23 August 2013

The Trouble With Being a Duke (At the Kingsborough Ball #1)

Summary from Goodreads:

Sometimes happily ever after…

Anthony Hurst, Duke of Kingsborough knows the time has come for him to produce an heir. But first he must find a bride. When he meets the most exquisite woman at his masquerade ball, he thinks his search is over…until the breathtaking beauty runs off. With few clues other than her figure, her scent, and the memory of her kiss, Anthony must find his mystery lady.

…needs a little bit of help.

Isabella Chilcott can scarcely believe it: she is finally at the Kingsborough Ball. As a child, she dreamed of dancing a waltz here and now, thanks to a gorgeous gown she’s found in the attic, Isabella is living her fairytale fantasy. And she’s waltzing with the Duke of Kingsborough himself! But she must escape before he discovers her secrets…for she is not who she pretends to be, and falling in love with Prince Charming is the last thing she can allow herself to do…

I love the idea of a series where all the books take their start at a single event (see also Sopha Nash’s Royal Entourage series). Sophie Barnes’s new series At the Kingsborough Ball takes it’s start at the titular masquerade ball – once an anual event but on hold while the new Duke of Kingborough mourns his father. This ball marks his entry into the Marriage Mart, an event greatly to be desired by all the marriageable misses of the ton. Anthony meets a masked young lady in a beautiful, if out-moded, gown and before he can discover her identity the ball descends into chaos when a guest is shot (setting up at least the next book, if not more). For the young lady, Isabella Chilcott, it is a lucky escape. She’s not an invited guest, she snuck in wearing a gown she found secreted away in the attic at her home in the nearby village, but she dreamed of attending the Kingsborough Ball for years. Now that it’s likely she’ll be married off to a man she does not love, she decided to take the chance. Catching the duke’s eye was not in the plans. When Isabella arrives home, it is to discover that her parents have been keeping a few secrets of their own….

Although I liked this first book, I kept thinking there was something else I was looking for. I don’t know if “every day” is the right term but it felt like a bit more dash was needed in places (for instance, the Lady Harriet plot seemed to fizzle out just when it seemed good and the Mr. Roberts plot as well). Isabella’s mother read very oddly to me – I don’t want to spoil that plot element too much but the whole insistence on Isabella marrying a stuffy, stuck-up, weaselly (think Mr. Collins but much more middle-class potential wife abuser) “business” man just rubbed me raw for too many pages to make the mother’s objections to Anthony believable. And then there’s the whole business with “mean girls” in the village. I think the story would have had a tighter plot if it had been edited down about 50 pages or so. I had a few issues with some of the language usage – was having one’s cover blown an accepted phrase in Regency England? I would think “being rumbled” was more appropriate. “Infamous” is also used several times in instances where I think “famous” would be better. Also, Lady Crooning is referred to as Mrs. Crooning at one point which is definitely something that should have been caught in the edits. I know some people don’t notice those things or find them annoying but they do stick out to me.

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