Always Be My Duchess
by Amalie Howard
Taming of the Dukes - Book 1
Release Date: July 12, 2022
Reviewed by PJ
Lord Lysander Blackstone, the stern Duke of Montcroix, has only one interest: increasing his considerable fortune. After a series of betrayals, he keeps his emotions buried deep. Money, after all, can't break a man's heart—or make promises it can’t keep. But when his reputation for being heartless jeopardizes a new business deal, he finds himself seeking a most unusual—and alluring—solution . . .
Once an up-and-coming ballerina, Miss Geneviève Valery is now hopelessly out of work. After refusing to become a wealthy patron's mistress, Nève was promptly shown the door to the streets. When she accidentally saves the life of a handsome duke, she doubts the encounter will go any better than her last brush with nobility. But instead of propositioning her, Montcroix makes Nève an offer she would be a fool to refuse: act as his fake fiancée in exchange for fortune enough to start over.
Only neither is prepared when very real feelings begin to grow between them. They both stand to win . . . but only if they’re willing to risk their hearts.
From beginning to end, I was utterly enchanted by this first book in Amalie Howard's new Taming of the Dukes series. The storyline is fresh and original (with an underlying nod to rom-com favorite, Pretty Woman), and features main characters not often seen in historical romance. Add in sensual love scenes, heart-tugging romance, a fake engagement, plus a gender-flipped rescue and...well...I was pretty much a goner.
Lysander (Stone, to his friends) stole my heart as surely as he captured Nève's. There are so many layers to this neurodivergent character and Howard captured them beautifully. Her depiction of him balanced the genius of his logical mind with his inability to quickly assess the emotional aspects of decisions and situations, creating misunderstandings along his journey while further endearing himself to me, the reader. The authenticity of his character traits created a fully-developed, nuanced individual with a deep capacity for love...with the right person. The right person being an unemployed French ballerina with a head for business, a well of integrity, and a core of steel. I adored her.
Nève is the perfect counterpart to Lysander. I loved her passion, her strength, her kind and genuine heart, but also her refusal to compromise her worth. The chemistry between them sizzled but Howard took her time with them emotionally, moving their relationship forward at just the right pace, allowing a gradual and realistic deepening of feelings, especially on Lysander's part. She also used dance, central to Nève's being, as a vehicle to convey emotion. Her lyrical descriptions showcased her personal knowledge of ballet while also creating scenes that played across my mind like a movie.
The secondary cast of the book were vibrantly depicted, adding humor and a richness to the story as well as fraught conflict (nasty villains but don't worry, justice is served). I especially enjoyed the friendship that developed among the five women (including Nève). Howard used their scenes to not only further develop Nève's character but also allow readers glimpses into each of their characters in advance of what I hope will be more stories. And, their participation in the final, swoon-worthy declaration was an absolute delight. Laughter and (happy) tears.
If you have not yet discovered Amalie Howard's Always Be My Duchess, I enthusiastically recommend adding it to your summer reading list. It's one of my favorite historical romances this year and one that I have no doubt I'll revisit again.
Have you read Amalie Howard yet?
Do you enjoy characters that are outside the historical romance mainstream?
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I have not read this author. Sadly, my reading has been lacking as of late. This sounds like a good romance with an atypical heroine.ReplyDelete
I read this book and enjoyed it. I like unique characters.ReplyDelete
I have not read any of her stories yet but this sounds good & will add it to my to read list.ReplyDelete
I have not yet read Amelia Howard, but sh sounds like an author worth discovering.ReplyDelete
I like when authors include situations or characters that are realistic, but not the predictable ones I encounter in most stories. They are there in the background but not used often enough. An unusual cast of characters gives more flavor to the story.
I haven't read any of Amelia Howard's stories yet. I always enjoy a story that is a bit different - with all the books that have been written that is hard to do.ReplyDelete
I have not read her books yet but I am looking forward to. Great review!ReplyDelete
I have one of her books. I've heard wonderful things about this book.ReplyDelete
I read The Beast of Beswick, and I enjoyed it very much. This new book is definitely going on my wish list.ReplyDelete
I don't think I've read any of Amalie Howard's work yet, but Always Be My Duchess sounds really good. I often find myself wondering about the stories surrounding everyone who keeps the dukes, duchesses, etc., so well coiffed, fed, bathed and oblivious to the world around them. Some of our authors give voice to the servant class (Anne Gracie comes to mind, as does Grace Burrowes, at times), but it might be nice to have a real "upstairs/downstairs" historical romance.ReplyDelete
I've read her before and thoroughly enjoyed those I've read. This one sounds wonderful!!ReplyDelete
I read the Beast of Beswick and really enjoyed it! I’m excited about this one — I love the cover. I prefer characters in historical romances who fall outside of the mainstreamReplyDelete
I have not read any of her books yet. I like mostly historical characters, but will read about others.ReplyDelete
I've several of her titles on my TBR and love the sounds of this newest! As for characters and romances outside of the mainstream? SIGN ME UP!ReplyDelete
I have not read anything by this author. But, you have made this book sound so charming, I realize I am missing a great deal. I think it is a nice idea that not everyone who lived during the Regency period is of the nobility. And the usual "money is no object" lifestyle does seem to be over the top. Thanks for the lovely review. I hope that everyone is cool. Well of course y'all are cool, but I mean cool in the more realistic and physical aspect of life.ReplyDelete
I LOVE Amalie Howard's books!! Her characters are wonderful as are her storylines! I also enjoy reading books with main (or secondary) characters who outside of the historical mainstream. I wish there were more of them out there.ReplyDelete
I haven’t read Amalie Howard but this review makes me want to read this story. Thanks for the chance.ReplyDelete
Sorry I'm delayed in reading your fantastic review, PJ! I can't wait to read this book! I've not read anything by Amalie yet, but I've heard nothing but good things!ReplyDelete