Book I read this week: Vol 29, July 29

Book I read this week: Vol 29, July 29

The Duke

Author: Kerrigan Byrne

Series: Victorian Rebels #4

Tags: historical romance, Victorian romance, dukes!, painter, barmaid, nurse, prostitute, widow, nice old dead husband, military man, spy, nursed back to health, mistaken identity, serial killer, rapey, physically scarred, amputee

Format: audiobook

Rating: meh.


First of all, lolz to the audiobook cover. They look like the kind of people who make loud noises and hog the machines at LA Fitness. They probably are. That straightened bleach blonde hair! Those manicured manbrows!

Love it.


Oh, Kerrigan Byrne.

The first line of the first review you see on GoodReads starts with “This guy’s a dick.”

Well, duh. It’s Kerrigan Byrne! You have had three novels to acquaint yourself with ultra-tortured, ultra-masculine, not-so-consenty, abused and abusive assholes that grace the pages of the of the Victorian Rebels series.

By comparison, the Duke was kind of nice.

He also has had the cushiest life of the other rebels. He grew up rich and loved, missed his parents when they died, and only was tortured for a couple years of his life.


The premise:

Our hero, the Duke, tups a prostitute before going out to war and falls in love with her. Little does he know that she is a) in disguise b) NOT a prostitute but a barmaid (I always get those confused!) c) a virgin (well, until after…) d) also a nurse e) the nurse that nurses him back to health later f) the sexy social climbing widow next door to his estate three years after he met her.

For a barmaid/nurse/prostitute and a Duke, this seems to one too many accidental run ins.


There are a LOT of things going on this book. Possibly for length? Why did she have to have two jobs, and two accidental run-ins with the Duke?

Oh yeah! And she’s also a painter! And he’s a spy!

Jeez, I keep thinking of more tags as I write this.


Most of what the Duke does doesn’t make sense. He searches for a prostitute all over the world, only knowing her first name. He wants to marry the prostitute, but also looks down upon the woman who married an old fogey and now lives next door…?

But who cares!

Because it is sensationalist. Turn the Drama (angst!) volume, the Sexy (explicit sex scenes) volume, the Cringe Factor (torture, rape situations) volume up to 10, and let’s get cracking!


Yeah, I knew what I was getting into. So when the Duke is stomping around his estate with anger-lust, or is almost-kinda-sorta raping her, I was like, “ah, yes. Carry on.”


There were a couple of parts that were just too ridiculous. Much like other Byrne heroes, he had a huge chip on his shoulder. Unlike the rest of them, he doesn’t have that much to complain about.

The Duke therefore threw his amputeeness in everyone’s face.

“Oh, me? I’m privileged?! What about this?!”

*slams his prosthetic hand on the counter*

“I gave more than enough to my country! I gave this!?”

*slams his prosthetic hand on the counter*


Yeah, Duke, you are privileged. You have the highest title in the land below King, you are hella rich, had a pretty okay childhood, traveled the world, and did cool spy shit for your country. Also, you have a superfancy gizmoed out prosthetic hand, so yeah, your situation is not that terrible.

Please go talk to your friend Argent (the hero from The Hunter) who grew up in a prison, watched his mother being raped and killed in front of him, was repeatedly abused and raped as a child until he could start fighting for himself, and then spent the rest of his life killing people for a living.


That’s not fun.

But yeah, you guys are pretty much alike.


(Argent slept in a closet — A CLOSET — in his big empty mansion because he wasn’t used to big open spaces from growing up in a prison! Sad puppy face!)


Also, he was so mad when he finds out that she lied to him. Doesn’t he — a virtual stranger, much higher in rank, and hostile towards her, besides — deserve to know that she was once a prostitute and had sex with him once?

Oh yeah, that’s right. You don’t.

Stick to what you’re good at and go back to complaining about the no hand thing, hun.


Now, I like angsty heroes. Something about their vulnerability, their need to and dependence on being loved that hits all the right buttons for me: the sympathy button, the savior complex button, the “someone needs a hug” button…

I just want to give them a blanket and a mug of hot chocolate, rub their back while they tell their sad tale, and then tell them that they will be unconditionally loved from now on.

I mean, it’s a problem I can solve. Can I kill anyone? Probably not. Do I have money or resources enough to fix a problem? No. Can I repair mental damage? Nuh uh. But how easy is it to love someone unconditionally? So easy. I could do it in my sleep.


Unfortunately, there is no section in the DSM that says:

Illness: Angst

Treatment: Unconditional love.

Hell, it’s not even on WebMD.


Meanwhile, in romance novels, love cures all ails: trauma, mental disorders, depression, epilepsy, hair palms…


Angst is one of those things that sound really great on paper, but would make people raging assholes in real life. Like possessiveness. If angst and assholery were x and y axes on a graph, it would be a diagonal line going up. Because the more “angsty” a character is, the more the isolation is self imposed, until he’s caught in his own echo chamber. There’s no room for anyone else if you are constantly asking “Why MEEE?”

I don’t want to date that.


So yeah, Byrne’s characters are assholes. Like, assholes in the romance world, which is saying a lot, because most all heroes have the chance to redeem themselves in inner monologues, at least. Just giant, hulking, yelling, angry, stomping, killing, stealing, swearing, terse, rude, kind of rapey assholes.

I think there is a theory in the romance world that the bigger the angst, or the grosser the tortured past is, the bigger the savior complex payoff. I mean, your vajayjay must be REAL GOOD if you can bring him back from the edge of that.

I do not adhere to that theory. Byrne’s a 9 in the Angst in Traditional Romance Novels scale. I’m like a 6. Yes, angst: love it, bring it. Let’s just leave out the rape, why don’t we?


So why did I read it? Because it’s still fun. Also, variety. Also, the sex scenes are pretty steamy.


I’ll probably read the next one whenever it comes out on audiobook.