A Duke, The Lady, and A Baby by Vanessa Riley
When headstrong West Indian heiress Patience Jordan questioned her English husband’s mysterious suicide, she lost everything: her newborn son, Lionel, her fortune—and her freedom. Falsely imprisoned, she risks her life to be near her child—until The Widow’s Grace gets her hired as her own son’s nanny. But working for his unsuspecting new guardian, Busick Strathmore, Duke of Repington, has perils of its own. Especially when Patience discovers his military strictness belies an ex-rake of unswerving honor—and unexpected passion…
A wounded military hero, Busick is determined to resolve his dead cousin’s dangerous financial dealings for Lionel’s sake. But his investigation is a minor skirmish compared to dealing with the forthright, courageous, and alluring Patience. Somehow, she’s breaking his rules, and sweeping past his defenses. Soon, between formidable enemies and obstacles, they form a fragile trust—but will it be enough to save the future they long to dare together?
A Duke, the Lady, and A Baby by Vanessa Riley is best described as a gentle romance yet gleefully disastrous for the white supremacists in romance. Prudence is a dark skinned woman from Demerara, present day Guyana. When her husband is said to have committed suicide, she is dragged to Bedlam, leading to Prudence sneaking in to feed her son. The Duke of Repington takes over Hamlin Hall. A society of Widows, a sisterhood of sorts, convinces him to hire Prudence of Lionel’s wet nurse. Thus the mystery of what really happened with that last letter Prudence sent her late husband and the slyness of his uncle unfolds.
Prudence and Busick. Yes Busick. Can we appreciate that Vanessa Riley has a list of the most horrible names of men during the regency and it’s her goal to use every single one? Yes? Me too. Anways, lets focus ADHD.
They slowly reveal who they are, something in tune with the mysterious plot. Their trust for each other, their stubbornness unraveled, and who they are, as people and to each other is gently done. This is a slow romance. I don’t know that I would call it a slow burn but more of a sweet romance that takes its time. It’s gorgeously written but it’s not meant for readers that like really steamy romance. I do feel sometimes the romance community prioritizes steamy romances as if those are the only romances that should be of worth in the genre.
And listen I love the steam. I stan the horny bitches. We love the hornsters ok. There’s something to be said for both but I do feel that sweet romances tend to be undervalued over the popularity of open door romances.
This book is about having someone you love that you can depend on. Prudence, like a lot of Black women, is expected to show her worth both as a Black woman and an immigrant living amongst the English ton. She has to be strong, silent, and resilient, things white aristocrats never had to be. She does not have the privilege of getting to be weak, to lean on someone else’s shoulder for a change, to be protected. She has to fight every day. She does not get to have the power her Duke has.
He gets to control his destiny. She does not.
She repeats to herself that in the ton’s eyes she is her late husband’s different wife. “Exotic’” and “dark” in their eyes, not worthy of the rank she is given nor worthy of the privilege to have a leisurely life which high browed white ladies had all day. Instead they want only the pain they believe she should ensure. They want her money, not her face.
The romance is so awkwardly adorkable and I found that aspect very enjoyable. The way Riley writes seems very reminiscent of the way people in this place and in this time actually spoke. She doesn’t write that modern faux historical regency tone that we’re so used to now. She does something with prose that creates the type of dissonance and high language that was so very typical amongst English speaking peoples of the time. It almost reminds me of the way Jane Austen would word things, that awkward yet hilarious prose which seems so humorous yet romantic to me.
I love that while reading this I was reading the honest truth that white ladies during (also now) this time were racist and would often use microaggressions to dehumanize Black people. Seeing the abuse Black people and bi-racial Britons lived through in a romance is new to me. I love seeing that while also getting a romance at the center. Riley examines not just as someone trying to make aware of how white women during this time weren’t as feminist as we think but she highlights the white feminist exclusive spaces of regency romance. I cannot think of many Black women being so present in historical regencies let alone an ownvoices one.
I want to read historical romances as complex as this. I want to read Black women being described as rakes. I want to see a Black heroine describe her hand writing as intelligent. I want to see layered, frustrated, and justifiably angry women dealing with their trauma and also getting to be appreciated and loved in the span of a single genre killing romance novel.
I love that the hero is sweet on Prudence. The way he calls her soldier and a rake and wants to protect her when life has always been anti-Prudence getting to feel safe. Their romance is so cozy. He’s just a himbo schedule nerd that has eyes only for her. I would die for them.
I know there are going to be some reviewers that feel there shouldn’t be books where Black women get to be in the same or similar HEAs as white women and that’s messed up.
I want to see Black women in regency england, not just because there was such a large population of Black people in England during the time but also because Black women deserve to read romances that have been denied to them for so long. Hell I deserve to read romances like this. We are not protecting that white bubble of regency romances any longer and I’m here to watch that magic unfold.
Give me all the Riley adorkable romances to go please.
Thank You to Zebra via Netgalley for an advanced reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review.