The Duke's Reform started out with what I assumed would be a typically formulaic historical romance. In the prologue, Alex, the widowed and heartbroken Duke of Rochester, vows that he will not marry again for love. He will marry to secure an heir, but by God, he absolutely will not fall in love. He runs into (literally) Isobel a few pages later. She's predictably feisty and mouthy, and they immediately feel sexual attraction as they verbally spar. Here we go, I thought. They will push and pull for 75% of the book, she will break down his walls, he will awaken her sexually, they will fall madly in love, they will be separated by some misunderstanding, and they will reconcile. The end. In hindsight, this might have been a better book.
Instead, the pair quickly marry after a brief courtship. When Isobel is not instantly impregnated, Alex turns to gambling and alcohol, and Isobel feels increasingly lonely.
***** Spoilers detailing Alex's behavior*****
On two separate occasions, his low-life friends attempt to sexually assault Isobel, and she fights back. Both times, Alex viciously accuses Isobel of tainting his good family name because she physically defended herself. After the second attempted assault, Alex tells Isobel, "Tonight, madam, you brought disgrace to my name...I am master in this house and it's high time you learnt what happens when you disobey me." He calls her a common trollop and locks her alone in a freezing room. When he finally releases her, she punches him. Alex then drags his wife to their bed and prepares to rape her, but of course, Isobel quickly succumbs to his "charms". She understandably flees the next day, and like magic, Alex instantly repents and becomes a changed man.
***** End of spoilers *****
It seems like the author could not decide what to do with Isobel. Her initial spunk was replaced almost immediately by a simpering subservience and then continued to vacillate without reason. The Duke, meanwhile, is not exactly a sympathetic character.
I can appreciate the author's attempts to mix up the typical formula. But I cannot appreciate the constant misuse of commas. I had to continually pause and double back to attempt to discern the author's meaning, making an already slow read even slower. I was also put off by the awkwardness of the writing. I think the author went to great lengths to avoid anachronisms. While that's commendable, in this case, conversations just sounded silly. For instance, when Alex cuts himself on a wine glass, he tells Isobel, "I don't wish to mar the perfection of your outfit with my gore." She replies, "I should not care if you did. However, as I've no idea where your bandages are kept, I shall do as you ask."
I don't enjoy writing negative book reviews, but a distasteful lead male character and constant grammatical errors make this book impossible to recommend.