There are always romance novels with imaginative titles, but this year, the word “Duke” graces the covers of many. From an illegitimate duke to a modern Scot sword-maker duke, the choices are astounding. Here are nine of them for your reading enjoyment.
“The Illegitimate Duke” by Sophie Barnes is the newest in her “Diamonds in the Rough” series. It features a do-gooder, Lady Juliette Matthews, who wants to use her newly acquired fortune to help those less fortunate, and Florian Lowell, a physician, who is suddenly made heir to a duke. There is the mutual attraction, to be sure, but also a compelling reason why they can’t be together…or can they?
“What a Difference a Duke Makes” by Lenora Bell is part of the “School for Dukes” series. It’s a story that’s been told before, a duke with unruly children in need of a governess. But with Bell’s able writing and the main character Miss Mari Perkins, who is just the right combination of brash and bashful, the story sings. Read the first chapter and you won’t be able to put this one down. Mari’s goal is to find her family since she was raised in an orphanage, and family (and romance) fill this story.
“For the Duke’s Eyes Only” by Lenora Bell is another entry in the series “School for Dukes.” It continues the story begun in “What a Difference a Duke Makes” with the story of the duke’s sister, Lady India Rochester, avid archaeologist. It’s also filled with adventure as India races to find a priceless antique stolen from the British Museum. She must join forces with her rival, Daniel Bonds, the Duke of Ravenswood. He’s all about the chase (of relics, of course) and all about not falling in love. Will they find the stolen treasure or will they find something precious of their own? There’s adventure aplenty in this love-filled treasure hunt.
“My Once and Future Duke” by Caroline Linden is part of the “Wagers of Sin” series. In this story, Sophie Campbell survives betting at cards. She was orphaned and left to a grandfather who abandoned her at a boarding school without a backward glance. But her determination to control her own fate and her innate intelligence led her to gambling. When Jack Lindeville, the Duke of Ware, makes her a bet that could make her independent for the rest of her life, she can’t resist. The dialogue is clever, the writing snappy — a combination for a rollicking romance.
“Duchess by Design” is the first novel in a new series, “The Gilded Age Girls Club,” by Maya Rodale. A duke seeking a wealthy American wife ends up in New York and meets Adeline Black, a seamstress from the tenements of New York who is determined to open her own shop someday. They meet in the lobby of his hotel, and he is smitten. His proposal to her is not marriage, but what might happen is anyone’s guess. Except for romance readers who know that happily ever after is the always-truth in these pages.
“When a Duke Loves a Woman” by acclaimed author Lorraine Heath is part of her “A Sins for All Seasons” series. This book is not only a lovely romance, but also a timely story of rich versus working class. It’s one of several romance novels which focus on what it was like to be of the working class in Victorian England — something not traditionally done in historical romances. Gillie Trewlove is a bastard whose goal has been to own her own tavern. Yet a stranger once helped her as a baby, so when she finds someone in need on her own doorstep, she feels obliged to help the stranger. The stranger-in-need turns out to be a duke, and there seems to be no way that anything can become of their attraction. But teaching the duke about what working class London is about is important. Readers learn a lot about life in Victorian London, and that, combined with the romance, makes this a book not to miss.
“How to Forget a Duke” is part of the “Misadventures in Matchmaking” series by Vivienne Lorret. Her matchmaking agency has one rule — never fall in love with the client. And she’s determined to abide by that until she loses her memory after a fall on the duke’s estate. She has traveled there to find out what he’s hiding, but she ends up with much more than she bargained for when she can’t remember that he’s the client, and she realizes she is falling in love with him. Lorret creates unforgettable characters and fills the pages with emotion as she takes the reader on an adventure to the English coast.
“To Love a Duchess” by Karen Ranney is part of the “All for Love” trilogy. It’s the first book in the trilogy, so start with this first entry in a series meant to be about taking risks and letting love answer questions of the heart. In this story, Adam Drummond is working at Marsley House as a majordomo, but he’s really a spy. It’s his mission to get proof that the late Duke of Marsley was a traitor and betrayed his country. But there’s a problem — the Duke’s widow, his young Duchess Suzanne. She’s startled to realize that she’s attracted to her majordomo — a major faux pas. When she realizes that he’s not what he appears to be, can that attraction come to fruition? And what if the Duke truly was a traitor and she his unsuspecting wife? The story is compelling and filled with mystery and — of course — romance.
Alyssa Cole’s second romance in her “Reluctant Royals” series is “A Duke by Default.” While it’s the only modern romance in this group of historical duke-driven novels, it’s about a spoiled socialite from New York who decides that what will make her life real is an apprenticeship with a talented swordmaker in Scotland. Tavish McKenzie isn’t sure he wants a rich American apprentice giving him advice and telling him what to do, but when she finds out that he’s the secret son of a duke, one of her missions becomes teaching Tavish how to behave in polite society. Between creating weapons and the heat of romance — and a trip to Scotland thrown in — what more could any romance reader ask for?
Please note: This roundup is based on the mass market books sent by the publisher, Avon Books, for review purposes.