Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Pocket Star (March 25, 2008)
In a debut romance as passionate and sweeping as the British Empire, Meredith Duran paints a powerful picture of an aristocrat torn between two worlds, an heiress who dares to risk everything...and the love born in fire and darkness that nearly destroys them.
From exotic sandstone palaces...
Sick of tragedy, done with rebellion, Emmaline Martin vows to settle quietly into British Indian society. But when the pillars of privilege topple, her fiancé's betrayal leaves Emma no choice. She must turn for help to the one man whom she should not trust, but cannot resist: Julian Sinclair, the dangerous and dazzling heir to the Duke of Auburn.
To the marble halls of London...
In London, they toast Sinclair with champagne. In India, they call him a traitor. Cynical and impatient with both worlds, Julian has never imagined that the place he might belong is in the embrace of a woman with a reluctant laugh and haunted eyes. But in a time of terrible darkness, he and Emma will discover that love itself can be perilous -- and that a single decision can alter one's life forever.
Destiny follows wherever you run.
A lifetime of grief later, in a cold London spring, Emma and Julian must finally confront the truth: no matter how hard one tries to deny it, some pasts cannot be disowned...and some passions never die.
I still remember the buzz for Meredith Duran’s debut novel; The Duke Of Shadows and how many regarded it as the best historical romance novel of 2008. For a historical romance novel to make it on my keeper’s shelf is no easy feat, about a handful authors like Anna Campell, Rona Sharon and Sherry Thomas has done so over the last two years. So when I read the prologue it was quite an attention grabbing one where I was confronted with a woman struggling to hold on to life. I instantly wanted to find out how she ended up there, where she was going, and get to know her better in general…and that is what I did with the remainder of the story. It unfolded in all the grandeur of historic times as it took me to British India.
Emmaline Martin survived, a young woman with a wonderful talent and zest for life. Her nature was in want of exploring life in all its facets, but was she going to find it with Marcus Lindley? British society with all its rules and stipulations was suffocating her creativity and assumptions were made that generated gossip to flow from many lips. If there was one thing crystal clear is that Emma was internally warring with herself. At one hand she wanted to honor her parents but her soul wanted to soar, she wanted to be free to discover everything of her interest. Through the artistic eyes of Emma a vibrant, lush and colorful British India came to life, allowing me to experience its tapestry and culture.
Julian Sinclair with his aristocratic features and aloof ways is the inheritor of a Dukedom but his lineage isn’t of impeccable state. Julian is part of the society and yet looking from the outside in due to his tainted blood. His upbringing makes him the man he is today, by society standards he is a rake so naturally women are very intrigued by him.
So there you have it, the rake and an young artist are the two leading characters and their first meeting was in a garden. After that moment it didn’t take long for the drama to explode through the pages as the native people of India attempt a mutiny on the British soldiers. The despair of the innocent who suffer under cruel acts of war, the anger unleashed with the men tired of being suppressed. I was entering chaos in the best of ways where I was absorbed by the images put in front of me by the author. A backdrop that kept me spellbound to the pages as Julian and Emma tried to make for safety.
The Duke Of Shadows is told in two parts. Part one holds the seed of everything that is said and done in part two. It nurtures dramatic events of almost life altering proportions which engulfed me in the urging sense to see Julian and Emma safe. Their emotions were magnified by the dire situation; it made their gestures more meaningful, their kisses more intense, and their interaction fraught with emotions. Duran showcases their time together as well as their individual journey and my heart went both ways. I was still very much in the climactic events of part one when the story takes pause to move on to part two…and it is three years later.
Part two stuttered in the beginning for me as I had to get back into a different rhythm and vibe regarding the portrayal of the characters. With the first part I felt so connected to Emma just to lose it a degree in the second part. It all has it reasons as I let the implication of the circumstances sink in and it was heart wrenching. I came to understand her again but the contrast at first was like a u-turn for me to read. This was also a time where the plot started to play a significant part and was adding another incentive to read on.
Romance like that between Julian and Emma is seeing an everlasting flame ignite, two people forming an undeniable bond and all I wanted was for them to get a chance to strengthen that bond. I was swept away in their inner struggles which were grippingly showcased by Meredith Duran. Gestures, a simple look, the conflicts, it was all imbued with the need to be connected again, to openly reciprocate feelings again and to say: “Let me love you for I belong to you with heart, soul and body.”
If there was another thing I noticed while reading this story was Meredith Duran’s manner of writing and how it is standing out within its genre. It holds a classic essence that influences the perception of the story and the experience of emotions. There are sequences that hold such steep emotions and is written with such a fluent grace that it magnifies the impact of those sequences. Emma and Julian where the center of my attention but there were also secondary characters in this novel of whom I at least want to mention Lockwood. Someday I hope Duran will write up his tale. He is from the Ton, mysterious, influential, and there are intriguing facts involving his character that raise questions demanding to be answered. Another equally important character is Marcus Lindley, he is all about honor but if he knows the meaning of the word is something everyone should find out for themselves. All I can say is that he is imperative to tell the story and for that I enjoyed him greatly. There are more supporting personages who are also well drawn and complementing the overall joy of reading.
The Duke Of The Shadows is about two extraordinary people falling in love under abhorring circumstances, then to come full circle on another continent. A novel that is the summary of a romance-laden storyline balanced by a devious plot. It contains gut-wrenching action combined with bittersweet feelings. It is a celebration of the indomitable human spirit and it is all given a voice through an exquisite way of writing!
Meredith Duran has shot herself straight to my keeper’s shelf!
There was so much to be said and asked between them. Being with her felt like charting the sea; there were marvels beneath, and they lured him, and he wondered whether he ever might reach the bottom.
Quote Julian and Emma:
He smiled. “No, I think you have rakes figured wrongly, Emma. The art lies in omitting the emotion. No connection other than the physical.”
“A shame I am not a man then. I should enjoy being a rake. Perhaps I would excel at it.”
“Do you think so?” he asked softly.
[Delphinia] would not fathom how the prospect of feeling – really feeling, after such a long, blank, white stretch – might outweigh any sacrifice of name or station.
What was your best historical romance novel of 2008?