Thursday, 20 February 2014

Duncan's Bride by Linda Howard

Duncan's Bride (1990) (Harlequin)
Linda Howard
Grade: A+
Genre: contemporary romance
Sex scenes: hot
Source: own 
Patterson-Cannon Family Saga: (1) Duncan's Bride 

Reese Duncan needs a bride and this time, love (or more accurately, lust) won’t be playing a part in the equation. His first wife, April, had been wholly unsuited to ranch life. After two years she fled back to the City, mercilessly taking half of Reese’s ranch in a divorce that almost bankrupted him. Seven years later, he’s almost back in the black and he wants children to carry on his family’s legacy.

Madelyn ‘Maddie’ Patterson is twenty-eight years old and bored of her City life. Her step-brother Robert gave her a job in his company after the death of his father and her mother to help her cope with the loss, but Maddie feels that she has long overstayed her welcome. When she sees Reese’s advert in a newspaper, she intrigued and tempted. She’s always loved country life and she feels that it’s time to settle down and have children. What better way to do it without the hassle of a time-consuming courtship and engagement?

When Maddie visits Reese for the pair to get acquainted, he knows instantly that she’s all wrong for him – except in the ways that she’s all right. Maddie is a classic beauty and the surge of lust Reese feels is like a punch in his gut. He wants her in his bed more than anything, but he won’t be making the same mistake in choosing another City girl for his wife. But when his other candidates don’t work out, Reese’s last choice turns out to be one of the best choices he’s ever made. After what had happened with April, Reese is understandably concerned that Maddie wants to get his hands on his farm or money; but Maddie is after something a lot more elusive – his heart.

This is another of my many recent re-reads and I’m loving it. I first read Duncan’s Bride three years ago and loved it absolutely. Alongside her Mackenzie series, they’re easily my favourite Linda Howard books.

This is a brilliant take on the concept of ‘mail order brides’. Both Reese and Maddie want to marry and have children but neither want the hassle of going through society’s expected rituals for finding a spouse. This is a lot more primitive and that makes their partnership all the more valuable and sexy in the knowledge that for Reese and Maddie, it’s the perfect solution. It’s clear from their first meeting that the charge between them is electric and Ms Howard does a fantastic job in getting this across.

Maddie experiences a very female reaction to Reese’s six three frame with the body of a rancher to match:

“She knew the meaning of the word poleaxed, but this was the first time she had ever experienced the feeling. … He wasn’t the most handsome man she’d ever seen, because New York was full of gorgeous men, but it didn’t matter. In all the ways that did matter, all the primitive, instinctual ways, call it chemistry or electricity or biology or whatever, he was devastating. The man oozed sex. Every move he made was imbued with the sort of sensuality and masculinity that made her think of sweaty skin and twisted sheets. Dear God, why on earth should this man ever have had to advertise for a wife?”

Reese, too, feels a punch of pure lust at his first sight of Maddie:

“She was pure, walking provocation, totally unsuitable for ranch life, but every male hormone in him was clanging alert signals … He’d been attracted to a lot of women at first sight, but not like this, not like a slam in the gut. This wasn’t just attraction, a mild word to describe a mild interest; this was strong and wrenching, flooding his body with heat, making him grow hard even though he sure as hell didn’t want to here in the middle of the airport.”

And over time, this lust develops into much more until they come to depend and love one another. It’s beautiful to watch.

Maddie is a woman to be reckoned with. She has a lazy approach to life and to paraphrase her brother, never runs when she can walk and never stands when she can sit, yet takes everything that her new life throws at her in stride. She’s no stranger to hard work and surprises Reese with the intensity and determination with which she approaches her new life.  The main thing I love about Maddie is her zero tolerance of Reese’s bullshit when he’s being unreasonable or plain aggravating. Boy is she a woman who knows how to hold a grudge. She knows her own mind and when there’s a need for her to express it, anyone trying to stop her is going to get burned. It’s wonderful.

As your typical alpha male, Reese has an amazing body, is super-skilled in bed and is overly protective of his new wife, but there were times when he could be a bit of an ass. He’s so hung up about his first, money-grabbing über-bitch first wife that he can’t contemplate that Maddie (or most other women) are anything but. Luckily, Maddie was always willing to give him a piece of her mind and dispel his irrational way of thinking. As over-used as this trope is, even in the 1990s (before I was even born!) I love it to distraction. Elizabeth Vail on Heroes and Heartbreakers distinguishes this type of Alpha Man from the Cave Man. While the former is many a woman’s favourite type of hero, the Cave Man makes us want to throw the book out of the window. What distinguishes the two is a heroine who can match the hero’s every spar with her own equally forceful response. This describes Reese and Maddie perfectly. As I mentioned in the paragraph above, Maddie is a force to be reckoned with when she gets angry, especially when Reese has done something alpha-male-esque to spark her ire. It’s hilarious to watch and to paraphrase Maddie herself, their make-up sex is one of the best kinds.

Duncan's Bride has got it all: the feisty heroine, alpha hero, snappy dialogue, steamy sex and a great love story. Maddie and Reese have found their other half in each other and as always, it's the little things that make the book: some of my favourite scenes are the ones where they share their mutual love for random pieces of trivia. Easily one of my favourite Linda Howard novels.

Image courtesy of Book Depository.

No comments:

Post a Comment