Thursday, March 2, 2023

Book Review - Always Be My Duchess (Taming of the Dukes, #1) by Amalie Howard




Always Be My Duchess by Amalie Howard is a tale of two opposite people who are brought together by a mutual interest in accomplishing their goals. Lord Lysander Blackstone is the Duke of Montcroix, and he only has one goal and interest on his mind. He singularly cares to increase his already considerable fortune in order to surpass his late father’s legacy, and has no interest in finding a “duchess”. After a series of betrayals and broken promises, he finds it easier to keep his emotions in check if he focuses on growing his empire. However, a piece of real estate that he needs for his budding railroad empire is blocked by the eccentric owner of the property. The owner is only willing to sell the property to someone who believes in love and who wants to build and raise a family on the land. Lysander is devastated and annoyed that his cold personality and lack of a love life could jeopardize his business plans. He starts to lose hope for being a candidate the owner will sell to until he crosses paths with the alluring Miss Geneviève Valery.

Geneviève “Nève” Valery once had a promising ballet dancer career and her entire life ahead of her. However, her dreams and career were destroyed when Nève refused to become the mistress of a wealthy patron. Nève is out of work and desperate to find a new job but her scorned lover makes it impossible for her to land any roles. 

Nève crosses paths with the Duke when she saves him from a group of unsavory men when he was in a vulnerable state. He makes her an offer that is hard to resist. Nève is skeptical if the Duke will act honorably given her last encounter with the ton, in which the Duke is a prominent member. After hitting a dead end in job prospects, Nève decides to take up the Duke on his offer to be his fake fiancée. The plan is to help convince the eccentric seller to sell Lysander the property he desires, and Nève would be well compensated if the deal goes through. Nève and Lysander are both only focused on getting their side of the deal, until they realize that they might get more than they bargained for!

Nève and Lysander are both strong characters who are determined to keep their feelings in check but find themselves instantly drawn to each other. It was interesting and fun seeing how the duo tried to ignore their budding feelings for each other but kept finding themselves in compromising situations. The novel was set in the Victorian era but it could have taken place in any era with minor edits to the story. The elements of the Victorian era (other than the class issues) did not really come into play. There were no facts of the era or the time period to build the world in the mind of the reader. It just seemed to be chosen by the author for the romantic aspect of this time period.

I enjoyed the first half of the novel as it showed the pair maneuvering their relationship from two parties with a business arrangement while being romantically attracted to each other. However, towards the middle it got repetitive. Lysander kept making the same mistake of doing something nice but not taking into consideration Nève’s feelings, even though she told him how she felt. This could have been due to ignorance because of his social standing and privilege.  Nève also ran hot and cold. She was not consistent – she was either a fiery firecracker or a damsel in distress. 

The book was mildly reminiscent of “Pretty Woman” but it's not a remake of the story. The novel is a predictable read with no unexpected twists. The ending does leave an opening for another character to get their “happy ending” in the next book in the series. The book had adult content and language, and isn’t for readers who prefer clean romances.

 **Disclosure - I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest opinion**

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