Fool Me Twice
By Meredith Duran
Release Date: March 25, 2014
Alastair de Grey, fifth Duke of Marwick, is the essence of a tragic hero. Once one of England’s leading political lights, in line to become Prime Minister with the power he covets to see more of his reform agenda realized, he has become a man immersed in his own particular horrors, afraid to leave his room for fear he will murder those men with whom his wife betrayed him. His fear of translating his murderous thoughts into murderous actions and his fear of becoming fodder for the scandal sheets have led him to abdicate his responsibilities on every level. If madness is the inability to think in a clear and sensible way, then Marwick is indeed mad.
Olivia dares the duke’s wrath even after he throws a bottle at her. Angered by his disregard for care of the valuable books in his rooms, offended by the dirt in which he lives, and dismayed by his irresponsibility in ignoring his correspondence, she challenges him at every turn until gradually, one cautious step at a time, Marwick returns to life. But even when the attraction between them intensifies, Olivia cannot forget her purpose. She must have that file, although she knows Marwick, a man already devastated by betrayal, will view her theft as yet another unforgiveable betrayal.
Fool Me Twice is a romance with a strong mystery element, and Duran succeeds in keeping her readers emotionally invested in the relationship between Olivia and Marwick as it develops, is threatened, and overcomes obstacles on its way to the HEA and in maintaining their interest in discovering the identity of Olivia’s enemy. It’s a plus that the revelation is not the predictable outcome many readers will assume. Marwick’s story too has revelations as readers learn more about the details and the motives of his wife’s betrayal.
Duran once more proves that no writer of historical romance is better at creating intense, compelling lead characters. I have become wary of the term “strong heroine” since it seems to me that it is too often used to describe a character in period costume who acts like a contemporary heroine. But Duran shows that Olivia is a woman of her time. Olivia’s strength is revealed in her past when she refused to be broken by social ostracism and in her present when she finds the resources to survive even when she’s left for dead and the threat of another attempt on her life hangs heavy over her. Marwick is a dark hero, a truly tormented man made more interesting by the fact that he truly is a tragic hero. However damaging his wife’s betrayal may have been, it is what that betrayal does to his image of himself that nearly destroys him. Duran allows the reader to see Marwick’s own realization of this truth:
He thought once that he saw every possibility. That he would make his own destiny. That he and Margaret, together, would be everything the world required. He thought he had control, and that everything he did was done perfectly.
As always with a Duran book, the writer in me relishes her prose. Not only does it have a lucidity and grace that pleases but the precision of the diction in sentences like this one adds to the layers of meaning: “His insanity had a feel to it, jagged and sharp, so the very air in his bedroom seemed filled with edges.” Those edges pierce Olivia’s—and the reader’s--preconceptions.
Fool Me Twice is the second book in the Rules for the Reckless series. While it can be read as a standalone, I think the story has greater depth for readers who have also read That Scandalous Summer. Not only are both Olivia and Marwick introduced in that book, but Olivia’s connection to Elizabeth Chudderley and Marwick’s estrangement from his brother Michael are also shown in the first book. Whether you read Fool Me Twice alone or in concert with That Scandalous Summer, if you like romance novels that are intelligent, intense, and immensely interesting, I highly recommend this one.