Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-235222-4
Historical Romance, 2015
Now this is a good kind of surprise. I was starting to think of the author as the Meghan Trainor of romance, all cutesy and such in a way that never feels truly natural to me, when she comes up with Put Up Your Duke. Don’t be fooled by the title – there is some unexpectedly heavy (but not too heavy, of course) but well-done angst here.
The Duke of Gage is not really the Duke of Gage. Okay, what happens is that they discover some irregularities in the family tree that led to the current Duke to be relieved of the title and the goodies that come along with it, and these goodies are now handed over to carefree rake Nicholas Smithfield. He’s like, oh well, let’s see how this goes. Meanwhile, Isabella Sawford is all but doing cartwheels out of joy. She is supposed to marry the Duke of Gage, and while she is, as always, forced to be the perfect, beautiful, and dutiful daughter who goes along with everything her parents say, the idea of being handed off to marriage in such a manner makes her want to scream. Now, she seems to be given a mighty reprieve, so hallelujah, blessed be the Virgin… oh wait, her parents insist that the new Duke of Gage is contractually obligated to marry her so the wedding ceremony is still on.
Both Nicholas and Isabella think that the other person is easily one of the most beautiful people ever, but Nicholas does not want Isabella to force herself to be his wife unless she wants to on her own accord. Isabella wonders why her husband prefers to spend time with her talking and playing cards and what not, instead of pawing at her. Such a story has been done many times before, but what could have been a trite and boring affair turns into a very sweet tale of a gentleman rogue who turns out to be the perfect boyfriend ever. Nicholas is so patient, sweet, and understanding that the cynical part of me snorts and wonders whether he is for real, while the rest of me thinks he’s just too adorable.
Isabella is also a pretty good heroine in her own right. She’s a bit more complicated than the ice princess she seems to be at first, and I like how the author manages to make Isabella’s motivations and behavior feel real and even sympathetic. When the heroine’s sister accuses her of being a martyr, I actually find myself thinking that, well, if Isabella is a martyr, this is one martyr that I can actually understand, relate to, and like. She has a good sense of awareness when it comes to her own behavior, and I like that she manages to come off as a person with a good balance of strengths and vulnerabilities.
Put Up Your Duke doesn’t have much conflict, and what conflict is there can be on the predictable side, but the main characters manage to give me many compelling reasons to keep turning the pages. This is such a sweet fantasy, with just the right amount of well-done angst to keep things from being cavity-inducing. The author has put up a good show here!