It's taken me about a week to read Beauty and the Duke instead of the four to six hours that a story like this normally takes. Why? Mainly because the story is very disjointed and not at all gripping. I've generally only read a couple of chapters in one go before getting bored.
The underlying premise is
passable - a woman who is a fossil collector is asked by a former lover, the Duke of Sedgwick, to come and examine some bones he has found on his Scottish estate
- not only the bones of a great beast, but also bones he thinks may belong to his former wife who has been missing for six years. As Christine Sommers marries the duke and then investigates the bones, she discovers some strange stories - that he will die before his 34th birthday, and that he may have killed his former wife.
Several problems undo this book. The first is, as mentioned before, it is rather boring. The characters are also rather hard to understand and get a grip on - the duke particularly. What does Erik Boughton think and feel? Why does he have such a bad relationship with his mother? Why does he fall in love with Christine?
Christine is also an oddity, apparently a modern American woman plunked down into 1840's
Britain. She is surrounded by talk of trust funds for women and people going to gala - none of this
feels right for the time - not to mention the liberal use of Americanisms that
becomes increasingly annoying – the Plough constellation is called the Big Dipper, for example. Her fossil hunting could have been more interesting, but instead it seems a
poorly explained aside.
The mystery thread relating to what happened to Erik's former wife and whether
or not she is still alive isn't enough to lift the book from the realm of the dull. I don't know entirely what the author's aim was in writing Beauty and the Duke, but for this reader at least, she missed.