Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: historical romance, regency romance
Series: Gentlemen Authors #1
Published by Sophie Barnes on August 29th, 2023
Purchasing Info: Author's Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo
He only wanted to purchase a novel, now he’s falling madly in love…
Anthony Gibbs, Duke of Westcliffe, needs an income. Bills must be paid, appearances kept, and arrangements made for his sisters' debuts. In short, he must either marry or seek employment, neither of which sounds remotely compelling. But then he meets Ada and she suggests a third option. Now he's penning a novel while losing his heart to the bookish miss, a woman he cannot afford to marry unless he’s prepared to make some difficult choices.
Ada Quinn has no connections, no dowry, and consequently no prospects. Her plan for the future is limited to her skill as a bookbinder. Until Mr. Gibbs walks into her uncle’s bookshop and starts to romance her. Handsome, thoughtful, and utterly charming, Mr. Gibbs is precisely the sort of man Ada always dreamed of falling in love with. Until she discovers he’s not who he claims to be and that he intends to marry another.
Three years before our story begins, Anthony Gibbs, Duke of Westcliffe and his friends Brody Evans, the Duke of Corwin and Callum Davis, the Duke of Stratton survived a life-changing catastrophe by working through their collective shock and grief together when their aristocratic fathers were killed during a rare instance of random bovine combustion.
Meaning all of their fathers were caught in the literal crossfire while purchasing livestock when a cow pen exploded. (Fertilizer really is highly explosive, and the primary ingredient in fertilizer is manure. Which is what naturally falls out of a cow’s backside to rest on the floor of their pens.)
Ahem. Apologies. I couldn’t resist.
While sticking together solving one set of problems by sharing their grief, it created another, as they spent the past three years frittering away their time and wasting their money in pursuit of one distraction after another while neglecting their responsibilities, their estates and the increasingly empty state of their coffers.
The bills have all come due, they are all swimming up the River Tick. They are individually and collectively skint – or at least heading there fast. And keeping up appearances is damn expensive all by itself, without the added costs of deferred maintenance on their estates AND making sure their dependents are taken care of.
In Westcliffe’s case, those dependents include his two younger sisters, who have just reached the age for their first Seasons in the ‘Marriage Mart’. Seasons that are critical for their futures, but are guaranteed to put an equally critical drain on the family’s remaining cash.
All three of the 20-something Dukes entertain the possibility of marrying for money. It would not be an uneven trade, but a marriage of convenience would make for a shatteringly awful life. Particularly as the woman who has set her cap at Westcliffe is a conniving, manipulative harpy.
Which is when Ada Quinn walks into Westcliffe’s life. Or rather, he drops a book into hers. Literally. Onto her head. And both of their wits are addled ever after – but in the best way possible.
Westcliffe’s conversation with Ada in her uncle’s bookshop sets all of their lives into glorious motion. First, and most important for the series as a whole, their conversation puts the idea into his head that he and his friends can save their finances by writing the kind of novels that made the late Jane Austen famous. Readers are crying out for more books like hers, but the author has recently passed away and no one has taken up her pen.
Second, and most important for the protagonists of this first entry in the series, Westcliffe and Ada bring each other to sparkling life in a way that neither expected or planned on. In a way that seems guaranteed to break Ada’s heart, as she is all too aware of the disparity in their stations.
But, in a romance worthy of Ada’s favorite Austen novels, Westcliffe is convinced that society can go hang and love will find a way. As long as they trust in each other, communicate honestly with each other, and brush all of the harpies away.
Escape Rating A-: A Duke’s Guide to Romance is a deliciously frothy confection, light and fluffy and full of wit and sparkle with just the barest hint of a misunderstandammit to keep the characters on their toes until the very end.
As a Regency, it’s an excellent antidote to follow my recent reads in both the Sebastian St. Cyr and Wrexford & Sloane series, as they both explore and expose the seamy underbelly of the Regency. A Duke’s Guide to Romance, and I expect the rest of its series of Gentlemen Authors will as well, floats lightly on top of the glittering effervescence that we tend to expect in a Regency romance.
At the same time, it doesn’t shy away from the difference in social station between Westcliffe and Ada – at least from Ada’s perspective. As much as she’s fallen in love with the man, it’s clear from their differing perspectives on the potential issues that they face that she is the more realistic of the pair. The silver spoon he was born with, as well as the privilege of having been born male, leads him to believe that all their problems can be swept away easily, where she knows it just isn’t so.
Which leads to the big misunderstandammit that almost derails their happiness, as he keeps forging ahead without informing her of his decisions and change of heart because the world has always bent to his will in a way that it never has to hers.
At the same time, I very much liked the way that their romance didn’t merely invoke Jane Austen’s work but also served as an homage to it as the progress of their romance would have fit right into hers. Something that is highlighted in the way that the romance Westcliffe and company are writing plays into the romance that Westcliffe is experiencing and vice versa.
All in all, A Duke’s Guide to Romance was a very pleasant way to while away a stormy afternoon. I’m looking forward to seeing this delicious series continue with A Duke’s Introduction to Courtship and A Duke’s Lesson in Charm in the months ahead.