The Tattooed Duke is a British historical romance with a rather unique plot. It is the love story of a relatively penniless, some would say uncivilized, hedonistic, world traveling duke and a reporter disguised as a housemaid. The third book in The Writing Girls series, but with a storyline that is discrete enough to be read as a stand-alone, The Tattooed Duke is long on drama but very light on passion (in fact, if it were not for the last twenty minutes, I would say that there were virtually no passionate interactions between the hero and heroine other than a few stolen kisses). Fortunately, the audiobook is bolstered by Carolyn Morris’ well-delivered performance making this a title which may just be worth a listen if you’re looking for something different.
Eliza Fielding is one of four writing girls who report gossip-worthy scandalous stories for The London Weekly. Desperately looking for a story to make her writing career, Eliza decides to seek a job at the Wycliff house. In her housemaid disguise, she quickly obtains her goal by earning the Duke of Wycliff’s confidence and intimate attentions. Soon London is taken by storm as the Duke of Wycliff’s unconventional lifestyle is slowly uncovered, one juicy detail at a time, and the search is on to find the mysterious writer of The Tattooed Duke column which has become the talk of the town.
But as Eliza and the Duke of Wycliff get closer, and their attraction becomes apparent, Wycliff’s suspicions as to his auspicious housemaid, and her seemingly contradictory traits for a woman of her position, also begin to be aroused. A number of additional obstacles also stand in the way of their HEA starting with the rather unfortunate destitute circumstances in which the Duke finds himself. It’s an issue that could be immediately fixed if Wycliff would just acquiesce to marrying for wealth in order to fulfill his life’s mission of being the first European to travel to Timbuktu. In fact, conveniently, there already is a rather determined widow and former lover of the Duke’s who would happily fill this role for him. Other impediments to their relationship include a number of ghosts from Eliza’s past, which may very well be deal breakers. Can there possibly be any hope for this unconventional couple?
The paths and hurdles that Eliza and Wycliff have to navigate are rather tortured and arduous ones. While I found the deception and intrigue surrounding Eliza’s undercover assignment a breath of fresh air in the first half or so of the novel, by the last quarter, I was ready for the inevitable and found myself counting the minutes to the end. I personally like a little more romance and definitely a lot more passion in my listens. Therefore, while The Tattooed Duke‘s premise was a good one, it needed a lot more attention to these critical areas to garner a higher grade from me.
Although I found the romance a little wanting, I was pleasantly pleased with the narration. This is my first experience with Carolyn Morris and I expect it will not be my last. She delivered a solid performance lending just the right amount of emotion and attitude to the roles to bring them to life. Ms. Morris is adept at differentiating the main characters and delivers character appropriate voices for both Eliza and Wycliff. Wycliff was perhaps my favorite as he sounded like just the right mix of arrogance and eccentricity that you would expect from a tattooed duke who, although raised with the ton, chooses to march to the beat of his own drum. Ms. Morris also managed to create slightly nuanced depictions for the large list of secondary characters, including the other writing girls (a couple of which sounded very similar but if you listen closely there was the slightest differentiation) who are the focus of the remaining titles in The Writing Girls series.
If you like unique plots, with strong heroines and unconventional heroes, and don’t mind your audiobooks being a little romance and passionate light, then The Tattooed Duke may just be the right listen for you.
Book Content: C+
Steam Factor: I’m glad I had my earbuds in
Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: Tantor Audio
The Tattooed Duke was provided to AudioGals for review by Tantor Audio.