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Book Review / The Scandalous Duchess


I haven’t read any other Anne O’Brien books, so I have no basis for comparison against other works. I’m personally not a fan of first-person POV for actual historical people, either, but I gave it a chance because of the subject matter.


Unfortunately, because of the focus is so astonishingly heavy on the addictive love aspect that these two characters share and little else (romance does not have to be constant gush in my humble opinion, and certainly not almost every single scene) it caused Katherine - in my perception of her history, a woman of strength and intellect as well as grace and dignity - to come off bland and uninspired, and actually irritating. Her perpetual worry is how much she loves John but he might not feel the same, even when he tells her, and she lets us know constantly. Even after a 25+ year relationship, when, after all the things they'd experienced and lived through, she's worrying about whether he actually loves her. I was left wondering that if she was that distracted for so much of her life how she ever got anything done, including learn enough about anything to become a governess to ducal children (which is stressed as the *huge* role it was). I’m positive if she was that shallow and extraordinarily irresolute the Duke of Lancaster wouldn’t have left her such a glowing epitaph or let her so near his children to educate them! But this version of Gaunt, too, leaves much to be desired.


I think the story misses out on all that strength and wilfulness I believe Katherine had in bounds (especially in widowhood), which was still completely possible to possess even with the grace and dignity expected of someone brought up in Queen Philippa’s household. Women could be powerhouses, and have senses of humour, whilst still maintaining their emotions. I don't think a romance story should need to eject that to be romantic. Unfortunately, for me, this version of Katherine Swynford misses out on everything that made her whole, and I find it difficult to like heroines who have nothing much else to offer but selfish devotion.

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