Series: Taming of the Dukes #1
Published by Forever on 2022-07-12
Length: 369 pages
Reviewing eARC from Netgalley
Reading Challenges: #NGEW2022, 2022 New Release Challenge, COYER 2022
Pretty Woman meets the Bridgertons in this witty, vivacious historical take on 90s romcoms by USA Today bestselling author Amalie Howard.
Lord Lysander Blackstone, the stern Duke of Montcroix, has only one interest: increasing his considerable fortune. After a series of betrayals, he keeps his emotions buried deep. Money, after all, can't break a man's heart—or make promises it can’t keep. But when his reputation for being heartless jeopardizes a new business deal, he finds himself seeking a most unusual—and alluring—solution . . .
Once an up-and-coming ballerina, Miss Geneviève Valery is now hopelessly out of work. After refusing to become a wealthy patron's mistress, Nève was promptly shown the door to the streets. When she accidentally saves the life of a handsome duke, she doubts the encounter will go any better than her last brush with nobility. But instead of propositioning her, Montcroix makes Nève an offer she would be a fool to refuse: act as his fake fiancée in exchange for fortune enough to start over.
Only neither is prepared when very real feelings begin to grow between them. They both stand to win . . . but only if they’re willing to risk their hearts.
Always Be My Duchess by Amalie Howard is the first in her historical romance series Taming of the Dukes. Following a ballerina barely making ends meet and a duke in need of a fiancé, the story is reminiscent of classic 90s romcoms and would make Nora Ephron proud. There is so much to love about this story: fake relationship, grumpy-sunshine trope, neurodivergent main character, and banter.
The story opens on the Duke of Montcroix, Lysander Blackstone, on his way home from a night of drinking, theater, and failed attempts to buy a piece of land needed to expand his railroad when he comes across a beautiful specter of a woman upset and muttering things that would make a sailor blush. Never let it be said that the duke is not a gentleman. Intrigued he stops to make sure she is alright, and quickly the pair become tangled with a group of street thugs. The woman aids in his escape, and as he doesn’t quite want to let her go just yet, he makes a proposal: she attends a ball with him the next evening, pretending to be his fiancé and he pays her an ungodly amount to do so. Pretty Woman vibes?
I fell in love with Lysander nearly immediately. His quirks are endearing, and my heart broke for him on several occasions. The author beautifully illustrates a type of neurodivergence with him that will resonate with readers familiar with it. Lysander thinks literally and takes things as at face value, a black and white version of events with no grey middle. This makes it hard for him to relate to others on an emotional level. His upbringing also taught him to hide his feelings behind an uncaring mask. Though when a smile breaks through it is beautiful.
Nevé is a wonderful character to complement Lysander. She has an emotionally driven, artistic soul which can often clash with the duke’s line of thinking. It’s hard for her to understand how cold and oftentimes callous he is. However those little glimpses behind his mask endear him to her. I love her passion and her loyalty to those she loves. She also takes a moral stance and pushes for those things during a time when most women would have been ridiculed for doing so.
Overall, I really enjoyed Always Be My Duchess. I loved the banter and sweet relationship that builds between Nevé and Lysander. They are easy to root for. Highly recommend this steamy historical romance for readers who enjoy romcoms.