Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: historical romance, regency romance
Series: Gentlemen Authors #3
Published by Sophie Barnes on October 24, 2023
Purchasing Info: Author's Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo
She was the last person he ever expected to marry…
Callum Davis, Duke of Stratton, never expected to get along with Emily Brooke, but thanks to his ward, he starts to realize she’s pretty good company. The more time he spends with her, the better he likes her. But rather than let their relationship grow at a gradual pace, a pretend courtship leads to a whirlwind romance that quickly collapses when Emily finds out what Callum has written about her. Now he must make every effort to prove his love for her is real, or risk losing her forever.
There is only one person Lady Emily Brooke must avoid at all cost, and that’s the Duke of Stratton. Since her debut, the man has threatened her safety by stepping upon her toes, spilling drinks on her gown, and sending her head first into a fountain. But when he invites her for a walk so the boy in his care can spend time with her dog, she cannot resist. What surprises her most is how charming the duke can be. Until a mistake on his part makes her question his feelings and his intentions.
What has made this series so much fun is that it has followed the creation of a romance novel designed to capture the then-recently-late Jane Austen’s fans, not merely through the process of writing the thing but more specifically through the trials and travails of getting it published and into the hands of as many readers as possible.
The first book, A Duke’s Guide to Romance, planted the idea in the heads of three financially embarrassed dukes by a young gentlewoman who binds books in the back of her uncle’s popular bookshop. Along its merry way it introduces Anthony Gibbs, Duke of Westcliffe to Ada Quinn, the love of his life, AND gives both the dukes and the readers a peek into the way that books were printed and published in Jane Austen’s day.
The second book, A Duke’s Introduction to Courtship, moves the story about how books get made into the hands of the potential printers and publishers for the Gentlemen Authors’ completed novel. As Brody Evans, Duke of Corwin, learns the editing and publishing business from the ground up, he falls in love with the printing press’ crackerjack print compositor, Harriet Michaels. Who has done an entirely too convincing job convincing everyone, including Brody, that the print compositor is a young man named Harry.
Their book, A Seductive Scandal, is ready to be put into the hands of its readers. Which is where this third book and my envy come in. Book discovery has probably been an issue for authors, publishers and readers since the first text was chiseled into a stone tablet. It was a problem in Jane Austen’s day, it’s still a problem today and will probably still be a problem for as long as there are so many books and so little time. Meaning forever.
To convince people to buy their book, potential readers need to know it exists and believe that it will be worth their time to read. Which is where the Lady Librarian comes in. The Lady Librarian has the most popular book review column of the day, published in an equally popular and widely distributed newspaper. She has the Gentlemen Authors’ new novel at the top of her TBR (To Be Read) pile, and plans for her review to be published in the Mayfair Chronicle on the morning that A Seductive Scandal arrives in bookshops all over London.
Which it will be. Whether that review will be a paean or a pan is the saga told in A Duke’s Lesson in Charm. Because Lady Emily Brooke has come to believe, after years of clumsy contacts between herself and Callum Davis, Duke of Stratton, that this particular duke has no charm whatsoever.
Callum has no idea that the Lady Librarian is Lady Emily’s alter ego, while Emily is not aware that Callum and his two friends are the true authors of the book she’s been asked to review. The resulting misunderstandings, misidentifications and missteps threaten to scupper any possibility of A Seductive Scandal paddling the Gentlemen Authors’ respective fortunes away from the River Tick. And may just cost Callum and Emily the love of their lives.
Escape Rating A-: This final book in the Gentlemen Authors series is one that I have been anticipating with more than a bit of envy. The romance was lovely, but then ALL the romances in this series have been lovely.
What I was REALLY looking forward to was the story of a heroine who produces something extremely similar to what you are reading right this very minute. Lady Emily Brooke is a book reviewer. It’s the perfect ending to this series about getting a book to its readers, and I was just plain curious to see a bit of how this particular part of the process worked back then.
I do envy Lady Emily the reach of her publication and the size of her audience. She can literally make or break a book, which becomes the final bit of dramatic tension in this story.
But it’s hard to make an entire story about the solitary acts of reading and writing. We’d just be inside Emily’s head the whole way and probably not as entertained by that as she ultimately is by the book.
What we do have is a charming and sometimes fraught romance that manages to be both as filled with non-traditional female agency as the first two books in the series while still telling a story that is a bit closer to what is thought of as a traditional Regency romance.
Unlike the heroines of the first two books, Emily is a member of the ton in good standing. It’s Callum’s reputation that has taken a bit of a hit, both as a result of the behavior that wrecked his finances AND his quiet attempts to keep the bill collectors at bay by selling off some items that he won’t miss and letting go of some staff he can no longer afford to keep.
His title and his person seem to be the only assets Callum has on the ‘Marriage Mart’, and Emily’s father has some serious questions about Callum’s suitability to marry the well-dowered Emily. Her father’s objections are very nicely handled. Too often in historical romances, the father of the bride is a bit of a villain, but the Earl of Rosemont’s reaction to Callum’s suit for Emily’s hand hits all the right notes.
On the way to that suit, one of the best parts of the story is the way that Callum and Emily finally manage to get over their years of disastrous encounters through Callum’s adoption of his young cousin, and said cousin’s insta-love for Emily’s dog Heidi.
Once Heidi helps them leap over their initial apprehensions, their original animosity turns to real friendship, and then more, in the best enemies-to-lovers fashion – at least until a series of self-inflicted misapprehensions nearly breaks them apart.
All in all – and I realize there’s been a LOT of all in this review – A Duke’s Lesson in Charm was a marvelous and utterly fitting ending to what has been a lovely Regency romance series. As always, I can’t wait to see what the author comes up with next!