Bell, Lenora. The Devil’s Own Duke. New York: Avon Books, 2021.
ISBN-13: 978-0062993465 | $8.99 USD | 384 pages | Regency Romance
USA Today bestseller Lenora Bell returns to her Wallflowers vs. Rogues series with a romance between a lady and the scoundrel claiming to be next-in-line for her father’s title.
Lady Henrietta Prince is far too busy for romance. She’s dedicated her life to turning her family vineyards into a profitable sparkling wine venture. But when she shares a thrilling kiss at midnight with a handsome stranger, she’s captivated…until he claims to be the distant heir to her father’s dukedom.
Ash Ellis is a gambler who lives life on the edge. Now he’s locked his sights on a glittering prize and nothing will stand in his way.
When Henrietta is forced to marry the wicked rogue to keep her beloved vineyards, she vows that Ash will never have her trust, or her love. Even if his kisses are more intoxicating than the finest champagne.
His new bride is certainly beautiful, but biddable? Not so much. Ash will settle for nothing less than Henrietta’s total surrender…but is he the one in danger of losing his heart?
In the series
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley and am voluntarily posting a review. All opinions are my own.
The Devil’s Own Duke is a well-intentioned book, continuing Lenora Bell’s pivot away from a cast of all-Duke heroes to highlight heroes of the lower classes. The basic setup is great, although one key element is what leads to the whole thing falling apart as the story goes on.
The characters are intriguing. I really liked both Henrietta and Ash; class warfare is a staple of the historical romance genre, and I love what was done here, with Henrietta being a strong minded advocate for women, but has a lot of room to grow in terms of awareness about her privilege as a member of the aristocracy, and Ash wanting to leverage his possible connection to the aristocracy and eventual inheritance to work toward reform of child labor laws, influenced by his own dark childhood. While I wasn’t sure how to feel about him at first, especially with the way he dismissed her (albeit before he really knew who she was and that she was different), I came to warm up to him as the book went on.
I also really liked the appearances of the characters from prior books. The ladies’ society is still my favorite part of this series, and I loved seeing the women interacting and discussing women’s issues (which are not at all anachronistic, contrary to popular belief).
However, the book hinges on a deception, and in cases like this, I feel mishandling it always reflects badly on the deceiver. In a romance, that makes it hard for me to believe in the relationship going forward without them believably making amends. I understand Ash’s good intentions, as I previously noted, but I still was like, “Really?” And to have the reveal happen so late in the book, then be overtaken by an external crisis which literally threatens their lives, after which it apparently doesn’t even matter anymore? Like, Henrietta literally reverts from “it’s all a lie!” to reassuring him that he is noble, because of his ambitions. I mean, that’s great, and not untrue, but it still doesn’t make up for the fact that he lied! You may love him now, but what about later on when the glow of the honeymoon has worn off? What else does he have the capacity to lie about?
This book was sadly a bit of a disappointment, but that’s purely a matter of taste. Deception/Big Lie plots are ridiculously hard to pull off, and so I’m not surprised this one was more of a miss for me, and there’s also this sense of ambiguity here where even Ash isn’t 100% sure if he is the heir or not, something which obviously could not conclusively be answered, given the genre limitations. But it’s still a pretty fun read, and I think most historical romance fans will enjoy it.
Lenora Bell is a USA Today bestselling, award-winning author of historical romances with Avon Books. A teacher with an MFA in Creative Writing, Lenora has lived and worked on five continents. She’s currently fixing up a big old building in small town Alaska with her carpenter husband and two tiger-striped rescue kitties (#RomancingTheRenovation). She loves hearing from readers! Join her Facebook Reader Group for exclusive excerpts, giveaways and news: https://www.facebook.com/groups/Lenor…
Learn more at www.LenoraBell.com
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