If you read this book and want to talk about it, go here. I’m dying to discuss it without worrying about spoilers.
Because I love this book so much, I want to tell the world about it. The best way I have to do that is a contest. Thus commences
The Duke of Shadows Sweepstakes.
- Grand Prize: $25 gift card from Barnes and Noble
- First prize: $15 gift certificate from Amazon (or online bookstore of your choice)
- Runners up: Five more winners will receive a copy of The Duke of Shadows
Seven winners. Cool prizes. What do you have to do to get in on this?
Rules for entry for people with a blog:
- Step 1: Make a new post on your blog, entitled “Enter The Duke of Shadows Sweepstakes”
- Step 2: Post the graphic shown here, along with a link back to to this contest. If you aren’t sure how to add a picture to your blog, use TDoS Sweepstakes Code.
- Step 3: Add something like “I entered, you should too!” Publish blog post.
- Step 4: Leave your link in comments, letting me know you’re done.
For those who don’t have blogs, here’s what you do to enter:
- Step 1: Promise in comments to put a review on some online review site, if you win.
- Step 2: Tell at least one other person about the contest.
I hope everyone who enters will check out this book. It would be great if you told people about it, if you love it as much as I do. Winners also agree they’ll review the book somewhere as a condition of accepting their prize. This contest will run until midnight on April 13th. On the morning of April 14, I’ll announce the winners.
After I finished this book, I immediately got on IM and sent messages to my friends, telling them I’d just glommed The Duke of Shadows. I begged them to get it at once, toss out their TBR list, and devour it immediately, and then said I would be greeting them for the next two weeks with “Did you read it yet?”
I don’t do story summaries. I don’t really do reviews, either. If you want the blurb, it’s on Powells. This is homage. This is me, struggling to express all the ways the book succeeds, no, soars. Take a woman, saturated with loss. Cast her to a man who has worn so many faces, he is no longer sure which is his true self. In many ways, Julian is a soul divided, and Ms. Duran portrays it with such grace and valor that I will always, always remember this hero, and his love for the complex, passionate Emmaline.
The Duke of Shadows was pitch-perfect, not a single wrong note. This book ravished me. The writing is lovely and luminous, bedizened with subtle poetry. It hit me like a fist in the chest, rousing a sudden, shocking ache. In reading this, you will be permeated with yearning. Some sentences are so lovely, they make you say, “Oh,” in quiet, helpless admiration. This book is pure beauty married to elegance and simplicity.
Let me show you. Even without context, these small excerpts will steal your breath.
She lay there, staring upward. Long crimson clouds stretched across the lavender sky, as though giant claws had laid open the innards of heaven.
Such imagery. Can you not imagine such a sky? This is India at twilight. Yes, this is a romance novel, but it is art, too, and one of the finest books I have ever read in my life.
His face lowered to hers, so close she felt his ragged exhalation against her lips. “Emma, you can trust me with your life. But I am not your brother. You cannot trust me in this.”
“I have no brother,” she said softly. “Nor mother, nor father, now. If I trust you with my life, I trust you with everything I have.”
My heart clenches. I say, “Oh.” Gone totally breathless. In one sentence, one achingly lovely sentence, she has given him permission to touch and revealed such heartbreaking vulnerability, I could weep.
He glanced back up to her face. “God, you are beautiful.”
She did not feel anything so boring as beautiful. She felt fierce.
This is masterful. The heroine is imbued with power during an intimate moment. She is strong; she is not a passive vessel.
She would say no prayer for him. She had tried them before. They did not work.
These short, stark sentences distill the essence of her despair. Here, Emma cannot muster the energy to embellish her thoughts. Julian has become her world, and he is leaving.
I could go on, but I think I will let you discover the rest yourself. I want to read The Duke of Shadows again, again, again. The characters were so well-drawn and compelling, and the plot smart and well-researched. And the emotional intensity…good God, it was gut-wrenching. I found myself in tears more than once, and that doesn’t happen often. This book is perfection, better, in fact, than any historical romance I’ve ever read. I am astonished to find a work of such proficiency and power in a debut author.
If Meredith Duran is not a superstar in ten years, taking her place amid such luminaries as Laura Kinsale and Loretta Chase, then the world is mad. Read this book.
The author was kind enough to consent to answer a few questions for the edification of readers, as part of my celebration of all things Meredith Duran. Enjoy!
What’s your favorite scene in The Duke of Shadows?
As a reader, I think I’d pick the scene that transpires in the garden in London, shortly after Julian and Emma encounter one another again. But in terms of the actual writing of it, I’ll choose the scene at the Ardsmores’, which ends with Julian smashing the globe. I’d been struggling with what was going to happen there — I knew that they needed to confront the history they shared, and the mystery of what had happened to Emma, but my inspiration had evaporated. I sat in front of the screen for *several* hours, until I was ready to tear my hair out. Finally I gave up and got ready for bed. As I went to shut down the computer, I paused to type two lines that randomly came to me: “There was a giant globe, as big as a carriage wheel, standing near the desk. It was startling and unusual, and she recalled suddenly having heard of it: the Ardsmores’ famous globe.”
Stupid, I thought. A globe? Great. That did not help me move the scene forward AT ALL.
I lay down, closed my eyes, and suddenly — BOOM. Of COURSE there was a globe. The globe was CRUCIAL!! I jumped out of bed, turned the computer back on, and wrote the rest of the scene without pause.
In other words, I love that scene because it’s the product of one of those fantastical and exhilarating and ALL too rare moments when intuition takes over and a scene simply materializes. What a rush that is! I wish it happened every time I opened Word. :)
What was your inspiration for this fabulous book?
I think the first seed was probably planted a very long time ago — when I was in India in 1998. I was on a study abroad program, and we were living in a medieval fortress that towered over the city below. When the typical teenage melancholy struck, I would climb up onto the ramparts and sit between the cannons and watch the sun set. Much, much later, when I first visualized Emma, it was like this — on the edge of a rampart, looking out over an Indian city. Only… the city was on fire, and she had a knife in her hand. Since I’ve always been fascinated by the events of 1857, I knew instantly why the city was burning.
Ultimately I denied Emma the chance to stand on the ramparts, but I let her keep the knife. :)
You’ve worked in India. How did that enrich your ability to depict the setting in part one?
It definitely helped with “setting the scene.” For instance, the description of the fortress at Sapnagar is a composite of Mehrangarh Fort, Amber Fort, and the City Palace in Udaipur, all of which I’ve visited several times. But — and there’s always a but! — sometimes I did find myself troubled over some of the assumptions I was making. Deven’s a great name, but was it common in 1857? For that matter, did bazaars back then really smell like bazaars do now? I was very glad of my university library, which has a massive collection of books on (and memoirs about!) colonial India.
If you could write a book set in any historical time period / location, when and where would it be?
Well, I absolutely indulged myself with The Duke of Shadows — I think 1857 is one of the most interesting moments in history. But I’m also fascinated by Roman Britain, Tudor England, and World War II Europe. And, lest I forget, the 1880s and 1890s in Britain, where my next books are set. I chose the 1880s specifically because it was a period of such swift and dramatic change: the decline of landed wealth, the height of imperialism, the rise of the “new woman,” etc. It’s a great time period to be writing about. So many possible stories!
You’re shipwrecked on a desert island with another author. Who is it and why?
Laura Kinsale. I hear she has a new manuscript but no plans yet to publish it. Very well, she can read it aloud to me while I drink coconut milk!
What do you want to tell readers about you and/or your work?
Hmm. Well, 1) I’ve been reading omnivorously in the genre since I was thirteen, but my secret loves (aside from historicals, of course) are paranormal and futuristic romances. I attribute this to a childhood of Lois Duncan, Christopher Pike, and Star Trek. 2) My worst nightmare is to write a heroine who is Too Stupid to Live. 3) My heroes are Laura Kinsale, Judith Ivory, Loretta Chase, and Patricia Gaffney (“To Have and To Hold” actually launched my keeper shelf). 4) I get a little cranky when people knock the romance genre, because I think that, like any other genre, ours has produced some brilliant books along with the good reads, so-so reads, and occasional stinker. 5) I tend to make numbered lists for no reason. And finally, 6) I am thrilled to have made an appearance on Ann’s blog. Thanks so much for having me!