Many regency romances feature the same plot, with the characters and storylines being virtually interchangeable and utterly forgettable. A DUKE TO REMEMBER, however, really does feature a duke to remember...although in all honesty, it's the heroine, Elise DeVries, who steals the show.
Elise is an agent of Chagarre and Associates. Basically, members of the elite come to her with their problems, which she resolves discreetly - for a price. Elise also works as an actress, and she uses her stage training and her many disguises to solve these cases and gather intelligence. Her latest case is both tragic and bizarre: the sister of a duke presumed dead reveals that her brother is actually alive, and that his cousin, who has seized control of the estate in his absence, has committed their mother to Bedlam and is doing his utmost to see to it that the Duke of Ashland never returns from the dead.
I liked Elise and loved the fact that she was competent at her job. The scenes of her going under disguise and working with her clients were really great, and did a great job capturing her character. Unlike many cross-dressing heroines, the heroine is actually pretty decent at going incognito and it's only by pure happenstance that the object of her search, Noah Ellery, finds out he is a she.
One of the things that dragged down my rating for this book was the insta-love. Right away they're attracted to one another and have sex, which took out any of the sexual tension that makes books like these so fun to read. Even though I know how romances end 99.9% of the time, the will they/won't they trope keeps me turning pages like nobody's business. The tension in this story comes from the fact that Noah is determined to remain in hiding, and he doesn't realize that Elise has been hired to take him back to society to claim the duchy...although even this is resolved quickly. And I must say, props to the author for not having the characters miscommunicate for an infinite amount of pages, dancing around their pile of lies with half-truths and hurt feelings. Elise is straight-up with Noah, which was both refreshing and in line with her characterization.
The romance was just so sudden, that neither of them really had chemistry. So while I felt sorry for Noah and what he had gone through as a child and loved Elise's passion for righting wrongs and kicking ass, I didn't really see them together as a couple, nor did I buy their sudden devotion.
My favorite character in this book was actually a third-tier character who only appears a handful of times. That would be King, who reminded me a lot of one of my favorite book boyfriends, Jerricho Barrons. He's pretty much everything I love in a hero...brooding, dark, mysterious, tortured, sexy, with a generous sprinkling of gamma. When I found out that he wasn't the love interest in this book, I was devastated...although the author teased that he might be one in later installments.
I appreciate Bowen's challenging the stereotypes that are the status quo in regency novels, but the lack of chemistry took what could have been a four- or five-star book for me and downgraded it to a 2.5. I'd definitely read King's story, though. I hope it's dark. ;)
Thanks to the author and the publisher for the review copy!
2.5 out of 5 stars.