Review: Blame It on the Duke

Review: Blame It on the DukeBlame It on the Duke (The Disgraceful Dukes, #3) by Lenora Bell
Series: The Disgraceful Dukes #3
Published by Avon on April 18th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384

“She’s insulted him, lied to him, and done everything in her power to repel him…and somehow ended up completely charming him.”

FINAL DECISION:  Loved, loved, loved this one.  Quirky and funny with incredibly serious and heartbreaking turns, this book ended up being my favorite of the series.

THE STORY:  Nicholas, the future of Duke of Barrington intended to never marry but rather enjoy his debauched life until the madness that runs in his family claimed him as well.  When his father gambles him away in marriage to the daughter of a rich merchant, Nicholas eventually ends up making a deal with his “fiance” Miss Alice Tombs. Alice doesn’t want to marry either…she has spent three years avoiding that outcome by scaring off suitors.  But Nicholas’s proposal tempts her.  The two will marry and spend one month together and then she will be free to pursue her interests in travel and scholarly pursuits and Nicholas will be free to pursue his scandalous life.

OPINION:  I absolutely loved this book — and not how I expected to.  From the first book in the series, I fell in love with Alice — a woman willing to use her intelligence to avoid an unwanted marriage.  She was incredibly funny with her incessant chattering about strange subjects that manage to repel unwanted suitors.  From the moment she discovers that her father has won her a fiance, Alice goes to work to try the same tactics on Nicholas.  But he sees her in a way that she never expected.

And what can be more attractive than a hero who actually wants to know the heroine’s dreams?  Nicholas is a man who knows that he has no future and so he is only living for today.  With a family history of madness, Nicholas plans never to marry, never to have children, but rather lead as big and scandalous life he can until the family madness claims him as well.  I adored Nick. In the same way that Alice begins to learn more about Nick, the readers also discover that there is far more to him than she or we expect when we meet the man putting on scandalous shows.  Despite his despair about his own life, Nick is determined to launch Alice into a wonderful future.  And the truth is that Nick’s life hides a great deal of pain and fear and desperation.

The book deals in a wonderfully thoughtful and realistic way the pain of mental illness.  Nick suffers both as a son and because of his own fear of descending into mental illness.  Mental illness is not usually a topic in romance books — especially not when it might effect the main characters.  Here, Nick is living with it every day.  The isolation, the fears, the anger, the pain are all depicted here.  I don’t want to give away more of the book but I loved how the events played out in this book. It was beautifully constructed and is immediately on my keeper shelf.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Yes, there is an Alice in Wonderland theme going in this book.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  BLAME IT ON THE DUKE is the third book in The Disgraceful Dukes series.  While the characters appear in other books in the series, this book can be read on its own.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 5 stars.


Review: If I Only Had a Duke

Review: If I Only Had a DukeIf I Only Had a Duke by Lenora Bell
Series: The Disgraceful Dukes #2
Published by Avon on August 30, 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384

“Thea had made an error of epic proportions.

A tall, broad-shouldered, duke-sized error.”

FINAL DECISION:  Rollicking road trip with a man haunted by his brother’s death and the woman whose plans he ruins by making her a social success.  Filled with humor and great emotion, I greatly enjoyed this book.

THE STORY:  After three disastrous seasons and an infamous jilting at the altar by the duke who ended up marrying her illegitimate half-sister, Lady Dorothea Beaumont intends to get through one last season and then retire to her aunt’s estate in Ireland and freedom.  Then, the Duke of Osborne decides to single her out and make her popular by waltzing with her.  Dalton believed that he was avoiding Thea’s desire to trap him into marriage, but his actions incense Thea who insists that he help her escape.  But Dalton has secrets including his search for the man who destroyed his family.

OPINION:  For me, the highlight of this book was the witty relationship between Dalton and Thea that deepens as they two travel together and learn one another’s secrets.  The two begin by exchanging letters (one of my favorite devices).  Amusing and revealing, the letters jump start their relationship.  By the time they encounter one another in London, they each already have plans on how to deal with the other.  Both Thea and Dalton have hidden scars that are not obvious in their society roles.

Thea has been raised her whole life to make the perfect match.  When her debut was a failure, Thea knew that her lack of perfection reduced her importance to her family.  Feeling as if her only value is her marriage prospects, unable to form real relationships with others and lonely beyond belief, Thea has allowed life to happen to her.  When her plans for her future are upset by the duke’s actions, she begins to find out who she really is.  I loved the amusing personas that Thea tries on during her journey with Dalton which are truly all facets of her becoming the woman she wants to be.

Dalton is a man who appears to be an aimless rake about town but is actually a man with a secret identity hunting for the man who murdered his younger brother.  He, too, has been emotionally abandoned by his family.  He has a hard protective shell around himself, but inside he cares deeply about people.

The story of who murdered Dalton’s brother had a surprising ending, which I enjoyed.  I thought the story was in good proportion with the romance.  Enough to keep the book interesting, but not so much as to overwhelm the romance.

I enjoyed this book even more than the first in the series.  I thought that the characters had a more interesting emotional journey and their romance was more complex.  While humor is key component to both books, this one felt more complete and emotional (a quality I especially like in my romances).

Bell is a new author and I’m glad I took a chance on reading her books.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This hero has a bit of the Robin Hood/Batman flavor without being a duplicate of those stories.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  IF I ONLY HAD A DUKE is the second book in the Disgraceful Dukes series. It can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.


Review: How the Duke was Won

Review: How the Duke was WonHow the Duke Was Won (The Disgraceful Dukes #1) by Lenora Bell
Series: The Disgraceful Dukes #1
Published by Avon on April 26th 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 370

“Four ladies.  Three days.  How bad can it be?”

FINAL DECISION: Funny and with unconventional characters, HOW THE DUKE WAS WON is a light and amusing Regency romance.  The unexpected characters and hysterical situations made this a winner.

THE STORY:  James, Duke of Harland requires a bride.  Having unexpectedly inherited the dukedom, he wants a bride who has a spotless reputation and is the epitome of what a duchess should be so that he can leave her in England to manage the dukedom’s affairs while he returns to his international interests.  To efficiently choose his bride, James invites four eligible women and their mothers to spend some time at hi estate so that he can choose among them.  One of the women is Lady Dorothea who is supposed to be a paragon but who quickly appears unconventional and attracts James despite his reluctance.  But Lady Dorothea has secrets.  The biggest one is that she is not Lady Dorothea at all but rather her illegitimate half-sister Charlene Beckett. Charlene has agreed to impersonate Lady Dorothea in order to secure a proposal from the duke. If Charlene does this she will gain a fortune which will allow her to care for those she loves.  The problem is that Charlene begins to care for the duke herself.

OPINION:  At points in this book I laughed hysterically.  This is definitely not your proper restrained Regency novel.  No, indeed, it is irreverent and tosses some tried and true Regency tropes on their head.

The hero is a duke, but he is neither stuffy nor conventional. At the same time, his view of what he needs in a wife is completely conventional and conservative.  He defaults to this view in order to keep his distance from any potential mate.  As Charlene tell him, James has become an expert at running away from love and connection.

Charlene may be impersonating her half sister, but despite her great accomplishments she has internalized the rejection that her father and society have given her.  Through her competition with the other ladies, she finds that she is not inferior in any way.  In fact, she wins the duke’s heart as well as the proposal.

I like that both James and Charlene are unconventional people and thus complement one another perfectly.  I loved how Charlene steals James’ heart despite his wish for a conventional wife.  The twist at the end as all is revealed endeared me further to him.

The only reason this isn’t a five star romance for me is that I generally prefer more drama and angst in my stories.  For a lighter, funny romance this one sparkles.

WORTH MENTIONING:  I suspect that we will see many of these characters again in future book in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  HOW THE DUKE WAS WON is the first book in The Disgraceful Dukes series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.