A Lady for a Duke
Author: Alexis Hall
Publisher: Forever (May 24, 2022)
Paperback, 480 pages
Romance, Adult Historical Romance (Regency), LGBTQIA
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.
I’ll admit, I was a little hesitant to read this. I’ve loved some of Alexis Hall’s recent contemporaries, but I was like “Hey, you write contemporaries, what’s up with this Regency romance, Alexis?” But then WOW, he just blew me right out of the water. And now I clearly need to go read his other recent Regency romance, Something Fabulous.
I really love the complexity of the story Alexis weaves, about a trans heroine in a time before she or society would have the words to explain her experiences. And while this story has a trans heroine, the plotline isn’t focused on her trans-ness, rather the heroine just happens to be trans (and yes, that does have some bearing on other plot points, but isn’t the main focus). We need more trans leads in romances (and more trans MCs in all genres, really) so I’m so glad this is such a great representation. That being said, I’m cis so while I thought the representation was well-thought-out and portrayed, it’s not my lived experience so definitely listen to trans folx if they’re finding things that didn’t strike true or weren’t so great in this book.
I’m having a hard time pinning down the tropes for this book. It’s a little bit childhood sweethearts (but not), a little bit second chance romance (but not really), a little bit friends to lovers (sort of? in an almost mistaken identities way?). Whatever tropes it may or may not fulfill, A Lady for a Duke took me on a delightful (and heart-wrenching) journey. Voila and Gracewood were best friends back before she was living life as herself. When Viola was injured fighting at Waterloo and was presumed dead, she took advantage of her “death” to reinvent herself as the woman she’s always seen herself as and desired to be. This means cutting off all ties with her past life – little does she know what a tailspin this would throw her childhood bestie, Gracewood, into. This is where the story picks up, about two years after Viola has returned from the war. Viola spends so much time being torn between her past and her present, her love of Gracewood and her need to protect herself. And you know I love me a tragic, mopey hero who is in the depths of despair, so Gracewood did not disappoint! Gracewood is also struggling with the repercussions of his own war injury, which left him with a limp and a lot of pain and needing to use a cane as a mobility aid.
There are so many messages of learning to love yourself as exactly the person who are, regardless of what may or may not be pleasing about your body. At 480 pages this book is rather long for a romance novel, but I didn’t even care – I loved every minute and never wanted it to end!
In the discussion questions at the end, Alexis hints at the lead character for the next book and I CANNOT WAIT for him to make me not hate the ever-loving guts out of him. I love an unlikable lead, haha!
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All opinions are unbiased and my own.