Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-268556-8
Contemporary Romance, 2018
I am still getting young adult vibes from A Duke by Default, the second book in Alyssa Cole’s Reluctant Royals series. Note that I say young adult, not new adult – the main characters here seem almost adolescent in their cutesy thirteen-year old first crush way of dealing with their feelings. Hence, things can get creepy when they whip out their adult parts to start doing the nasty. It’s like someone had spliced some sex scenes into the middle of a Disney movie.
Even then, I think I’m just too old for this book. Everything about this one just leaves me feeling like some old fossil who doesn’t get what the young ones like these days, sigh.
Portia Hobbs is a socialite who has decided when the story opens that she’s going to be a brand new person. No more hangovers, pointless sex, and other embarrassing shenanigans – now is the time for the new her: a responsible person who can do something for herself. So, she goes over to Scotland to take up an apprenticeship with a guy that makes swords and takes part in medieval reenactments in Scotland. Alas, when she gets there, the sword dude in person acts like a boor because we love all these emotionally distant men who growl and snarl for no good reason.
Travis McKenzie is royalty – I’m not spoiling the story, please; this book is part of a series that has the word “Royals” in the title – and he is also financially well off to the point that his failing business is still not going to deter him from rejecting any assistance from anyone. Certainly not from a woman who makes his sword fit poorly in its scabbard, because remember, he is a growling manly man with a stubble and big guns and cake, and he’s an emotionally unapproachable dude too because that’s what a manly man is supposed to be. Then suddenly he is kissing her, and she is kissing him back, and oh my god, this is a young adult novel, people – put those swollen bits away before the kids get scarred for life!
So, the romance has a “Hee hee, let’s antagonize the other person because we, like, secretly like like like that person, hee hee!” vibe to it, the hero’s horny-growling manly man Eeyore act gets boring fast because I’m no longer fifteen, and the heroine’s incessant perkiness that comes complete with finger-snapping in-your-face sass flounders when she’s bouncing her act against someone who is basically a block of stone with a picture of a frowning emoji pasted on one side. Portia naturally works her magic on every sword in Travis’s armory as well as his business when she’s not charming his friends and family, and he’s all, oh, oh, I’m a manly man with a growling pooh-bear face SUDDENLY I AM KISSING HER AND TOUCHING HER NAUGHTY BITS OH MY GOD I BET NICHOLAS SPARKS WISHED HE HAD WRITTEN A HERO LIKE ME all over the place.
Sure, A Duke by Default is readable, although there are some odd point of view hops here and there, but I’m not sure how the author managed to turn a story with so many big, long, dangerous swords into basically a clichéd, predictable, and hence bland Sassy McSassy’s Adventures in Grouchy Pooh Bear Land story. It’s not a bad book, but god, how I wish it had been a more entertaining one.