How the Duke Was Won
Book 1 in the Disgraceful Dukes series
Author Lenora Bell
Narrated by Beverley A. Crick
Publication date Dec 20, 2016
Running time 10 hrs
I voluntarily reviewed an advance readers copy of this book. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
James, the scandalously uncivilized Duke of Harland, requires a bride with a spotless reputation for a strictly business arrangement. Lust is prohibited, and love is out of the question. Charlene Beckett, the unacknowledged daughter of an earl and a courtesan, has just been offered a life-altering fortune to pose as her half-sister, Lady Dorothea, and win the duke’s proposal. All she must do is:
- Be the perfect English rose (Ha!)
- Breathe, smile, and curtsy in impossibly tight gowns (blast Lady Dorothea’s sylph-like figure)
- Charm and seduce a wild duke (without appearing to try)
- Keep said duke far, far from her heart (no matter how tempting)
When secrets are revealed and passion overwhelms, James must decide if the last lady he should want is really everything he needs. And Charlene must decide if the promise of a new life is worth risking everything . . . including her heart.
With “The Prince and the Pauper” and “dastardly villain” themes as well as obvious social messages on women’s rights, poverty, the rights of the aristocracy, prejudice, prostitution, etc. this doesn’t feel like a unique romance novel. The characters may be a little surprising at times but it also felt a little bit too modern for the 1817 timeline.
This was in the language when I felt some phrasing was a little bit too current for the time, and the thoughts ascribed to both Charlene and James. Charlene, a diminutive of Charles, and related to Charlotte and Caroline, seems an unusual name for the 1790s, when the character would have been born. One name-history I saw placed its origins in the 20th century but it is fairly hard to determine and Charlotte was a popular name of the period.
There were also a few plot areas I felt were either not developed enough or the loose end remained untied at the end of the book. They did not necessarily feel as if they were coming up in another episode of the series.
It’s nice to think of Dukes being a bit counterculture and the 1800s fomenting a more pluralistic period, or at least more humane, of the British class system.
I listened twice to the entire story to find what might serve to set the audiobook apart. Honestly, it was a little pedestrian for me.
Beverly Crick is not my favorite narrator, but she does a commendable job here – especially given the mix of Latin-American, British and even Japanese accents. One portrayal of a Latin-accented child was spot on.
This was not my favorite Regency novel in recent memory. I do read a lot of them however and lately feel a little immune to their charms.