Book Review – A Forbidden Gamble for the Duke’s Heart by Abby Ayles

This is another terrible novel courtesy of Starfall Novel Mill Publications. If you love short choppy sentences, shallow characters, and asinine dialogue, then you are in for a treat! It’s generally not a good sign when the characters themselves remark on the poor dialogue–“This is the worst conversation I have ever had,” observes our hero, and it pretty much sums up the book.

So, in short: Heroine is a girl with a garden variety wicked stepmother, and a father who is some sort of noble though his rank consistently changes. Heroine meets a duke and they hit it off. She confides in him about how Wicked Stepmother is probably murdering Heroine’s father, and Hero is like “maybe I should look into that sometime”. Unfortunately, he’s such a nodcock that, the first whisper he hears about the girl being attached to another man (the stepmother’s nephew), his line of reasoning is “oh she lied to me, I’d better never talk to her again even though SHE LITERALLY JUST TOLD ME HER STEPMOTHER IS TRYING TO RUIN HER LIFE BY FORCING HER TO MARRY THIS GUY” (verbatim). What a useless, faithless louse. Just kick him to the curb, Heroine, and move on. He is not worth it.

Too many moronic conversations later, Hero realizes that he’s been a complete jerk (wow, good job, Hero!) and tries to make up with Heroine. She will only talk to him if he beats her in a horse race, because… reasons? He doesn’t win the race, but he talks anyway and she listens, so the purpose of the race was…?

Hero’s subsequent declaration of love suddenly makes Heroine realize that her father’s life is in imminent danger from Wicked Stepmother. That had already been “established” (as far as the logic in this universe went; the evidence wouldn’t hold up in a court of law) and it’s not clear what the sudden urgency at that moment was. Whatever the source of Heroine’s hunch, she is fortunately back home just in time to prevent Wicked Stepmother from administering the last lethal dose. There’s no evidence in the case except that Heroine turns up an unmarked vial in Wicked Stepmother’s desk, the contents of which Heroine observes are unfit for human consumption (because she’s an authority on identifying substances?), and that is enough to get good ol’ stepmom shipped off to prison.

As if there hadn’t already been enough assuming the worst about someone’s intentions for no good reason, next the protagonists irrationally snub the stepmother’s nephew, without, you know, talking to him, because evidence and rational thought are greatly undervalued in this universe.

At the end, Hero magnanimously adds the girl’s dad to his household as if Dad were a stray dog, which seems a bit shabby to do without discussing it with the rest of his family. I mean, Dad might have his own plans for his life; though I guess he has demonstrated to have terrible taste in women, so maybe it’s not such a bad idea.

Some minor points that irritate me –

The scene in the library, where Heroine falls asleep with her head on the ARM OF THE CHAIR? Aw heck yeah, that is some hot romance. Look, even if you’re keeping it G-rated, what would it hurt if she fell asleep with her head on his shoulder? It’s innocent and infinitely sweeter.

I had a tough time figuring out the line of thought where, apropos of nothing, Hero considers seeking out a bee hive to collect honey for Heroine. Does he have any experience beekeeping? Does she have an exceptional fondness for honey? WHAT does this have to do with ANYTHING? Completely random and irrational.

If this review has intrigued you, you can find the book on Amazon at this link.

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