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How to Dance With a Duke

By: Manda Collins
ebook, 400 pages
Published January 31st 2012 by St. Martin’s Press
ISBN: 142995261X (ISBN13: 9781429952613)
original title: How to Dance with a Duke (Ugly Ducklings, #1)
Penny’s Rating: C-

Publisher Synopsis: “What’s a wallflower to do when she’s suddenly in need of a husband? Use all the pluck and moxie she can muster to get what she wants…

Miss Cecily Hurston would much rather explore the antiquities of Egypt than the uncharted territory of marriage. But the rules of her father’s exclusive academic society forbid her entrance unless she weds one of its members. To clear her ailing father’s name of a scandalous rumor, Cecily needs to gain admission into the Egyptian Club—and is willing to marry any old dullard to do it.

Lucas Dalton, Duke of Winterson, is anything but dull. He’s a dashing and decorated war hero determined to help Cecily—even if that means looking the other way when she claims the dance card of Amelia Snow, this season’s most sought-after beauty. But Lucas has a reason for wanting Cecily to join the Egyptian Club: His brother went missing during one of Lord Hurston’s expeditions to Egypt. An alliance with the explorer’s bluestocking daughter could bring Lucas closer to the truth about what happened…or it could lead him to a more dangerous love than either he or Cecily could have imagined….”

Meh. I think Manda Collins shows promise as a writer. Really, I do. The book was well written, no glaring holes, typos or horrible grammar, decent dialogue, but I had trouble connecting with the two main characters. It showed so much promise that I wanted to love it, but it just didn’t happen for me.

The plot meanders and gets bogged down in exposition, a lot of exposition. There is a lot going on. A lot of scenes that were written to illustrate the personality of the characters, and to expose the clues of the mystery that Cecily and Luke have to solve, are repetitive and unnecessary. Dead horse, meet stick. I also felt that Collins’ portrayal of Regency London was rather like my high school. Aside from Luke and Cecily, the other characters were pretty shallow and snobby, and stereotypical. The main characters do fulfill their archetypal roles, but I didn’t find them to be too annoying.  Luke embodies the reluctant Duke hiding from marriage minded misses, with a war injury and a limp thrown in for good measure, and Cecily is supposed to be a brilliant archeological scholar, who’s been labeled a bluestocking by the ton because she’s intelligent. I don’t really think that Cecily really deserves the label of an “Ugly Ducking”. She’s obviously not ugly at all. This is book #1 of a three-part series, with Cecily’s cousins Madeline and Juliet as the heroines for the remaining two books in the series.

One of the things I really did like about the book were the love scenes. It took forever for Cecily and Luke to get around to it, but when they can’t fight their growing attraction any longer, and conveniently get locked in a dark room together, sparks do actually fly, and there are some lovely, steamy moments. They also have some nice banter, and some of their dialogue is actually pretty funny. Luke and Cecily do have exciting adventures in the scenes where they work together to solve the mystery. Much of the story however, consists of Cecily and Luke trying separately to solve the mystery instead of working together, because they are being either insecure, stubborn, or are afraid of their feelings, and this really drags out the story.

The mystery of Cecily’s Father’s illness and the disappearance of Luke’s Brother takes forever to solve, and even without all of the twists and turns, the reader is aware of who the villain is way before Luck or Cecily ever figure it out. You know who the villain is long before you know why he is the villain, so that add to the suspense a wee bit.

Overall, though not my favorite read, I am going to keep my eye on Ms. Collins. I am interested to see what she does next with the next book in the Ugly Duckling series, How to Romance a Rake.

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