The Worst Duke in the World by Lisa Berne

While I don’t want to take too much time talking about myself in a book review, I do want to explain my sporadic review writing over the last few months. In short, 2020 was a year to be remembered, and it was often difficult to find the motivation to read and write. Fortunately, thanks to many—to borrow a word from this very book—charming things to read, I am hopefully back on the road to productivity.

But on to the book!

Jane Kent is a penniless waif who shows up on the doorstep of the esteemed Penhallow manse. She claims to have a connection to the family, and the letter she produces, as well as the strong family resemblance, is all the Penhallows need to take her in as one of their own.

Although Jane is twenty years old, she has never received a formal education, and arrangements are made for her receive tutelage from the local vicar, whose only other pupil is eight-year-old Wakefield Farr, the only son of the Duke of Radcliffe, the titular worst duke in the world.

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Ten Things I Hate About the Duke by Loretta Chase

Ten Things I Hate About the Duke is the second book in the Dangerous Dukes series, and it begins immediately after the events of A Duke in Shining Armor. The Duke of Ashmont—His Grace with the Angel Face—whom readers last saw [redacted spoiler] has retired to a pub, where he encounters the headstrong Cassandra. Through a series of unfortunate events due entirely to his carelessness, Ashmont puts Cassandra’s already-shaky reputation into even greater peril.

This leads to what is known in modern vernacular to a “come to Jesus” moment for Ashmont, who after being left at the altar in the previous book, has begun to realize that he is a hot mess.   He wants to make amends, but Cassandra wants nothing to do with this disastrous duke. Ashmont is persistent—but not in an invasive way—and he’s determined to prove to her that he is more than a party boy scandal-maker.

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Duke I’d Like to F*** by Sierra Simone and Joanna Shupe and Eva Leigh and Nicola Davidson and Adriana Herrera

One of the huge jokes in the historical romance community is the overabundance of dukes. Everywhere you look, there’s yet another handsome young(ish) duke in want of a wife. So what did these five amazing authors do?

They made an entire anthology with nothing but dukes, baby! Hot dukes! Dukes I’d like to f***.

And wow, buckle up friends, this is going to be a bumpy ride. No pun intended.

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The Vicar and the Rake by Annabelle Greene

Gabriel and Edward were childhood friends, but then Edward went to London as the heir to the Caddonfell dukedom, and Gabriel (who has some sort of minor title) became a vicar.

They have not seen each other for over a decade, so it comes as a surprise when Edward returns to the ducal manor to find Gabriel passed out in the flowerbeds. Edward—scandal personified—is on the run from the vengeful Duke of Sussex, and Gabriel—who has always avoided scandal—quickly becomes entwined with Edward, both metaphorically and physically.

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To Catch an Earl by Kate Bateman

Alex and Emmy first met at a masquerade ball several years prior to the main events of the book, and Alex has been thinking about the mysterious young woman with the unique scent ever since that night.

Now, Alex is working as a Bow Street Runner, along with his friends, and Emmy is the elusive jewel thief that he’s trying to catch, so a romance between these two personalities seems impossible.  

The irony of the situation is that Alex and Emmy encounter each other socially in addition to the cat-and-mouse game they’ve been playing. Naturally, the lines between these two worlds begins to blur as the stakes increase.

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Two Rogues Make a Right by Cat Sebastian

I have been waiting for this book ever since hints were dropped at the end of A Gentleman Never Keeps Score almost two years, but I can assure you that it was 100% worth the wait.

Will Sedgwick and Martin Easterbrook have been friends for their entire lives. Their paths diverged at some point, but as the story begins, Will has essentially kidnapped Martin and brought him to recuperate in an abandoned gamekeeper’s cottage. At first, Martin is quite ill, but Will manages to bring him back to good—well, decent—health.

So, there they are, living together in a small cottage. There is plenty of time to reacquaint themselves with the men they have become, and of course, to acknowledge the feelings that have always been there.

Did I mention that there’s only one bed?

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To Have and to Hoax by Martha Waters

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A common source of conflict in the plot of a romance novel is a Big Misunderstanding that drives the couple apart. What makes this book rather unique in that regard is that the misunderstanding has already taken place years before the story begins—and the two protagonists never reconciled.

Despite this acrimony, when Violet finds out that her husband James has been injured, she rushes to the country house to be by his side—only to run into him at an inn, in perfect health and annoyed by her concern for his well-being. Read more

Never Kiss a Duke by Megan Frampton

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“Historical accuracy” is a loaded term in the historical romance genre, and I’m not going to be unpacking the implications today; believe me, I could go on for days about the subject, but then I wouldn’t be able to discuss this lovely new book.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a duke can almost never lose his title. This comes up in books: the titled protagonist is in danger of losing his title if he doesn’t meet some unconventional requirements, like failing to find a wife by sundown on his thirtieth birthday. But that’s not accurate and titles don’t work like that.

However, if a duke’s parents’ marriage is deemed invalid, then that would mean that he was no longer his father’s legitimate offspring, and therefore render him ineligible for the title. Read more

My Fake Rake by Eva Leigh

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I have a confession to make: as much as I enjoy Eva Leigh on Twitter, this is my first experience with one of her books.

But now I’m hooked.

There are a few standard tropes in (historical) romance: friends to lovers, enemies to lovers, fake courtship, only one bed, brother’s best friend, and a few others. This book is an example of that first trope- friends to lovers. In order to fully appreciate this book, you have to remember the spate of 90s teen romcoms, wherein a geeky girl received a makeover and then the hottest guy in the school finally notices her.

But wait- in My Fake Rake, it is the HERO who receives the makeover, not the heroine. Read more

Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase

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This book is considered to be one of the best historical romance novels of all time, and it launched the modern iteration of the genre. I’ve had this book for a few years, where it lingered in my TBR queue.

But then some of my favorite authors were talking about it on Twitter, and some of them were reading it for the first time. My curiosity got the better of me, and I finally started reading.

The Marquess of Dain has been alone for most of his life. His mother absconded, and his father dropped him off at Eton and never came back for him. Dain inherited an estate encumbered by debt, and through sheer will and cunning, amassed a fortune. He has an entourage of hangers-on, but he doesn’t really have close friends.

Jessica Trent travels to Paris to retrieve her brother Bertie, who has fallen in with Dain. Bertie doesn’t have the sense that God gave a goose, and it’s time for him to return to England. Read more