Sebastian, Cat. A Duke in Disguise. New York: Avon Impulse, 2019.
Mass Market Paperback | $5.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0062821614 | 291 pages | Regency Romance
Cat Sebastian strikes again, returning to form with another solid read with A Duke in Disguise, after the near-miss of her last release, A Gentleman Never Keeps Score. And admittedly, a lot of it has to do with the heroine, Verity, one of the most personally compelling Sebastian characters I’ve read about to date. She was a nice surprise, and hearing about her being bisexual in some of the promotional material led me to go from “maybe I’ll check it out if I like Unmasked by the Marquess” to “OMG, I’m so excited to finally see more bi rep, especially in the context of the fact that ending up with someone of the opposite sex not erasing the fact that this person is bi.”
And it completely blew away my expectations in my regard. I feel like there’s such different expectations for queer women than there are for queer men in socially conscious historicals, because of the fact that men were more frequently criminalized in those days. Still, it’s so fascinating to see someone who isn’t confused about who she is or who she’s attracted to, even to the point of assuming everyone else feels the same way, but just goes with the opposite sex due to societal pressure. And it’s great that Verity is a woman with a sexual past, making her stand out from the flock of virginal heroines, and her past lover is someone that readers of UbtM will recognize (although there are no connections to that book other than that, so this is for all intents and purposes a standalone).
Another factor in my adoring the book is the friends-to-lovers dynamic, and how it’s shaken up by Ash’s discoveries about his origins. Ash is one of those heroes I love, who is incredibly sweet, and I loved the genuine bond that he and Verity share, and I genuinely felt for them when it seemed impossible for them to be together without there being some consequences.
The book also feels like one of the most “historical” of Sebastian’s books, if that makes any sense, dealing with topics of the day that would be relevant to the characters like the gothic novel craze and issues surrounding equal rights. It’s so refreshing to read a historical romance that is well-grounded in its era and aims to provide the reader with some enlightenment, as well as provide an escape, as the former is becoming all to rare these days.
I do have some minor quibbles with the climax and the way the villain was built up to not be much of a threat in the end. It all wrapped up a little too quickly, and I felt he had been built up too much to just go out without really having some kind of final showdown with Ash.
Otherwise, this was a great book, and a great blend of discussing more complex issues in the context of a sweet and gripping romance. I would recommend this to fans of a more unique take on historical romance.