Pretty Woman meets the Bridgertons in this witty, vivacious historical take on 90s romcoms by USA Today bestselling author Amalie Howard:
Lord Lysander Blackstone, the stern Duke of Montcroix, has only one interest: increasing his considerable fortune. After a series of betrayals, he keeps his emotions buried deep. Money, after all, can’t break a man’s heart—or make promises it can’t keep. But when his reputation for being heartless jeopardizes a new business deal, he finds himself seeking a most unusual—and alluring—solution . . .
Once an up-and-coming ballerina, Miss Geneviève Valery is now hopelessly out of work. After refusing to become a wealthy patron’s mistress, Nève was promptly shown the door to the streets. When she accidentally saves the life of a handsome duke, she doubts the encounter will go any better than her last brush with nobility. But instead of propositioning her, Montcroix makes Nève an offer she would be a fool to refuse: act as his fake fiancée in exchange for fortune enough to start over.
Only neither is prepared when very real feelings begin to grow between them. They both stand to win . . . but only if they’re willing to risk their hearts.
This charming Victorian era historical romance is the story two people from different worlds forging a connection. A chance encounter between Lysander and Nève leads to an offer—not an indecent proposal, but rather a fake engagement scheme.
Despite being at the top of the social hierarchy, Lysander has developed a reputation for being cold and unapproachable. His one great love jilted him; I won’t say for whom she left him, but yikes. Yet Lord Super Grump’s heart grows three sizes over the course of the book as he does nice things for Nève just because. Likewise, Nève learns that after a lifetime of keeping her guard up and fending for herself, putting her trust in someone will not lead to her losing everything she has worked so hard to maintain.
The two protagonists are supported by a well-rounded cast of secondary characters, some of whom will almost definitely be promoted to a leading role in subsequent books in the series. Lysander’s aged aunt stole the show at every possible opportunity, and the villains of the piece chewed the scenery just the right amount whenever they appeared in a scene.
I would recommend Always Be My Duchess. The protagonists are likeable, and they have good chemistry together. The banter is light and fun, and this is clearly a great beginning to a new series. I’m looking forward to reading more from Howard in the future.
I received a digital ARC of this book from Forever/NetGalley