Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Review: My Last Duchess by Daisy Graham

Genre: Historical Romance

Publisher: Headline, 2010

Marrying the old and the new.

It is the last decade of the 19th century and in Rhode Island preparations are being made for the coming-out ball of Miss Cora Cash. An event her mother will go to any length to ensure it will outshine anything her fellow nouveau riche society matrons can organise.
Cora has grown up in a world in which money unlocks every door : an exclusive world of the wealthy whose social rules are as rigid and restrictive as the steel spine straightener Cora's mother straps her in to in order to improve her posture. Cora may long for escape from her mother but Mrs Cash has grand plans for her social advancement - the title that will come from her daughter's marriage to an impoverished English aristocrat.

So after the disastrous events of the ball off they go to England and very soon Cora manages to fall off her horse during a hunt and is rescued by the dashing and conveniently unmarried Duke of Wareham who carries her off to his crumbling home, Lulworth Castle, to recover. And in no time at all Cora finds herself a Duchess!! And, as would expected, discovers her new husband is not quite what he appears to be and the English social scene is filled with pitfalls.

I did enjoy much of the historical background. There is a great deal of description of gowns, jewellery and food but as they are the things this sector of society seemed to regard as important that is to be expected. There are some interesting little snippets of information like Cora's evening gloves which are so fine she only wears them once and Bertha, her ladysmaid's attempts to salvage them in a condition worth her selling them to supplement her wages.

Unfortunately the storyline offered nothing new or original , with no surprises or unexpected twists it was all very predictable. Even more disappointing were the central characters which should be the focus of a good historical romance. I think most readers want to feel some sort of emotional investment in the outcome of a romance , and whether you like them or not, to share the passion and pain as their story unfolds. Cora and her Duke, Ivo, left me cold and I really didn't care what happened to them. I enjoyed some of the supporting cast , like their dreadful scheming mothers and the tubby Prince of Wales, far more.

Overall, it's a well written and promising debut novel which provides a few hours of light and pleasant, but not particularly memorable, reading .


  1. I was thinking of getting this one but alot of the reviews on Amazon agreed with you so I didnt get it in the end. Good concept I thought, good holiday read I think

  2. This one seems to definitely not be taken well by readers; a shame, since the topic seems like something I would really be interested in. :(

  3. Thanks for the review, sorry it was a little disappointing.

  4. Jessica - Definitely light holiday reading.

    Nathalie - I rather think Edith Wharton has set the standard for this period and she's hard to beat.

    Carrie - disappointing is ok when it's still good enough to finish.