The Duke in Question by Amalie Howard
Tracy’s rating: 3 of 5 stars
Series: Daring Dukes, #3
Release Date: November 8. 2022
Lady Bronwyn Chase, the half-sister of Courtland Chase, the Duke of Ashvale, didn’t intentionally set out to be a spy, rather she stumbled into espionage. But once she had a taste, she was hooked and began working for an agent of the crown, just passing on the occasional message, but it soon became apparent that she was actually good at it and the “Kestrel” was born and caught the interest of other agents, particularly Valentine Medford, the new Duke of Thornbury, a retired agent who is helping his former partner track the Kestrel. Which is how they all end up on a ship bound for Philadelphia in March of 1865.
Bronwyn plays her part as a shallow, self-absorbed debutante to perfection and annoys Thornbury to no end. Bronwyn has long had a crush on Thornbury, but he is one of her brother’s best friends and until recently, married, so he is off-limits – or is he? She reminds herself that she has a mission and can’t waste time mooning over a man who could never love her and one who is too smart to fool for long with her foolish society girl facade, so she tries to avoid him and focus on her mission.
Valentine doesn’t know that she is the Kestrel, but isn’t happy about her traipsing about Philadelphia alone and wonders what she is up to. He follows her and is stunned to see what she is up to. And when her mission goes awry and her life is on the line, he wastes no time saving her. But when she turns the tables and saves him, twice – everything changes and he finds himself torn between duty and desire.
This was a very interesting read and I am torn about how to rate this – as far as writing, plot, and character development are concerned, the book is spot on with lots of action, steamy love scenes, interesting characters, true historical events tie-ins, and a HEA, but it is supposed to be a “historical romance” set in the very uptight Victoria Era and that is where it doesn’t work for me. The characters have very progressive, modern views on sex, relationships, and equality, that came across as very cavalier, making this more of a “contemporary in period dress” than a true to the era historical. Then there were things that just shook me – the hero is “divorced” which is almost unheard of in the Victorian era and would take years to accomplish as well as an act of Parliament and a lot of money, not to mention a better reason than “we wanted different things”, but they apparently got it done quickly and quietly and he and his ex are still friends and everyone seems to think this is no big deal as they are not shunned and are still accepted everywhere – but then it is implied that they were not really married, even though the ex still uses the title that she had as his “wife”, but the hero never tells the heroine any of this, which bothered me probably more than it should have. And don’t even get me started on the virgin heroine’s attitude toward sex. I understand that authors are trying to appeal to a 21st-century audience and the popularity of shows like Bridgerton has brought a host of new readers who are not familiar with the rules and strictures of the eras and would be put off by them – so there has to be some leeway – but I feel that this one went too far – I read historicals for those strictures and rules and how different times were – making characters “too modern” ruins that for me and honestly by implying that the views of the day were the same as they are now, diminishes the challenges and hardships people in that time overcame and in some cases are still overcoming. But that is just my personal opinion and if adherence to historical protocols isn’t a big deal for you – I am sure you will really enjoy this story. This is the third book in the series, but it could easily be read and enjoyed as a standalone title.
*I am voluntarily leaving a review for an eARC that I requested and was provided to me by the publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.*