Book Review

The Lost Duke of Wyndham and Mr. Cavendish, I Presume? by Julia Quinn


Title: The Lost Duke of Wyndham & Mr. Cavendish, I Presume?
Author: Julia Quinn
Genre: Regency

Book CoverI love Julia Quinn books. One of my favorites is easily one of the top romances I’ve read (That’d be The Duke and I, which if I go near it, it sucks me in and I reread the whole goddam thing no matter how much I have to do). Quinn is one of my favorites.

Side story: Quinn is also one of the very first romance authors I ever interacted with personally. Way, way back in the day, like, six or seven years ago, I emailed her via her website to ask what had happened to the dog in the opening scenes of Minx, as the heroine saves a young boy who ran out into the street after his puppy, and the puppy’s safety isn’t mentioned again. This is classic Sarah – I could blithely read through any number of historical anachronisms, but a MISSING DOG?! OMG. I emailed the author. And she totally wrote back to me. I was squeeing. Ask Hubby -he was laughing at me.

Book CoverAnyway, back to the matter at hand:

I realize that the following is a ridiculous concept to anyone who really, really digs Quinn – but suppose you saved up The Lost Duke of Wyndham since its release date back in May, so you could read it back to back with Mr. Cavendish, I Presume?. Or, you saved Wyndham so you could read Cavendish first? Or you’ve read both and wonder if your sequence would have been improved had you read the latter first? Jane and I are here to answer all these questions you probably didn’t bother to ask yourself.

Both books contain the same story from two different pairs of perspective. Thomas, the Duke of Wyndam, is betrothed to Amelia, though he shows little interest in actually getting to know her. His grandmother, the Dowager, lives with him, along with her companion, a young woman named Grace. Grace and Thomas have a quiet but unlikely friendship of sorts, and the less said about the Dowager, the better. Then, surprise, some dude name Jack shows up, and suddenly the question of who is the Duke of Wyndham and who will marry whom consumes the family – not to mention the question of how awful can one dowager be? (The answer: holy shit.) The books examine the same sequence of events from varying perspectives (what I called the Twin of Ice/Twin of Fire treatment), allowing readers to experience two sets of heroes, two sets of heroines, and two pairs of protagonists struggling to figure out who and what they are while battling honor, history, and attraction.

More succinctly, as Jane put it: two men. One dukedom. Two girls in need of marrying. One awful grandmama.

Quinn provided us with both books, and asked me to read Wyndham first, and asked Jane to read Cavendish first. What follows is our conversation once we finished both. BEWARE YE WHO TRAVEL HERE—SPOILERS AHOY! 

Jane: I read Cavendish first, just for the fun of it and ultimately liked Cavendish better because I thought Amelia was slightly more interesting and thought Thomas’ dilemma better written (having a dukedom potentially torn from you had to be really horrible).

Jack’s life in Wyndham seems fairly satisfactory and even his past drama wasn’t wrought enough in the beginning to make me really root for him.  I thought Grace was toothless.

There’s a definite difficulty level in writing two stories that overlap the same time period and include the same scenes.  I thought that while this was innovative, reading the stories back to back showed some problems such as the repetition of significant chunks of dialogue.  I would have liked to seen a lot less of the overlapping dialogue and other ways of retelling the same story whether it was using some other characters or what not.


Sarah: Ultimately I liked Wyndham better, but I thought the inner monologue of Jack the more interesting of the two men. That said, his attempts to subvert tension with unflappable humor and Thomas’ dilemma of having his dukedom ripped from him and his question as to what that leaves him with, and who ultimately he is, were equally fascinating. Grace was often toothless, but also as much a victim of circumstance as Jack, so their ability to relate to one another I found enticing to read about. And when Grace stood up for herself, such as the rare private moments where she teased Thomas, or made rather cutting jokes with her friends, her character was sparkling good fun.

What bothered me, as a result, was Thomas’ sudden realization of the degree to which Grace’s life sucks, because no one has put a limit on Evil Granny’s behavior.  While he was the duke, he could have done more – he admits it and he is ashamed of himself, but by the time the story rolls around, years of the status quo have made his admission a bit too small. Thomas holds Grace’s happiness in his hands to a much greater degree than he seems to realize – even as he treats her with extreme censure for not telling him about Jack’s existence.

I didn’t think the repeated dialogue was a problem, though. For one thing, the books aren’t going to be released simultaneously, so certain points that hinge the narratives together, like all parties present at the same scene, told from two different – or four different – perspectives didn’t bother me. But what I did want was more of the newer parts of the story when I read Cavendish after Wyndham. Granted I was reading them back to back as you were, so I knew what was happening and thus I wanted more of the newer perspective of Amelia or Thomas immediately following or during a matching scene that occurred in both books. So I found the ending of Cavendish very delicious, and was so curious what happened with Amelia and Thomas. The additional scenes in Cavendish revealed a very satisfying happy ending, which was doubly satisfying due to the fact that it was new, whereas the story told twice and read one after another was not as new by the time I was done. Wyndham‘s jump-forward into the merry rosy future bothered me because after all that neat-o innovation with romance storytelling, it was a very pedantic extra reinforcement of the happy ending.

Jane:  I thought Jack being the happy go lucky guy with the smooth tongue was a great contrast with Thomas, but I felt that it wasn’t a contrast that was sharp enough unless you read both books.  I totally agree with Jack and Grace being victims of their circumstances, but the romance between the two of them (and between Thomas and Amelia) was tepid. 

I see your point about Thomas and I bet my preference is due to reading his book first and thus “bonding” with him in some sense. I thought the evil granny was wayyyyy more evil in book 1 than book 2.  In fact, the only evil-ness that I saw were the two scenes bossing Grace around.  I was really shocked when I read Wyndham as to how truly mean and degrading she was and did not understand AT ALL why Thomas hadn’t put his foot down.  I wished his evolution from being a self absorbed prig would have been more gradual.

I actually never totally bought into Thomas’ love for Amelia and I wondered if Amelia’s feelings weren’t just an extended crush on someone she thought she should have a crush on.  These women lacked grativas for me. 

The stories were very centered on Thomas and Jack and I think it would have benefited both stories to see a slower and deeper evolution of their co dependency.  I thought a co-dukeship would have been wonderful and I agree with you that the baby filled epilogue (that had no real purpose) was missing the point.

Sarah: Grace and Jack had a very limited time of exposure to one another, contrasted with a lifetime of forced encounters for Thomas and Amelia, who knew of each other their whole lives. I had to make a bit of a jump mentally to buy their whirlwind of a “OMG I want to be with you for EVAH” but because I liked Grace (and totally and deeply empathized with her being in an unpleasant position out of necessity and lack of acceptable alternatives) and I liked Jack, I was willing to do it. But then I question lately how much I as a reader overwrite – or underwrite – a romance I am rooting for, adding details and accessories to the relationship that the writer may not specifically include. I bet a whole shiny button that I have that tendency, but I don’t think I did it here. With four perspectives on the same story, there was plenty to chew on.

I am tickled that we have the same experience – I like Wyndham better than Cavendish because I read it first. However, I wasn’t feeling Wyndham‘s angst as much as Cavendish’s.

Jane: But then I question lately how much I as a reader overwrite – or underwrite – a romance I am rooting for, adding details and accessories to the relationship that the writer may not specifically include.

I totally do that, particularly when I am recommending a book that I think others won’t like.  I work extra hard to find reasons to support it.  But I think it’s somewhat of response to generating a defense.  I.e., how are you to justify liking a book if you can’t provide examples.  Is there something wrong with inference?  And perhaps that is the difference between liking and not liking a book.

Or it could be that our personal “bonds” with the characters turn those inferences positively or negatively.  Both these books are adequate and they get props for being overlapping, but both books suffered in detail so I would give them the same grade – C+ or B-

Sarah: As far as inference and supporting characters we like with details in our minds not written in the text, I am rather indulgent about it and thus second guess myself constantly on that basis. For example, as pertains to these books, I’ve worked in jobs that were in companies so small they fell below any regulation of labor or employee conduct, and that lack of oversight left me and other coworkers unprotected and subject to ridiculous expectations and abuse from management – often literally. That experience made me relate to Grace and access those feelings of being so very stuck and trying to make the best of it, and thus I rooted doubly hard for her, especially the upstairs/downstairs self-doubt that in the end Amelia told her was silly. And it was, really. I love how there’s this expectation of horrific holy shit stormfire gossip if a gently bred lady of no title marries a great big title, and that’s reason enough to stand in one’s own way toward happiness, but courtesans! Marrying their protectors! Oh, it’s So Romantic and utterly no one would ever snub their children, of course not! What?! The?! Fuck?!!.

What I liked about Grace’s predicament in Wyndham was that she was perfectly acceptable in her conduct and her family history except that she’d been working as a lady’s companion. Her knowledge of the “below stairs” culture and the working life suddenly made her “unacceptable” for some very flimsy reasons. I could easily support and believe their happy ending was possible with minimal exclusion from society – whereas other books that feature reformed hos marrying titled dudes left me thinking, “No way, dude.”

The other thing I liked about Grace was her restraint and her poise. I’ve been in Grace’s shoes in the distant past, and found myself managing my temper and never standing up for myself until it was time to declare that enough was long past enough. So because I read into Grace’s experience my own experience, I liked her a whole pile of Swarovski-crystal-encrusted a lot.

But if I think back on her dispassionately, I loved her more when she was with Thomas, and how she gently needled him, and I wish their friendship would have been more developed – because it’s a brave thing to have the hero befriend another woman who doesn’t turn out to be a villainess, but merely someone who’s in love with someone else. That’s a rather courageous decision to create in terms of heroine and heroine’s new friend creation (and leaves me wondering what will happen to Elizabeth). So big ups to Quinn on that score.

Gradewise, the combined books merit a B-. Wyndham I give a B, and Cavendish I’d give a C, so the average for both would be B-.

Comments are Closed

  1. Keri Ford says:

    So, um. What happened to the puppy? This is just like saying I have a secret, but I’m not telling to me!

  2. Heather says:

    HA. I’m so glad someone besides me jumped in first to ask about the puppy. I was looking looking looking through this and no more puppy! So what did she say on it?

    (Sorry- I just skimmed through the rest of it since I’m picking up Cavendish next week.)

  3. Chrocs says:

    I haven’t read The Lost Duke and will not until Mr. Cavendish arrives at my doorstep. Have I mentioned that international mail takes 6 to 8 weeks to arrive?

    Next time, I’ll buy the e-books. Damn cover collecting mania!

    What puppy?

  4. Spider says:

    And is there a consensus on which to read first?

  5. elianara says:

    My thoughts exactly. So what happened to the puppy? What did she tell you?

  6. Elyssa says:

    I loved both of these books. I read TLDOW then MCIP, so I read in the correct order like Sarah.  (Spider, definitely read TLDOW first).

    Now, disclaimer: I love JQ’s books. Seriously. You could give me any one of her books and stick me on a desert island, and I’d be a happy camper. The thing I love about JQ is that no matter what sort of mood you’re in at the start of the novel, by the end, you have a big grin on your face and you feel happy. Or at least I do. *g*

    I loved both Thomas and Jack, but for me, I loved Jack just a teensy a bit more. I liked his humor and how he responded to situations. He’s was seemingly cavalier, but how he acted was to hide his secret and to not let people see beyond the surface. I thought her heroines were strong, in different ways and means, and they provided a good counterbalance to the heroes. Grace is so not used to joking around that it would take someone like Jack to get her to unbend. Amelia has always done the correct, expected thing, and when she finally has had enough, Thomas starts to view her in a different manner. 

    For me, these were both A reads, and JQ is a master at her craft. I hope that she’s nominated in next year’s RITAs for one or both of these books.

  7. Tae says:

    I love Julia Quinn.  I have purchased every book she’s put out.  I even stole (kinda, it was a book we were going to discard anyway due to the shabby condition) a copy of Minx from the library because it had her autograph in it.  Who would donate a book to the library when you got the author’s signature???!!??
    She’s an automatic buy for me.  I started with Romancing Mr. Bridgerton because I’m a sucker for Cinderellaesque stories like you wouldn’t believe.  Though, I believe, The Duke & I is my favorite of all her books. 

    That being said…. I wasn’t too happy with the last two books, Miranda Cheevers nor Lost Duke.  I felt like the tension in the stories were missing, the happy endings just seemed too easy.  There weren’t enough obstacles in the way, and I didn’t feel like there were any overwhelming emotions.  I enjoyed them yes, but I actually sold Miranda Cheevers back to the used book store when I was finished.  I am a little more interested in Thomas and Amelia’s story just because of their interactions in Lost Duke.  I want to see how they resolve their relationship, especially since Thomas doesn’t seem that interested in Amelia (proposing to Grace for example).  However, I get the sense that Amelia has always loved Thomas, but was very restrained about it.

  8. handyhunter says:

    Somehow I didn’t realize that these two books are so closely related. I had thought Cavendish would pick up where Wyndham ended. I’ve already read Wyndham and liked it well enough (except for the cover); I wonder if I’ll end up liking it better than Cavendish too.

    Thanks for the review.

  9. Phyllis says:

    Yeah! What about the puppy???

    I just re-read Wyndham in prep for Cavendish. I’m looking forward to Cavendish, but also thought it picked up where the last one left off. Maybe I’m looking forward to it more now, if it really adds something to the story.

    I thought Grace could have been developed a bit more, but I did like her and sympathize with her. She really was a happy, laughing person who had been eroded by her years with the dowager but Jack could make her laugh again. I could have used more of her friendship with Thomas, too. I did understand his proposal to Grace, even just by reading Wyndham – though will see if my under-/overwriting is confirmed in Cavendish.

  10. Sara Hurt says:

    I loved the Lost Duke of Wyndham and cannot wait until Mr. Cavendish I presume.  Enjoyed this review thanks a lot ladies

  11. Donna says:

    I’m a HUGE JQ fan, but was very disappointed with The Lost Duke of Wyndham.  And I mean VERY DISAPPOINTED.  If it didn’t have Julia Quinn’s name on it, I would have never known it was written by her.  I actually wondered if she did write it or had possibly hired someone else to write it for her. 

    Definitely not one I would recommend.  Haven’t read Cavendish yet to comment.

    Now, don’t get me wrong.  I love all her other books.  Just not The Lost Duke of Wyndham.

  12. MB says:

    I’m with Danae and Donna.  I too am a huge Julia Quinn fan but was not at all impressed by “The Two Dukes of Wyndham”.  To me, it was just superficial.

    I’m hoping that Mr. Cavendish will be better.

  13. SB Sarah says:

    According to that email, which had to be 2001 or 2002 that I sent it, Quinn said that while the manuscript was written so many versions of Word prior that she didn’t have it any longer, the puppy was fine. Totally fine.

  14. Jen C says:

    I love, love, love JQ’s older books, but I was disappointed in the Lost Duke.  I think it was because of the Robin Hood Fallacy.  So often, there are books with bad boys- say, highway men- and somehow, I am supposed to overlook their crimes and terrible behavior because, hey, it doesn’t really matter because the victims are rich and Robin needs the money and so do the poor he’s helping.  Never mind that he is perfectly capable of finding a real job.  Never mind that rich people don’t deserve terror and fear any more than the poor.  Never mind that he stole his Grandma’s family ring and could never get another.  It’s fine, and he deserves a sexy virgin and a good life, and he never has to repay all those people he robbed, not even when he gets loads of money.  It really bothers me, because there rarely is even an acknowledgment that, hey, maybe I really fucked over some people and I should fix that with my untold riches. 

    I couldn’t get into the book because this bothered me so much.  Also, I agree that this book could have been written by someone else- it seemed to lack something- wit, sparkle, likable characters- that JQ’s work usually has.

  15. Courtney says:

    I’ve read both Cavendish and Wyndham, and:

    1.  I liked Jack better.
    2.  But I liked Amelia better.

    Go figure.  🙂

    I’ve noticed that basically every book that JQ has written has someone saying, “I love Julia Quinn, but this book does not sound like her!” and someone else saying, “Yay!  A return to the REAL Julia Quinn after her last screw-up!”  Personally, I thought that both books sounded like JQ and read like JQ—in other words, fun and fascinating, and I read each in one sitting.  I also thought that she’d really done a great job of taking a device that seems very hard to pull off, namely, telling two complete stories so intertwined, yet keeping each interesting, fun, and engaging on their own merits.

    These probably weren’t my favorite JQ books ever—but that’s like saying, “This is only Picasso’s third-best painting.”  And the thing about JQ is that I have talked to a variety of people about their “favorites” and everyone seems to have a different favorite, and a different least favorite.  Go figure.

  16. Amanda says:

    Okay, I read TLDOW first and I liked MCIP better, so I don’t fit into the first read paradigm. I think I preferred MCIP because I had a hard time believing in Grace and Jack’s love at first sight. Thomas and Amelia’s relationship seemed more plausible given that they’d known each other for years. And I thought that their story was ultimately more compelling. While these are not my favorite JQ novels, I do think that on a scale of technical difficulty she gets high marks.

  17. Great emotional books, how lovely. I got some distance with romantic literature in the last few years (but in case I began to read a romantic novel, I’m sure I cannot take my hands off of it until I finished it).

  18. Ana says:

    I absolutely love JQ’s books and read every single one of them. With a few exceptions (Miranda Cheever comes to mind), I really enjoyed all of them. I read both The Lost Duke and Mr Cavendish and I LOVED them – I thought the premise was clever and very well done. I love how the two heroes were so different and I fell in love a little bit with both of them – both books are on my top 10 reads of 2008. I loved these books so so much, it surprises me when other people don’t enjoy them as much as I do! But alas, different tastes and all that. LOL.

  19. TMeyers says:

    I love JQ like *fan girl squee* and mon dieu and have nearly every book of hers on my shelf with signatures.  I read TLDOW as soon as I could get my hands on it, but haven’t read MCIP yet.  I was waiting to buy a signed copy at the Emerald City Writers Conference in two weeks.

    Like some others, I thought she’d start MCIP where TLDOW left off.  Interesting to know that they are versions of the same period of time (which I’ve seen done in other books and ate it up with a spoon).  So I guess for me, rather than being a turn off, I’m even more intriguied.

  20. Joanne says:

    I love the dual-reviews. Thank you.

    I didn’t like Jack or Amelia and JQ made me like them … that’s good writing.

    Miranda Cheever’s diary book (I’m so sorry, the title evades my foggy brain) was a favorite of mine so as someone else said, “different tastes and all that”.

    The humor that was a staple in JQ’s books is missing here, but she has to write something different or people would be saying she writes the same book over and over. She remains an auto-buy for me.

  21. Kismet says:

    I’m in the process of finishing up MCIP (darn you work for cutting into my reading time). I loved Jack and Grace, and I am feeling pretty good about Thomas and Amelia. The only person I don’t like is the Dowager… I went into book 1 hoping for another Lady D and ended up with the wicked witch.

    Speaking of different tastes for different people… I loved Miranda’s book. I’m luke warm on Eloise’s book (To Sir Phillip)… but then again I haven’t met a JQ book I don’t like, just some I like more than others 🙂

    I agree with Joanne’s comment. I think she was trying to write something with a bit more emotion and darker than her usual stuff. She still managed to keep her classic sense of humor in the midst of it, which I think is great.

  22. Chrissy says:

    Wyndham had a sort of old school feel to it for me.  I had to force myself into it but eventually went along willingly.  Honestly… I do not envy her trying to break away from the family we all came to worship and start anew.
    RE: Twin of Fire/Ice …  gawd, my mom and I were such absolute Deveraux groupies when I was young.  I remember reading this pairing and thinking “she is an absolute genius.”
    Good times… good times.

  23. Danise says:

    I just started James’ story this morning.  I was a bit skeptical about the format, but I’ve seen it work and Julia is certainly skilled enough to pull it off.  I think she is still trying to find the right vehicle since finishing up the Bridgertons (and the two related Heiress & Marquis).  I would love to see a love story for Violet, now that her kids are settled!

    My spam is seems43… not bad for 51!

  24. poohba says:

    The only JQ books I haven’t liked have been her real early (before How to Marry a Marquis and To Catch an Heiress) titles and Francesca Bridgerton’s story, When He Was Wicked, which felt like it was all about the sex. 

    The sex scenes are not why I read JQ. What I love about her is the way she builds relationships between characters.  You can tell her couples not only love each other, they like each other.  They have fun together, and they enjoy talking to each other outside of the bedroom as much as they do in it.

    All of those hallmarks were there for me in these two books.  I liked both of them. (Though not as much as I enjoyed Miranda.  That may be my favorite non-Bridgerton book in JQ’s canon)  I read TDOW when it came out, and just finished MCIP last night.  I had been worried this whole time that the epilogue of TDOW seemed to set up a storyline that would pick up 10 years down the road – which seemed an awful long time for Amelia and Thomas to wait to be together.  So, as I was nearing the end of MCIP I kept waiting for some awful shoe to drop.  I almost didn’t get to enjoy the ending!  I had to go back and re-read the epilogue to TDOW to realize that my perception had been entirely wrong!

    I have a hard time picking a favorite.  It really felt like the same story in two different books.  I think I enjoyed Thomas and Amelia as a couple better than Jack and Grace, but I may be thinking that just because I’ve forgotten how much fun Jack was.  (A re-read may be in order.)  And I absolutely squeeied with delight when Lady Whistledown came into the story.

  25. Hannah says:

    I haven’t read Cavendish yet but I do have to say I really liked Wyndham. The plot was a little contrived, but one thing I did like was the lack of Angry Hero Syndrome. I love Julia Quinn, but she definitely went through a period where her heroes would just get angry and then heroines would and they wouldn’t talk to each other and it frustrated me. Wyndham didn’t have that, it was a breath of fresh air. Of course after I read wyndham I read minx and I could barely finish it (I skimmed the last third).

    I guess my final verdict is, why it’s not her best plot, at least for me it felt like she handled the characters and there interaction and reactions much better in this then she had in any book past. I also liked the slightly darker tone. It left me looking forward to were she was going as a writer.

  26. MD says:

    I just read “the lost duke” and I am completely with Jen C here – she wrote what I would have started with. It just bothered me to no end that no one in the book seemed to take “highwayman” seriously. The mentions of “oh, I am doomed, I can’t marry either a highwayman or a duke” didn’t seem genuine. And the fact that he was a highwayman made Grace’s behavior seem worse – I am a gently bred virgin, and OMG, this highwayman kisses me, and I am so in love with him that I nearly get to have sex with him within 3 days of meeting him. Really? I know it’s supposed to be a romantic comedy, and the plot makes no pretense of being realistic, but really?

    I have read a number of books where these plot devices worked. But I think in the good “Robin Hood” books the people around the hero or heroine at least recognize that robbing/stealing/smuggling is not a good thing, really (I love “The Unknown Ajax” for example). The really compressed time frame generally bothers me, but it can be done better, too. For example, one of Liz Carlyle heroines felt very real for me when she thought that she yearned for human touch simply because being a servant she was so separated from it. That rung true. But in this book, talking about genuinely falling in love with someone within a couple of days of meeting them, and her best friend recognizing it as “true love”, and being anguished over it—just seemed really silly and unreasonable, and I could not get past it.

  27. Sydney says:

    I LOVED The Lost Duke, but I could not say the same for MR CAVENDISH….At the end of the book where Grace received letters from Amelia, it seemed to indicate that Amelia has not seen Thomas in years, which I found interesting that Amelia still carried a torch.  What was Thomas doing, was he in another relationship, did he have children, etc…  I was so disappointed with MCIP that it was, literally excruciating to read.  I read TLDOW in 1 week and it took me 3 weeks to read the latter

  28. Anne says:

    I read both Lost Duke and Cavendish when they came out, so that means a several-month interval between the two.  I was very disappointed with Lost Duke and was relieved to find that I liked Cavendish.  And yes, I confess to being one of the few who really did like Miranda Cheever and anxiously awaits Olivia Bevelstoke’s book. 

    As for the rest of JQ’s oeuvre, I am glad I read the Bridgerton books in order because of the whole Lady Whistledown “mystery.”  Of those books, Romancing Mr. Bridgerton is my favorite, with Eloise and Francesca’s stories close behind.

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