4 stars

Category Romance Review: Duncan’s Bride by Linda Howard

Duncan’s Bride, Linda Howard, Silhouette Intimate Moment, 1990, Cover Artist TBD

#349 Silhouette Intimate Moments

MILD SPOILERS 😉

4 Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Duncan’s Bride has an old-school plot, even by the standards of romances written in…1990. (That wasn’t a long time ago!) In Silhouette Intimate Moments #349 by Linda Howard, a 28-year-old beauty from New York City travels across the country to become the mail-order bride of a hero who’s damn lucky to get her.

Character & Plot

Madelyn, the shining star of this romance, is 28-years-old and has been working for her step-brother’s company for a couple of years. Although she’s hit a wall in her career, she’s secure in her identity. Madelyn is funny, outspoken, and friendly. She’s a lovely woman with no baggage.

On the other hand, Gideon “Reese” Duncan carries a 5-piece set of Samsonite luggage packed full of bricks. He’s a divorced rancher in Montana who decides it’s time to settle down with a new wife. Years ago, his first marriage ended in disaster when his gorgeous ex left him, bored of life in the country. Reese was forced to sell his family lands and lay off the workers to liquidate his assets which were split 50-50.

Embittered by a disappointing first marriage and impoverished by the divorce settlement, it has taken Reese years to dig himself out of the financial hole his ex left him in. He runs his ranch all alone, working from dawn till midnight, caring for his livestock. Reese’s house is in shambles, he drives an old truck, and his ranch has been running at a loss for years. Now that he might turn a profit, getting a wife seems like the logical next step. But this time, Reese wants marriage based on practicality rather than passion. He places a frank, unromantic ad in a few small-town newspapers, stating his blunt needs, with no offer of love. What a catch this guy is!

Madelyn, who, despite being a big city girl, happens to subscribe to small-town newspapers to keep up with “real life and real people.” She sees Reese’s ad and is intrigued. So much so that Maddie drops a letter in the mail responding to him. She dreamily wonders about the kind of man who would seek a bride through the post.

She soon finds out. Reese offers Madelyn a bus ticket from NYC to Montana (bus tickets he can’t afford, mind you); she insists on flying out to see him. It’s an instant attraction for them both. Reese concedes that he would like nothing more than to have Madelyn’s legs wrapped around his waist (he says this plus lots of other sexy things to Maddie). However, she’d never suit for wife material. Disappointed, Madelyn leaves the next day, not before the two share a passionate kiss.

That’s all it takes for her to fall in love with Reese. She flies back to the Big Apple, nursing a broken heart. It’s only when Reese’s other options for wives turn out to be duds that he agrees to take Madelyn as his bride. That’s after she signs a prenuptial agreement which stipulates she doesn’t get a penny in case of divorce. He’s had enough of gold diggers and won’t get shafted again.

Like, I said, what a catch, eh?

My Opinion

Reese isn’t the worst, but he’s so hung up on the pain his first marriage brought that he’s a hard character to like. Madelyn is wonderful, working hard to transform his house into a comforting home again. She paints the siding, tends to the animals, and makes passionate love with Resse.

One thing Linda Howard does right is knowing how to write erotic love scenes. Besides the fantastic heroine, the sexy moments are the highlights of this romance.

As for Reese… My goodness, is that man a blockhead! Yes, he’s good-looking, possessive, virile, and has all those alpha traits that make a Romancelandia hero swoon-worthy. He also has this wonderful, amazing woman by his side who’s willing to go through hardships, facing them head-on with vigor, proving over again that she’s worthy of his love.

The problem is that it’s Reese who’s undeserving of Madelyn’s devotion. There were so many moments when I wanted Madelyn to give Reese the old heave-ho. Ultimately, Madelyn and Reese both have to face the truth on their own. I disliked part of the conclusion and how Reese came to his epiphany, but stubborn men will be stubborn men, and Reese is just that.

Final Analysis of Duncan’s Bride

I wondered why this book was called Duncan’s Bride, not Reese’s Bride. Duncan’s Bride does have a nicer ring, then why not name the hero Duncan Reese instead of Reese Duncan? Pointless questions like that plague me.

I would have given this book an average positive review if not for the greatness that was Madelyn. Despite her fine qualities, she was far from perfect and Reese was fallibly human. In the end, love wins. So I was happy for Maddie, even though the man she had her heart set on wasn’t an easy man to love.

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

5 replies »

  1. Thanks, Jacqueline. Hoo boy, another “loved her, hated him” romance! I have no more taste for that sort of protagonist setup than you do. Even though the review I’m about to submit to you concerns a romance with just that.

    And don’t get me started on mail-order bride romances! Or the whole marriage of convenience bit. One of the big reasons I hardly ever read today’s historical romances is because most of them revolve around just that.

    But on a positive note, Madelyn sounds like my kind of heroine. Which leads me to a question: why does Reese reject her? Because she’s a city girl? Because he figures she’d never get tough enough for life on a ranch? And why advertise for a wife at all if he can get the same services with no strings from a housekeeper, a cook, and a prostitute?

    Oh well, maybe I’m examining too closely a book that doesn’t stand up under much examination. Even if the book being reviewed doesn’t sound like my kind of read, I always enjoy your reviews!

    • Hello Mary Anne,

      It appears I can’t respond under my account of Jacqueline Diaz, but can as Introvert Reader. I wrote up a long response your comment yesterday, and the comment was deleted after I ran a site clean up before bedtime. So in the future I will just respond as IR and keep site clean ups to an absolute minimum. So please accept my apologies for this belated, truncated reply:

      -Reese is still so hurt by his wife’s betrayal that he believes a marriage without love is possible. He sees marriage as essential for children, which he wants, and requires a helper to take care of his home. He’s rather chauvinistic and vain in his thinking, as he believes a man of his meager means living in the boonies can sway a woman into a loveless, practical relationship. See he’s very “hawt” and thinks that’s enough to offer. He has no $ for cook, a housecleaner or a prostitute. He can’t afford a new truck or house repairs.

      -Madelyn is a hall of fame heroine for me. Why? Her grace, her positive attitude, and patience. These are qualities I don’t always display, and so long as character feels real I will always admire a protagonist like that. She fell for Reese pretty much right away and could endure a lot for love, but she also knew when to call it quits. She made this book shine, not the hero.

  2. Hi, Jacqueline.

    After seeing your review, I decided to head over to Open Library/Internet Archive to see if I could read the book. Yes, it is available! I read through it quickly and here are my observations:

    Reese is a bit of an a-hole. I understand that he was upset about how his ex, April, treated him. However, I am not a fan-in books or real life-of those who take their anger out on innocent people, especially women. Reese spends much of the book angry at Madelyn for things April did, or more accurately, what Reese did to himself. He and April were not a compatible couple, but rather than take any responsibility for his part of the issue, Reese puts all the blame on April, then transfers that anger to an innocent woman, Madelyn.

    Madelyn is a great character. She takes no BS from Reese-and is incredibly strong emotionally. I love strong female characters in books and Madelyn fits the bill.

    I felt like Reese cared far more about the land than he did about either April or Madelyn. Being a native New Yorker who has had seven different locations to call home, I don’t have the same attachment to land that Reese does. Maybe its a non-city person thing, but I have a hard time understanding people who love land more than a human being.

    Yes, Linda Howard writes great love scenes.

    If I were reviewing “Duncan’s Bride”, I would have given it around 3 stars. I loved Madelyn, but felt the book needed more emotional depth. Snarling at someone is not necessarily equate to emotional depth.

    • Hmm. I hope you get this reply, Blue Falcon. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, but my replies keep getting swallowed up in the internet ether.

      Glad you were able to look this romance up on Internet Archive! I completely agree with your assessment of Reese. He was sexy, but sexy didn’t overcome dumb and bitter. I like the way he opened up to her at the end in front of everybody, but that really wasn’t enough. Madelyn carried this story, and she’s a hall of fame heroine for me for her positive, patient demeanor.

      This is the third Linda Duncan book I’ve read, and they seem to be similar in that the men are “uber-alpha” and the heroine’s have immense fortitude, no matter what life throws at her. I like my contemporary heroes to be a bit more modern in their thinking; I have a lot more tolerance in historicals for caveman behavior.

      The Intimate Moments line was never a favorite, but I’ve read a few here and there and they usually focused on troubled relationships. The Temptation, Desire & Loveswept lines were more fun and varied. Speaking of which, I’ve ordered a bunch of old Temptations to read and review, so look for more of those in the future!

  3. HI, Jacqueline.

    Thank you for responding. I’m not sure what’s going on with WordPress either. I did read your comments here, though, so that’s a good thing.

    It’s great that you are going back to buy some vintage Harlequin Temptations. As I’ve mentioned before, I too have been on a buying binge of Temptations, so we might do more dueling reviews in the future. My focus on my purchases is on series I have previously read rather than standalones.

    I will message you and le you know which ones I have and am acquiring, so they can be posted here. Thank you again for providing a safe, positive space for vintage romance novel lovers. I truly do appreciate it.

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