A Duke by Any Other Name
A Duke by Any Other Name was exactly the book my anxiety brain needed right now. I’ll be honest, I found previous books in the series to be a bit slow, but right now I will take all the details of Regency living. Give me pages about when is the best time to separate the irises in the walled garden. Descriptions of the famous cheese-with-dill the heroine’s estate produces? Yes, please.
Aside from being incredibly soothing, this book also has a really fantastic external conflict keeping the main couple apart. It’s a plot I haven’t seen before, and, tempered by all of those relaxing English country living details, didn’t feel so dire as to overwhelm.
Lady Althea Wentworth is the sister of a newly-made duke who also has tons of money, but has been rejected (and bullied) by the ton. Althea is hiding away on her country estate, looking for some way to get society to accept her. Her neighbor, Nathaniel, Duke of Rothaven, is a notorious recluse who is only seen when galloping his horse at night (which seems unsafe, but okay). Althea and Nathaniel’s paths cross when her pigs get into his orchard and he has to demand she send someone to fetch them. Meet cute via pigs.
Althea figures that if she can get the most reclusive duke ever to accept her invitations, it will open doors for her socially. Nathaniel is immediately intrigued by Althea and they enter into this wonderful bantery friendship. As a Wisconsinite I can appreciate that Althea’s lessons on how to navigate Society come in exchange for a wheel of cheese.
Nathaniel is one of my favorite hero archetypes: the loveable curmudgeon who wants to protect those he cares about – and he’s keeping a big secret, though not from Althea. There are some darker elements, including PTSD and an abusive father, but it never feels overwhelming. Every time I thought the details might be too much, we’d circle back to Nathaniel’s walled garden and I felt much better.
There’s also a significant cast of secondary characters, from servants plotting to set the Rothaven estate right, meddling sisters-in-law, a neighborhood gossip who is ghastly in a Mean Girls kind of way, and a hot vicar. All of these characters were fleshed out and felt like real people, not archetypes. Even the gossipy neighbor has a reason for her actions other than “she’s mean.” Altogether, the quality of the dialogue, the intricacy of the conflict, and the details about Regency country living offset the darker elements, resulting in a very comforting read.
With her trademark wit, New York Times bestselling author Grace Burrowes delivers a charming Regency romance featuring a duke in disguise and a hellion trying to convince Society she’s a lady.
Nathaniel, Duke of Rothhaven, lives in seclusion, leaving his property only to gallop his demon-black steed across the moors by moonlight. Exasperated mamas invoke his name to frighten small children, though Nathaniel is truly a decent man — maybe too decent for his own good. That’s precisely why he must turn away the beguiling woman demanding his help.
Lady Althea Wentworth has little patience for dukes, reclusive or otherwise, but she needs Rothhaven’s backing to gain entrance into Polite Society. She’s asked him nicely, she’s called on him politely, all to no avail — until her prize hogs just happen to plunder the ducal orchard. He longs for privacy. She’s vowed to never endure another ball as a wallflower. Yet as the two grow closer, it soon becomes clear they might both be pretending to be something they’re not.
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