As glamourous as the cover looks, the book is but a predictable story of a holier-than-thou heroine who falls on bad times and as is expected rises above her circumstances.*********************************************
The cover of The Duchess by Danielle Steel had me at the very first glance and I was looking so forward to reading it. I am not much a 'Romance' person but off and on I do go back to the genre to feel good about life and exhale all my pent up energies as I sigh reading the exploits of people who are affected by love (read are in love).
Just before I started this book, I had read the very fabulous and my first Colleen Hoover- It Ends With Us (Now reading November 9). I read it from cover to cover and had I been reading a hard copy I would have taken the book with me everywhere I went like a beloved person. So it was with high hopes that I started this Steele.
The Duchess is set in 19th century England where the women had no claim on any property, be it their father's, husband's or son's. The heroine Angelique Latham, a Duke's daughter, is ousted from her house Belgrave Estate, immediately after her father's death by her stepbrother who has hated her all his life. He sends her off to work as a nanny to a friend's house- Fergusons- where she immediately starts looking after their 4 children. Now it is always in the heroine's character to be charming, well educated, gentle and humane and these qualities are amplified in all the Steele heroines. (I have always found them too much doodh se dhuli kinds).
So our girls begins to get great at her job and the parents who never see their children since they have been in her care, manage to add two more to the brood. She doesn't complain, carries on managing everything very well with the help of another maid and everything is as rosy as can be. Then one day a house guest makes an advance on her which she brushes off, making him angry. He gets her thrown out by lying to the Fergusons that she had come to his room at night and threw herself at him. They throw her out without a recommendation. Now she can not get any work anywhere in England because of that and goes to Paris where also she doesn't find any job.
What she finds though is a beaten up girl, moaning in pain, lying in a gutter. Oh! she had money left to her secretly by her father so you know she managed the passage and stay at a fair establishment in London and Paris. Anyway, this girl she finds, turns out to be a prostitute who had been beaten up by a customer and thrown away to die. She, Fabienne- introduced Angelique to her sordid world of prostitution where young girls are taken advantage of by everyone- their clients (of course, eye roll), the Madam who doesn't pay them well, the goons and the police.
This gives Angelique the idea of setting up a brothel. She finds perfect location, dips in papa's money to buy a house and furnish it beautifully. Fabienne finds girls for her and Angelique spends on them lavishly to ensure that their set up is best in the town and only very well to do people pay them a visit. In about a month business is booming. Angelique doesn't take anyone to her bedroom but mingles with all the clients.
Gradually two things of import happen here. Angelique forms a friendship with a senior minister in French government and she rejects the advances of an American businessman who seems to want to own her. The minister comes to her rescue when a horrible incident takes place at her establishment. Angelique has to bring down the shutters and she chooses to escape to America. On the boat, meets a young man, is wooed by him and marries him. (No prizes for guessing who that fellow turns out to be because that leads to a mini hiccup!) All goes well for a few years, she bears a son, he dies, the brother who had ousted her is knee deep in trouble and her father's estate comes up for sale. (She was always in touch with old servants and knew all that was happening there, silly). She buys it anonymously and has her revenge.
I have never been a great fan of Danielle Steele as I find her heroines too good to be true. No shades of grey are never exciting isn't it? I would Nora Roberts right next to her but personally I feel they still are more human than Steele's heroines with an exception here and there (I am thinking of Zoya). Everything in this books easily falls in place for Angelique. She has her trying moments but her character is such that she comes out a winner without a sweat and that is what gets my goat. The book is very predictable and doesn't really hold much interest. The only thing I kept wondering was how much was the money that her father had left her and what were the going rates of the time.
Read it if you have to otherwise maybe spend the money on something more nicer and heartwarming.
Title: The Duchess
Author: Danielle Steele
Paperback: 336 pages
Price: Rs 400 though I was given a copy by Pan Macmillan India for review
PS:The book is a 2017 release.