When Viola Carroll was presumed dead at Waterloo she took the opportunity to live, at last, as herself. But freedom does not come without a price, and Viola paid for hers with the loss of her wealth, her title, and her closest companion, Justin de Vere, the Duke of Gracewood.
Only when their families reconnect, years after the war, does Viola learn how deep that loss truly was. Shattered without her, Gracewood has retreated so far into grief that Viola barely recognises her old friend in the lonely, brooding man he has become.
As Viola strives to bring Gracewood back to himself, fresh desires give new names to old feelings. Feelings that would have been impossible once and may be impossible still, but which Viola cannot deny. Even if they cost her everything, all over again.
I have been waiting for this book for over a year, so I am just thrilled to be able to read an ARC. This is Hall’s second historical romance of 2022, and we are truly blessed to live in such an age.
Viola sacrificed everything for the opportunity to live authentically, and she doesn’t mind that the price for this is living in rural obscurity, away from curious eyes. When she learns that her childhood friend and his sister need help, she reacts with caution. After all, being recognized by anyone from her old life could spell ruination.
It takes longer than one might expect for Gracewood to recognize Viola, but when he does, he accepts her without reservation because their childhood friendship had always been based on a deeply-rooted affinity, rather than something more superficial. Viola has some reservations about their attraction to each other because she knows that dukes are supposed to marry and have children to further their line, as it were, and she doesn’t want to be an impediment to that. Also, her role as a companion puts her at a lower social status, making any marriage between her and Gracewood subject to scrutiny. And referring back to the last paragraph, scrutiny could lead to recognition, and she very much needs to remain in obscurity.
The secondary plot involves the whole gang going to London so that Gracewood’s sister Miranda can have a Season. There, they meet an assortment of aristocrats, including another duke named Amberglass, who is the antithesis of Gracewood. He didn’t rise to “chewing the scenery” levels of wickedness, but he danced perilously close to that line. Seriously, this guy could be the villain in a children’s movie where he’d say things like, “I’m so good at being bad!” Apparently, Amberglass is going to be in the sequel, and I am here for the redemption arc. Alexis Hall has his work cut out for him with that one.
Speaking of which, I cannot go without mentioning the superb ensemble whose many and varied personalities support our two protagonists. Some of the best moments in the book involved Viola and/or Gracewood interacting with these secondary characters.
I want to end my review with a note on perspective. While dual-POV is fairly common in the romance genre, many of Alexis Hall’s novels have been single POV. This works well because knowing what the other protagonist was thinking would eliminate much of the novel’s tension. This book, however, features dual perspective from both protagonists, and it works so well here. In this case, it’s imperative that the reader knows that the protagonists are on the same page—no pun intended.
I would absolutely recommend A Lady for a Duke. Admittedly, Hall is one of my favorite authors, but this book exceeded my expectations. It was full of big feelings and heart, and there’s a nice balance of tension and levity. I’m thrilled that Hall has jumped into the historical romance pool, and I hope that we’ll have more from him in the future.
I received a digital ARC of this book from Forever/NetGalley.