Review: What a Difference a Duke Makes

Review: What a Difference a Duke MakesWhat a Difference a Duke Makes (School for Dukes, #1) by Lenora Bell
Series: School for Dukes #1
Published by Avon on March 27th 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384

“It was a desperate gamble. It was also her best hope at the moment.”

FINAL DECISION: I was disappointed in this one as the hero didn’t seem heroic to me but rather a milquetoast who was dominated and dictated to by the heroine.

THE STORY: Mari Perkins is desperate when she arrives in London, has her baggage stolen and is late for an appointment with her agency. Rather than getting the governess position she was promised, she is turned away. Mari, however, is never going back to the orphanage where she was raised and worked. Instead, she overhears the resignation of the governess of a duke and decides to appear as the replacement. Edgar Rochester, Duke of Banksford, is not the typical duke. To the despair of his mother, he is engaged in trade in order to save the family fortunes. He has also just been presented with two illegitimate children who keep scaring off the governesses he hires for them. What he needs is a strong, scary governess, and the sweet, innocent optimistic Mari is definitely not what is required.

OPINION: This book disappointed me. I was interested in the premise and I have really enjoyed the authors previous books. And while I liked the strength and independence of the heroine, the hero was weak and uninteresting.  The book suffers from too much modern concerns and sensibilities for a historical novel.

Mari is a woman looking for her past and trying to build a future for herself.  She is clever and kind. While I understand trying to make unique characters, Mari feel entirely too modern a character to me. If her character had been transported into a modern book, she would be entirely comfortable in a contemporary novel as a nanny.  Her sexual aggression for an innocent period woman raised in an orphanage just feels completely out of place. While I am not a reader who looks for historical accuracy in her books, this book just felt too modern for the time period and the characters did not fit and nothing else about the story was good enough to distract me from those facts.

The biggest problem with this book for me was the hero. First, he doesn’t feel possible as a historical character. He is given a tragic background, but it felt forced and not really impacting his life except to give him two illegitimate children which we are supposed to believe that everyone around him accept as reasonable that he would be raising in his own home. Nothing about Edgar works together or feels organic. Perhaps there are too many issues for him: a duke who rejected his rank, a man betrayed by the older woman he loved but who might have used him, a scientist, a tradesman, a new father trying to have a relationship with his children. Just too many parts that don’t mesh well together. Then there is all the moralizing over his concerns about abusing his relationship with Mari who is his employee. This feels like it is taken from a modern manual of how to deal with subordinates. Mari ends up making all the moves in their relationship. Having the woman take control can be sexy but just feels forced here. The combination of all these things makes Edgar a weak character that I would bet is totally controlled by his wife in the future. There is nothing of his “hero” that feels like a man that deserves to be a hero. And nothing about his character that interested me.

There is just too much going on with not enough interest on my part. There is also the story of Mari’s parentage which feels like a predictable afterthought designed to at least make her relationship with Edgar reasonable in the end.

WORTH MENTIONING: Now the story of India and Ravenwood sounds really intriguing and is probably the best part of this book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DUKE MAKES is the first book in the School for Dukes series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 2 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Edelweiss in order to prepare a review. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.