A Duke in Disguise by Cat Sebastian
One reluctant heir
If anyone else had asked for his help publishing a naughty novel, Ash would have had the sense to say no. But he’s never been able to deny Verity Plum. Now he has his hands full illustrating a book and trying his damnedest not to fall in love with his best friend. The last thing he needs is to discover he’s a duke’s lost heir. Without a family or a proper education, he’s had to fight for his place in the world, and the idea of it—and Verity—being taken away from him chills him to the bone.
One radical bookseller
All Verity wants is to keep her brother out of prison, her business afloat, and her hands off Ash. Lately it seems she’s not getting anything she wants. She knows from bitter experience that she isn’t cut out for romance, but the more time she spends with Ash, the more she wonders if maybe she’s been wrong about herself.
One disaster waiting to happen
Ash has a month before his identity is exposed, and he plans to spend it with Verity. As they explore their long-buried passion, it becomes harder for Ash to face the music. Can Verity accept who Ash must become or will he turn away the only woman he’s ever loved?
Damn it. I was sure I was going to love this one. I loved parts of it. But then there were other parts that were less enjoyable for me.
I love that Sebastian included so much real history in the form of the female lead’s brother being involved in some seditious dissent against the British government and aristocracy. But then he was tidily bundled up and sent to America pretty early on and that all sort of disappeared.
I love that the female lead is bisexual and very upfront about her wants and needs in the bedroom. I love that she is outspoken and stands up for herself both in public and in private.
I love that she had some very serious and understandable reasons to not become involved with the male lead. But then she just *poof* changes her mind about everything off page and we’re not really shown why. And then that indecisiveness comes back with a vengeance later on in the book and it seems to take her forever to resolve her feelings.
I love that the male lead was empathetic and at times vulnerable. I love the way his epilepsy was portrayed. I love that he never once pressured or bullied the female lead. I did not love that he kept things from her. Or that he all but took her decision to be with him away by severing all ties at one point.
I also didn’t love the level of relationship angst in here. Anyone who has been following my reviews for any length of time knows that OTT drama that could be easily avoided if the male and female leads simply talked to each other is one of my biggest pet peeves in romance. There was a lot of that in here.
I was also confused by the running theme that the female lead hates the aristocratic class and everything it stands for, but then when she joins it, she’s suddenly okay with all the perks that come from her newly elevated status? There’s talk of country estates and simply buying a new, incredibly lavish, borderline gaudy town home in London because they don’t want to live in the home the male lead inherits.
I mean, by all means, go ahead and spend some money if you want. But paired with the fact that there’s no talk of doing anything for the poor, or further fighting against such an imbalanced system makes them both seem like massive hypocrites to me.
I’m also struggling a little with the running theme in this series that neither of the female leads has wanted to get married because it meant they would lose so much of themselves and neither believed in what at the time was such a broken system (husbands all but owning their wives and all). But then, true love comes along and they, well, they kind of cave. They give up a lot of themselves. They lose their independence.
I’m all for compromising when it comes to love. I’ve done so myself in many ways. But something about this just isn’t sitting right with me. I think it’s because both of their reasons are so legitimate and understandable that to see it all given up just…rankles.
I would love to read a regency romance in which the female lead stays firm on this and doesn’t marry the male lead but they still get an HEA in the form of a long, committed relationship outside the bonds of matrimony.
But does that even exist?
Seriously, I want some recs here. If you know any, please let me know.
I will say that despite all my issues with this one, I’ll keep reading this series. The diversity and the history alone will keep me here.