Collins, Manda. Duke with Benefits. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2017. ISBN-13: 978-1-250-10988-0. Print List Price: $7.99.
Manda Collins was one of few new-to-me authors I tried this year, starting with the fun first installment in her latest series, Studies in Scandal, Ready, Set, Rogue. And while some of the books in her backlist are rather flawed, the mystery aspect is always well executed, and balanced with the romance. Duke with Benefits is no different, as we follow two quirky characters who we were introduced to in the previous book, and a mystery/conspiracy element with a reveal, which while seeming somewhat predictable in hindsight, still kept me on the edge of my seat.
I did not expect to like Daphne as much as I did, due to her tendency toward bluntness. But I quickly came to like her and even identify with her somewhat upon reading this book. Sometimes, historical authors try to write “unconventional” heroines just for the sake for writing modern women in period clothing, but you get a real sense that Daphne is different, and not just “ahead of her time.” And there has been speculation among readers that she might have Aspergers or autism, and if that is the case, I commend Collins for writing such a wonderful addition to disability representation in historical romance.
At first, I wondered how Daphne and Dalton would end up together, as they don’t seem to have much in common. But they play off each other very well, and when they are together, you feel the chemistry between them. Collins scores further points by straying from the “jaded rake, lovesick miss” trope a lot of historicals seem to go for, by having Dalton pursuing her with marriage in mind first, and Daphne initially not being emotionally invested.