Why Dukes Say I Do is the first in Manda Collins new series, Wicked Widows. I wasn’t really sure how this one would turn out, since I’m not really a huge fan of young widows in historical romances or abusive past marriages (just a little too sad for me). But I quite enjoyed Collins’ Ugly Ducklings series, so I was more than happy to give this one a shot despite it being something I probably wouldn’t have read otherwise.
Lady Isabella Wharton is a young widow, happy to finally be free from her controlling and abusive husband. Unfortunately, she is not free from her manipulative godmother, who blackmails Isabella to travel to Yorkshire and bring her grandson, the new Duke of Ormond, to London. And the blackmail is pretty persuasive since we learn that Isabella was there when the former duke died after attempting to kill his wife, Isabella’s sister, Perdita.
The new duke is Trevor Carey, a country gentleman, who has every intention of staying in the country and away from most of his ducal duties. Trevor is none to happy when Isabella shows up and is determined to win her to his side and help him convince his grandmother that he couldn’t possibly come to London. However, as Isabella is threatened and blackmailed at Trevor’s estate, Trevor decides that he may just have to head to London in order to protect Isabella.
Collins’ latest is a little different from her first series, mainly because she is using widows as her main characters rather than young debutants. It’s fairly clear that Isabella is much older than a debutant, which was hastened by her terrible marriage. I didn’t mind these characterizations as much as I thought I would. Despite the series title of Wicked Widows these ladies, Isabella, Perdita and Georgie, were really not at all that wicked, rather they’ve had to endure some wicked husbands. I didn’t really care for the idea of “wicked” women as the main heroines of the series, so I am pleased that these ladies weren’t what they appeared. Another thing I was apprehensive about was the fact that Isabella was an abused wife. This who idea of marital abuse really bothers me and it’s something I stay away from in historical fiction – I like mine light and fluffy – but, in the case of this book, I found I didn’t mind as much because it wasn’t described in an overly explicit manner. I think had Collins gone into great detail or shown flashbacks I would have set the book down. Overall, I think Collins handled a serious issue with respect.
My one complaint was the plot, and this is something I’ve found with the other books from Collins. At times the plot flies all over the place and then all the sudden we have tons of villains instead of the one that the characters have thought they have been dealing with since the beginning. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with complexity, but I found it a little disjointed and forced in this one – but don’t let that stop you, I certainly didn’t guess who was the culprit behind Isabella’s scares, and that’s a mark of a good book.
Overall, I liked this one (although it still doesn’t measure up to How to Romance a Rake, my absolute favourite Collins book, so far!) and I will be back for the next installment in the series. And readers will have to return to the series if they want to find out whose threatening Isabella, Perdita and Georgie, because we don’t find out by the end of Why Dukes Say I Do.