Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Stone Devil Duke - K.J. Jackson (Hold Your Breath #1)

Stone Devil Duke (Hold Your Breath, #1)
Historical romances frustrate me more than any other genre, because in no other genre do I find such a wide array of quality with so few indicators as to what's going to be good and what's not.  Why?  Because they all look the same.  I am a sucker for a girl in a pretty dress (even if the dresses are hardly ever period-accurate) and so whenever they come up, I continue to fall for them. Every.  Single.  Time.  As for this one?  Well, it fell pretty much in the middle, quality-wise.  Let's go!

The plot follows Aggie and Devin.  Devin the titular "Stone Devil Duke," as he is widely known throughout the ton, though there isn't really a reason for him to be known as such.  At one point, it's said that it's because of something he witnessed when he was younger--but then it's said that pretty much no one knows about that, so why it would be such a widespread nickname, I have no idea.  Aggie is a young lady of quality who spends her nights dressed as a cabbie and loaded down with pistols as she hunts for the men who killed her father and scarred her.  She doesn't usually pick up fares, but Devin ends up in her cab and gets pulled into the mess and then, of course, finds himself completely unable to leave.

I didn't find Aggie and Devin's relationship plausible.  Characters in historical romances often have near-instantaneous connections, but this one felt off even when taking that trope into consideration.  Aggie wants absolutely nothing to do with Devin, and yet when she finds herself stuck with him, she suddenly surrenders pretty much her entire quest to him because their relationship is, very abruptly, more important to her.  She has no real reason to think that Devin will actually follow through on his promises to her, as he's done nothing to show that he would.  In fact, given that she sees him talking to one of her attackers at one point, she should have every reason to suspect that he might be in on the whole thing--what a plot twist that would have been!  But no, Devin and his compatriots are nothing but what they appear to be.  For his part, Devin basically marries Aggie because he has to-slash-because he wants to have sex with her.  Fair enough, I guess.  But still, I didn't think these two had any real connection until after they were married, at which point they proceeded to have hot sex (which was well-written, I felt) and the mystery which occupied so much of the first part of the book abruptly fell by the wayside, only to be neatly tied up in the space of two chapters later on.

The mystery was the other thing that bothered me.  When the background for it finally comes out, it makes sense--but it takes forever until that background comes out.  Additionally, there's no real "mystery" to the component of Aggie's brother, who is gone and then just reappears without anyone having any success at figuring out what happened to him--not even a little.  Not much of a mystery if there aren't any clues.  And then the villain... In my view, a mystery should provide you with clues to figure out who the villain really is.  This didn't.  It just suddenly comes out, and everyone is like, "Oh, it's him," and then they go on with their lives.  Blah.

The writing here wasn't bad.  The dialogue seemed a bit stilted in places (a good deal of places) but the rest of it was okay.  The sex was good.  The characters' backgrounds and the setup was good.  I'm just not sure that I really liked how the main story was executed, dropped, and then picked up again; I feel like the threads could have been twined together a bit more artfully.  This was okay, but it wasn't something I devoured, and it's not something I'll be reading again.

2.5 stars out of 5.

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