In Georgette Heyer’s FREDERICA, the heroine’s little brother calls the hero, the Marquis of Alverstoke, a “second-best nobleman.” Of course, the “best” is a duke. Maybe that’s why I found 121 romance titles at Barnes & Noble with “Duke” somewhere in the title.
For me, “duke” (or “millionaire” for that matter) in the title doesn’t affect my buying decision either way. Beautiful estates and gardens and horses are fun to imagine, but I don’t necessarily prefer a hero with vast wealth and power over one who’s in dire straits or one that is somewhere in between. I do want to know how his situation affects him and how he deals with it.
A duke was kind of like a CEO of a large company. He had political and economic clout, influence over people’s lives and the state of his country. If the hero’s a duke, his power and the responsibilities that go along with it ought to be important elements in his story. Otherwise it seems that his rank is just a shortcut for creating a “perfect” hero (who sounds like a bore to me). If he is a duke, I want to know how that affects him besides the obvious attraction he has for golddiggers.
Possibly my favorite fictional duke is the Duke of Salford in Georgette Heyer’s SYLVESTER. He is so busy being the perfect duke he has trouble being a human being. Of course, Phoebe, the heroine, helps him in that area.
Rafe, Duke of Candover in Mary Jo Putney’s PETALS IN THE STORM. I am usually skeptical of spy-dukes. In this case it works because he is busy being an impeccable duke when the spy thing is thrust upon him. His rank also plays into part of the conflict with the heroine.
Christian, Duke of Jervaulx in Laura Kinsale’s FLOWERS FROM THE STORM. In this case, Maddy, the heroine, is a Quaker. Christian’s rank creates a daunting chasm between her simple and unworldly view of life and his approach to dealing with his vast holdings and responsibilities. It raises the stakes when his relatives try to declare him insane.
So what do you think about romances featuring dukes?
Do you love them? Who are some of your favorite fictional dukes?
Or do you think there are too many dukes already? Do you think Romanceland could use more marquesses, earls, etc…, or even (gasp!) a few mere misters?
Elena, who likes variety in her fantasy men 🙂