Dame Durden lives in the past, and she intends her daughter to follow in her footsteps. So Edith is pushed into an engagement with the Saxon-blooded minister, Dr. Thorne, who may not be all he appears. The wild and newly elevated duke, Helver Saymore, is Edith’s own choice, but there are powerful arguments against him—including his own lack of coming to the point.
Written by: Joan Smith
First published in: 1978
How cool is the alliteration in that title – I love it!
We first hear of the Duke of Saymore (Helver) in the very first paragraphs of Dame Durden’s Daughter. Unfortunately he does not sound very nice – “It was assumed as a matter of course that the child of every unwed mother in Saymore’s domain was to be laid at his door” – and it is difficult to see how he can become a true hero.
SPOILER – in my opinion he never does really.
We get to meet Dame Durden’s Daughter (Edith) in Chapter 2. Her mother’s “chief delight [is] to live in the past” specifically Tudor times and as a result Edith has not had a lot of interaction with the local villagers, apart from Helver. And it isn’t long after meeting Edith that we discover she has loved Helver for many years so no surprises there but will Helver learn to return her love?
Not if her mother has anything to do with it – she is keen on the local Vicar for her daughter, purely because he can trace “his ancestors back to Earl Alfgar in the Saxon period, with never a drop of Norman blood in the entire family.” That Tudor obsession coming to the fore again!
And certainly not if the Baroness de Courcy has her way – she’s very keen on Helver herself and as a more worldy woman than Edith, probably has the advantage over such a sheltered girl…
And then, just to add even more players to the mix Helver’s mother the Dowager Duchess brings in Lady Anne as her prefered partner for Helver.
What didn’t I like about this book?
The constant early multiple mentions of what a limb of Satan Helver is.
It really doesn’t encourage the reader to like Helver and then all of a sudden we’re being told that in fact he isn’t all that bad – it is in fact the fault of his parents for being too old when he was born and not knowing how to deal with him. The turn around was too quick for me and I never really warmed to Helver.
What did I like about this book?
There’s not a big age gap between the two main characters – Helver is 24 (and young for his years) whilst Edith is 19.
Edith’s quips – even though she’s not formally educated she is able to hold very witty conversations with Helver which add a nice touch of humour to the book.
I also really liked (and no surprise here) that Edith’s mother didn’t actively hate her – yes, she was encouraging Edith to marry someone that Edith didn’t love but not out of spite or jealousy. She just wanted the best for Edith and thought that was the best way to get it for her.
How did I feel at the end?
That’s really the important thing isn’t it? Did I feel the HEA was right? Did I feel happy or disappointed by the misunderstandings? Was I left with a warm and fuzzy feeling or wishing I could get my money back?
HEA – yes I felt this was right. It wasn’t rushed and I really enjoyed the conversation between Edith and Helver leading up to the proposal.
Misunderstandings – these were understandable given Helver’s standing in the community and Edith’s strong sense of duty to her mother.
At the end, although I wasn’t left with a warm and fuzzy feeling neither did I wish I could get my money back.
My final thoughts? Ultimately, this is not one of my favourite Joan Smith books but it is a nice romance and a good way to spend a Sunday afternoon particularly if you’re looking for witty conversations.