Fatigue, yes. Fear. And a failure of hope. Those are not attractive qualities, Countess.”
Lady Chad’s scowl would have broken a weaker brow. “How dare you–”
“And to come to the point wh have both been dancing around, the stranger might detect a touch of mania as well. Those paintings are not the work of a restful mind.”
The Countess was on her feet now. “You are a loathsome, devilish–”
“But to answer your question, yes.”
Her mouth snapped shut. She considered him for a moment. “Yes?”

Final thoughts:

  • Somehow, this novel reminded me in parts of Paul Scott’s Jewel in the Crown (the setting) and Rebecca Ryman’s Olivia and Jai (the romance).
  • I think the title fits.

Would I recommend this novel? Yes.

Would I read this novel again? Yes.

Grade: 5 / 5


7 Responses to “Meredith Duran – “The Duke of Shadows””

  1. Ana Wednesday, December 24, 2008 at 11:52 am #

    Oh this is on my top 10 of 2008 – fabulous book! and she has two books coming out in 2009! Joy!

  2. Barbara Wednesday, December 24, 2008 at 2:45 pm #

    I loved this book it made my top 10 of 2008. I’m glad you liked it. It was also recommended to me by someone. FYI, Meredith Duran also has two more books coming out in the summer of 2009.

    Have a Happy Holiday, Taja!

  3. Taja Wednesday, December 24, 2008 at 3:17 pm #

    Ana: I already checked Duran’s site for more books. I thought for sure one would be about Lockwood… My sequel radar gone wrong, LOL.

    Barbara: It’s definitely in my top 10 2008 but I’m still not sure if it’s the “best.” Maybe I should just do a top 10 and be done with it. 🙂

    Happy Holiday to you both!

  4. Carolyn Jean Wednesday, December 24, 2008 at 3:44 pm #

    I agree, this book is fantastic. Because of circumstances, I read the halves like a month apart, and I liked the first half much better, but I couldn’t tell if it was because of reading like that!! But wasn’t it just huge and sweeping and wonderfully historical?

  5. KristieJ Wednesday, December 24, 2008 at 6:53 pm #

    I’m reading this one now and while not very far into it yet, I’m really enjoying it so far.

  6. Taja Thursday, December 25, 2008 at 10:46 am #

    Carolyn Jean: Yes. And if I remember correctly, most seem to prefer one half over the other. I’m still too much in a state of “oh fantastic!” to say if I liked one better than the other. I think I probably must read it again for that. Such a hardship, LOL!

    Kristie: I hope I didn’t reveal too much for you and I hope you keep enjoying it!


  1. Best Of 2008: Books and Games (And More) « Books and Games - Wednesday, December 31, 2008

    […] Crusie – Manhunting Meredith Duran – The Duke of Shadows Susan Fromberg Schaeffer – The Madness of a Seduced Woman Laura Kinsale – The Prince of Midnight […]

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