How to Dance with a Duke by Manda Collins has all the elements to make a delightfully frothy Regency romance; the hero is a Duke as well as a wounded warrior and the heroine is a bluestocking who only needs a little wardrobe consultation to transform from ugly duckling to beautiful swan.
Then there are the added elements from the dawn of modern archaeology, the men of the mysterious Egyptian Explorer’s Club who refuse to let our heroine translate her father’s diaries from his most recent expedition. And there are mummies and curses and of course, grave robbers and black market collectors. A little mystery and mayhem always spices up a romance.
This romance starts out a bit rocky. When our couple first meet outside that Egyptian Explorer’s Club, they have both been shown the door. Miss Cecily Hurston, because unmarried ladies are not permitted inside under any circumstances. His Grace the Duke of Winterson, because he is not a member. And he is never going to be a member, either. On the Club’s most recent expedition, his brother, Mr. William Dalton, disappeared under mysterious circumstances, and is presumed dead. Cecily’s father, Viscount Hurston, led that expedition, had some kind of falling out with his secretary, and now lies in a coma. His death is believed to be imminent.
Of course, Hurston’s secretary was the Duke’s brother William. Lucas wants to find out what Hurston knows, but Hurston isn’t talking. He isn’t conscious. Failing that, Lucas would like to talk to Cecily. But when they meet outside the Explorer’s Club, they have their first fight. Not their last.
In spite of the continuous arguments, they finally agree to join forces. Lucas needs to find out what happened to his younger brother, not just for his own sake, but also for his mother’s. Not knowing is eating them alive. Cecily needs her father’s journals to figure out what happened; the stories going around London of a mummy’s curse may be ludicrous, but her father is deathly ill. Without the journals, she has no answers. Her father wrote in cipher, and Cecily is the only one who can translate the cipher besides Lucas’ brother. If something tragic occurred that brought on a seizure, they all need to know what that event might have been.
The action in this story takes on the breakneck pace of a serial melodrama, between the romance, the mummy’s curse, and the society parties that form the backdrop of the investigation into the Egyptian Explorer’s Club and its possibly nefarious ways.
The Duke doesn’t actually dance. War wound.
Escape Rating B-: This is a romance defined by how much the hero and heroine fight their attraction to each other, fight with each other, and fight about everything that happens between and around them. If “obey” was in the marriage vows, Cecily probably didn’t repeat that bit.
I would have enjoyed this book more but I felt that Cecily held on to her grievances a little too long. I understood why she protected herself after her disastrous first engagement, but she stayed angry and withdrawn too long after the marriage, which takes place in the middle of the book. Cecily and Lucas’ arguing was part of their pattern, but her cold withdrawal went on too long for this reader.