Review: A Duke in Shining Armor

Review: A Duke in Shining ArmorA Duke in Shining Armor (Difficult Dukes, #1) by Loretta Chase
Series: Difficult Dukes #1
Published by Avon on November 28th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 400
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“She pushed open the window. ‘Adieu,’ she said. And climbed through, in a flutter of satin and lace.”

FINAL DECISION: I loved this book and the characters. Focused intensely on the hero and heroine, this book is about moments which change their lives, fate and chance, and making and living with their choices.

THE STORY: Hugh Philemon Ancaster, Duke of Ripley, has arrived in London for one of his best friend’s wedding. He is one of the trio of dukes known as Their Dis-Graces for their rakish and reckless behavior that had society hiding their innocent misses from them. Tasked with making sure the wedding goes off without a hitch, Ripley has a challenge when the brides slips out a window and disappears. Lady Olympia Hightower is in a position that women envy. Seven years the Most Boring Girl of the Season until she became engaged to one of the Dis-Graces. On the eve of her wedding, she has second thoughts and fueled by too much alcohol she makes a run for it.  Ripley is determined to protect Olympia on her run and intends on returning her to his friend — until he realizes he can’t.

OPINION: I have to admit that while I read all kinds of books and certainly all kinds of romance books, what I read for is relationship and characters. The external drama in this book is small — a woman engaged to one man falls for his best friend. What makes this book extra special is the exploration of how these two characters fall in love and deal with their love and their guilt.

The relationship and dialogue between Ripley and Olympia sparkles with humor and great emotion. The exploration of fate and missed chances and grabbing onto what one wants gave this story depth. It is would incredibly easy to formulate the story of the fiance who is unworthy or a liar or who doesn’t really care. Chase doesn’t take the easy route. These two feel intense guilt and really wonder if they had missed their chance.  Choices are not always easy or clear. There is a real call to action — what will you regret now, what will you regret forever?

There is such a connection between Ripley and Olympia — humor, exasperation, understanding, lust, anger. They days they spend together and the intensity of their experience brings them to love. Usually romances that only last days are difficult to understand. This book works beautifully in that sense. This is not insta-love but a mutual recognition of something more that is built upon years of awareness combined with an intense period of interaction.

There are some laugh out funny scenes in this book — including an indoor race that might be my favorite I’ve read this year. The intensity, humor and deep emotion of this book will stay with me for a long time.

WORTH MENTIONING: Introduced in this book, there are two other couples and the cast off Duke of Ashmont whose stories should be explored in this series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A DUKE IN SHINING ARMOR is the first book in the Difficult Dukes series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

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

four-half-stars

Top 10 Favorite Books of 2015

This list of ten books is not necessarily my best reviewed books of 2015.  Rather, these are ten books which stuck with me for one reason or another.

10. Pia Does Hollywood by Thea Harrison — This novella does exactly what I love.  It revisits characters from the series and moves their story forward.  This novella has a tight story line and reminds me how much I love Dragos and Pia as a couple.

9. The Rogue Not Taken by Sarah MacLean — A classic road story, this first book in MacLean’s new series ticks all the classic romantic tropes — two protagonists who start out hating and fighting one another but soon cannot help being attracted to one another, a highwayman, illicit nights spent on the road together, and a rake brought to his knees.

8. Secret Sisters by Jayne Ann Krentz — Perfect balance between romance and suspense in this story of the past that comes back to haunt the heroine. I loved the twists and turns of the suspense story and also the connection between the hero and heroine.

7. The Bourbon Kings by J.R. Ward — A book I was inclined to dislike merely because of its description which sounds like a 1980s Dynasty or Dallas description, I found the story of this rich family that is falling apart on all sides to be compelling.  These are not always likable characters but their development makes great drama. The story is a  sweeping and epic family drama with a lot of romance.

6. Luck be a Lady by Meredith Duran — I love these cross-class romances.  Here, the hero is a criminal mastermind and the heroine is a woman who wants nothing more than to be a strong business woman.  Challenging all her assumptions Catherine has about herself, Nick is clever, daring, rough and sexy.  Their interactions are what I remember most from this book.

5. Archangel’s Enigma by Nalini Singh — Nassir, Nassir, Nassir.  Cuddly as a cat and as dangerous as a viper, Nassir is such unique character.  His search for his mate is as singular as Nassir’s own nature.  I loved that we get to know so much about Nassir and yet he becomes more mysterious and compelling.  Mee-yow!

4. Rock Redemption by Nalini Singh — The only author with two books on my list, Nalini Singh has two diverse genres.  Rock Redemption is her contemporary series about the members of a rock band.  When Noah and Kit were introduced earlier in the series, readers discovered that Noah purposely destroyed any potential relationship between them by having Kit catch him having sex with a groupie.  How these two find a path together is my most heartbreaking and angst filled read of the year.

3. Dukes Prefer Blondes by Loretta Chase — This book has a quirky relationship between a barrister and an aristocrat.  The two of them have a very bantering relationship with lots of arguments and discussions which draw them together.  I always love the sense of place that Chase novels have with many historical details.  Chase makes a stuffy lawyer very sexy.

2. Sweetest Scoundrel by Elizabeth Hoyt — Hot, hot, hot. This story between a sensualist and a woman who fears even being alone with a man is romantic and sexy while also being sweet and gentle.  Hoyt’s Maiden Lane series is one of my all time favorites and this book’s story is big and bold and sexy — and so is Asa Makepeace.

1. The Legend of Lyon Redmond by Julie Anne Long — My favorite book of the year did something that is almost impossible — exceeded high expectations. The final book of the Pennyroyal Green series, this book tells the star-crossed lovers story of Lyon and Olivia whose families rival the Capulets and Montagues. Lyon and Olivia’s story has been a catalyst throughout the series and thus readers had high expectations for their story. This book was beautiful, emotional and one of the best closures of a series I have ever read.

Review: Dukes Prefer Blondes

Dukes Prefer Blondes
Dukes Prefer Blondes by Loretta Chase
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lovely Bickering Couple Who Are Wrongly Perfect for One Another

“To begin with, he was obnoxious.”

FINAL DECISION: Simply adorable with a hero and heroine who are clever and witty to one another. The banter is high in this one. A social mismatched between an aristocratic heiress and a barrister is filled with laughter and a serious romance that is a keeper.

THE STORY: Lady Clara Fairfax is slowly being smothered by her role in society. She keeps getting marriage proposals from men who don’t interest her. She has begun to want more. When she sees a young seamstress in training upset because her brother has disappeared, Clara becomes determined to help. Clara ends up seeking legal help and meets Mr. Oliver “Raven” Radford, a barrister who also is in line of become a duke unless his cousin straightens out his own life. Raven is brilliant and steps on people’s toes. As the two join forces to help the young boy, they also bicker and argue into a sens of respect and then something more. But can a man who wants nothing to do with the aristocracy and a woman bred for nothing else ever have a future together?

OPINION: This was a book that snuck up on me. The pages went by and when the book ended, I realized that I adored it and went back to re-read my favorite parts. The fact that I wanted to re-read so quickly is a good sign that this book will be on my keeper shelf for years to come.

Clara and Raven make such a terrific bickering couple. No one does bickering love better than Loretta Chase. The main characters argue and push against one another and seem to be entirely wrong for one another until the moment when it becomes clear that there could never be anyone better.

This is a cross-social love story where it turns out that both social positions are necessary to the success of the romance. I love what Chase has done with Clara’s character. She has grown from the young woman who was willing to be led to become a woman of substance and determination. My favorite part of the courtship between Clara and Raven is his willingness to allow her to be herself and not be constrained by the rules for women. HIs acceptance of Clara is rather sexy and romantic. He sees her for who she is and he falls in love with her.

Honestly, however, my favorite part of this book is Raven himself. Irritating, brutally honest, brilliant and willing to annoy people to do right, he is one of my favorite heroes. This is a self-made man who is happy with his life but finds it turned upside down by this beautiful aristocratic woman. When he falls for her, he is willing to change everything for her. Sexy, sweet, annoying, nerdy, talented — I adored him as a character.

The plot of this book is multilayered. There is the story of the children who bring Clara to Raven and her determination to save the brother who has fallen into bad company. There is the story of the person who is trying to kill Raven (because he is the kind of man that people think about killing). There is also the story of Raven’s relationship with his cousin the duke. The threads of these stories are seamlessly woven into the romance in a way that everything advances as a whole.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book has a slow buildup for the romance but it is so worth it.

CONNECTED BOOKS: DUKES PREFER BLONDES is the fourth book in the Dressmakers series but it can be read as a standalone as it is really a spin off from the original series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.