A Lady for a Duke
Author: Alexis Hall
What I’m Talking About:
Though it was the war that tore them apart, Viola Caroll and Justin de Vere, the Duke of Gracewood, have been fighting for their lives since long before Waterloo. Born into a body and societal expectations that were destroying her with every breath, Viola seizes a new life from the battlefield in a sacrifice more costly than she could have imagined. Despite the power and wealth his name has granted him, the only light Gracewood has ever known came from his dearest friend—and the ghosts that remain are slowly killing him. Still, if the dead can breathe, the damned can love. And he’s not about to see it lost a second time.
In many ways, A Lady for a Duke was very difficult to read. Not only has Viola lived through the blood and death of war, she has spent her entire life struggling to be herself. She fears that, if any of the lie she was forced to live for so long touches the truth she’s fighting for now, everything will be taken away from her—a restraint of other people’s making stretched too far, snatching her back into a darkness she knows she won’t survive. Likewise, Gracewood suffers from a leg injury he received in battle, as well as PTSD (though there is no vocabulary for it within the novel’s setting), and is well aware that, if the stigma of the former makes him barely tolerable among the ton, the latter would see him ostracized and ridiculed beyond bearing.
Happily, if unsurprisingly, I found most of the secondary characters in A Lady for a Duke to be wonderful in their own right. Lady Marleigh for her often-irritating, yet well-meaning (and infuriatingly accurate) instigation of much of the narrative. Miranda for her worry and anger, and her curiosity and forgiveness. Pretty, somewhat vacuous Badger for being…Badger. Of all of them, however, my absolute favorite was Lady Lillimere. As a widow of considerable status and means, she has satisfied her duty to both family and husband, and is free to say and do what other women are not. Which makes her kind of perfect.
Not everything in A Lady for a Duke is dark and serious. When it is funny it is snort-your-tea funny, thanks largely to the above mentioned Lady Lillimere. Her observations on the hypocrisy of the aristocracy, the value of husbands as commodities, not to mention her accurate, if delightfully brutal, estimation of Miranda’s fiercest rival, etc. were both fun and appreciated. Also…Lord. Wankerbunk. Additionally, Viola’s interactions with Little Bartholomew (her nephew), were welcome, sweet diversions that I enjoyed a great deal.
In the end, I found Alexis Hall’s A Lady for a Duke to be complicated, necessarily affecting, often charming, optimistically loving story. The obstacles Viola and Gracewood must overcome, both singly and together, are significant, and the author addresses the gravity of the greater struggles they represent extraordinary well. And still, with just enough teasing moments of joy and well-placed levity throughout the narrative to provide needed balance, this truly was an exceptional read.
My Rating: A- Enjoyed A Lot
About the Book:
When Viola Caroll was presumed dead at Waterloo she took the opportunity to live, at last, as herself. But freedom does not come without a price, and Viola paid for hers with the loss of her wealth, her title, and her closest companion, Justin de Vere, the Duke of Gracewood.
Only when their families reconnect, years after the war, does Viola learn how deep that loss truly was. Shattered without her, Gracewood has retreated so far into grief that Viola barely recognises her old friend in the lonely, brooding man he has become.
As Viola strives to bring Gracewood back to himself, fresh desires give new names to old feelings. Feelings that would have been impossible once and may be impossible still, but which Viola cannot deny. Even if they cost her everything, all over again.
Content Warning from the author:
“Some characters who knew Viola before her transition refer to her deadname or use male pronouns when speaking about her in retrospect, but in keeping with the convention of the period this is only in the form of surname and title.
Gracewood has a disability to which he and others will occasionally refer using ableist language. There are some references to his suicidal ideation, as well as references to drug and alcohol abuse.
Some language has been modernised for tone, voice and readability.”
Release Date: May 24, 2022
Publisher: Forever Publishing
Genre: Historical Romance, LGBTQ, m/trans f
Format(s): paperback (480 pages), e-book, audiobook
Book Source: NetGalley
Amazon (affiliate link)