Member Reviews

For the past 20 years, Donovan Sutcliffe, the 5th Duke of Southbury, has employed Geoffrey Vachon, 6'5", the "insufferably impertinent" Geoffrey Vachon as his valet. It's quite different from the valet you normally picture, and I couldn't but laugh at the image. The description and how Geoffrey reacts to all Donovan's complaints are amusing and help you understand them and their unusual peer/valet relationship. They are best friends who have been secretly in love but hiding it from each other since Geoffrey became his valet when Donovan was 16 years old.
Donovan's mother, who is desperate for him to find a wife, but he is not thrilled since all the debutantes are more than half his age. His mother and brother happen to mention the upcoming May Day in Merrywell, reminding Donovan that's where he met his own wife. He and their mother have decided Donovan is going to Merrywell for the annual matchmaking holiday. They really only want to make him happy because it is obvious he isn't.
Donovan will be loyal in a loveless marriage, so he immediately dismisses Geoffrey and gives him 100 letters of recommendation to ensure he finds a happy new life. Rethinking his rash decision, he changes his mind, giving them an extra two weeks together, Donovan and his not entirely dismissed valet head to Merrywell. They begin to open up to each other but are still hesitant to act upon their feelings because of social and legal restraints. They decide not to be stuck in their daily roles, but ordinary people, making their time easy and fun.
Most full-length novels that do not let the reader feel the true love they have for each other. I do wonder if he ever pretended to court anyone in the past, but since it's a novella, there can not be too much more background allowed. Without any spoilers, it is funny to have a valet who is so tall and large, and the duke himself is pretty tall. They're not easy to miss. It skips a lot of the activities in Mayday, but they would have been fluff. The ending is a HEA, but it is very difficult to imagine that in the time period. I would read it again, but skip some of the activities in the town. I'm still very confused about the hedgerow labyrinth.
My 4 star rating for "Undressing the Duke" is because some of the backstory would have been helpful, and the festival setting was pointless and confusing.
If you like a fast-paced historical romance with a unique couple as well as a loving family, this is for you. It is straightforward, no mystery or nefarious characters from the past. This is a HEA.
Warning: This is an M/M romance with steam as well as two scenes of graphic sex.
I have received an advanced copy from Goodreads, but the opinion is completely my own.

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Undressing the Duke by Erica Ridley is the 7th book in the Lords in Love shared author series. I haven't read any of the previous books in the series but this stood up well as a stand-alone novella.

The Duke of Southbury has been secretly pining for his valet, Vachon, for the past 20 years. His mother is persistent in him choosing a wife, and he decides in order to he must remove the temptation and fire Vachon. He takes him on one last excursion where they have a week to interact as peers instead of Duke and Valet. By the end of the week, the Duke realizes he can't be happy without Vachon in his life.

I really did enjoy this one, but I can't give it a higher rating because it suffered in my opinion from only being a novella. While their is plenty of pining and I enjoyed the Duke and Vachon together, the story is too faced paced. The entirety of the week they spend together exchanging secret kisses is pretty much summoned up in a few paragraphs and picks up at the last day of it. It was disappointing to be told about their week after the fact and not experience it with them. I also think this would have been significantly better if we had also been given Vachon's point of view.

Overall Undressing the Duke by Erica Ridley is a short mm historical romance novella between a Duke and his long time valet filled with pining, , matchmaking, secret kisses, just one bed, a bit of steam and pursuing ones happiness despite societies expectations.

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This was fine, a sweet, short, frothy histrom, with some excellent sexual tension and pining. I especially enjoyed the emphasis inherent eroticism of dressing and undressing!

I liked that there was very little homophobia and there were some interesting issues lightly raised about the fear and difficulty of stepping out of a strictly predestined line.

However I never really felt invested, partly because it involved quite a bit of suspension of belief (not the sexuality part, but the general 'dukiness' of it - he just never felt like a Duke), and partly because I just wanted more depth. More of a discussion about the fact that Donovan sacked him for example, more of a actual discussion about the solution at the end rather than Donovan just presenting it as a fait accompli, more of a discussion of the future household etcetc.

Didn't quite live up to its potential for me, but I suspect this is largely a Me thing and others will enjoy it more.

*Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the free ARC*

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I received an arc of this title from NetGalley for an honest review. A very disappointing read. No build-up, very little storyline, and zero follow-throughs.

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This was pure fun! I'm not the biggest fan of romance novellas in general as I love a slow-burn and having plenty of time to develop characters, however, I still enjoyed this. It certainly could have been longer and the ending felt a bit rushed but those are small complaints compared to my enjoyment.

The Duke of Southbury is hopelessly infatuated with his valet and has been for years. With more and more pressure to marry, he knows that he must dismiss him lest he be tempted to cheat on his wife. And yet, he keeps finding excuses to put off the inevitable...

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3 stars

**Thank you to NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.**
#NetGalley #UndressingtheDuke

Author: she/her, USA
Genre: historical romance, lgbtqia, m/m
Setting: Regency England
Themes: duty, family, love
Mood: heartbreak, longing

Donovan Sutcliffe (36yo) - the Duke of Southbury
Geoffrey Vachon (39yo) - Donovan's valet

Fav Quotes
☆ "This conversation is what's killing me. I am extinct. Please cease speaking."
☆ "Why do you hesitate?"

+ LGBT rep: m/m
+ love the writing style. Witty, succinct, and tense with longing. Perfect *chef's kiss*
+ romance tropes: forbidden romance (duke/valet), long-term pining (20 years!), holiday fun

- The scenes felt underdeveloped and rushed. I would've loved to see more fleshed out scenes (the labyrinth, the parties, intimate scenes).
- sadly, later on, their open flirting is kind of juvenile and cringey compared to their tension-filled subtle innuendos (lots of "hard" references)
- we don't hear from Geoffrey much, which is a missed opportunity to add depth to the past 20 years and weight to their current predicament
- side eye for the lack of preparation during sex 

Comp Recs
+ The Servant and the Gentleman - Annabelle Greene
+ Two Rogues Make a Right - Cat Sebastian

TW: none

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This was my first Erica Ridley, so I wasn't sure what to expect. The premise sounded fantastic to me: a duke, who is forced by his meddling mother and brother to attend a matchmaking festival to find a dutchess, but is secretly in love with his French valet? Historical romance, forbidden love, secret pining, but make it queer? Sign me up!

The execution, however, wasn't for me. I found the writing cheesy and the dynamic between the two main characters lacking. At first I liked the emphasis on touch and the small gestures between the two, but the story was too short to really get me invested in any of the characters and resulted in a lack of tension for me. I also thought the ending was a tad unrealistic and too neatly wrapped up.

Maybe this type of format just isn't for me, but unfortunately this wasn't the hit I was hoping it would be.

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Although this book was 7 books into an already established series, I ignored my usual trepidation about jumping midway into a series and requested this because the premise sounded interesting and had a similar trope to one I'd previously read and loved(that is, Valet and boss)

Now, Erica Ridley was new to me and obviously I didn't know what to expect writing-wise but I hoped for the best and dived right in.

Though a shorter story than I expected, this book made up for it. Being in Donovan's head was equal parts funny, sad (because of all the pining) and just plain enjoyable because his uncertainty, hopelessness and resolve to do the "right" thing even when his happiness was at stake made it so I had no choice than to support him and Geoffrey.

Speaking or which, although there was not enough page time (in my opinion) to fully explore the bond between the two men, what was shared was I believe adequate enough to show the bond they shared and how the rest of their lives would pan out.

The only niggle I had with the book was (as you may have rightly guessed) its short length. I wanted more time with Donovan, Geoffrey and their palpable connection. I couldn't get enough.

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This is a short sweet novella that is a quick and easy read. There's not a ton of plot but it's a sweet look at the two main characters and their relationship. I did enjoy this but wish there was little more meat to the story if that makes sense. I really do enjoy queer historical reads and will always devour them.

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This short novella is a nice little snack full of romance with a dash of longing that's somehow both the perfect length and too short.
Donovan, the Duke of Southbury, is 36 and feeling pressure from his family to marry and have an heir. But he's been in love with Geoffrey Vachon, his valet since he first saw him at 16. On the eve of traveling to a famous marriage fair, the Duke decides to do the honorable thing and remove the temptation by letting Geoffrey go. But his inability to let him go ends with Geoffrey traveling with them and secrets and longings coming to the forefront.
It's actually a very sweet story and things get sweet and romantic quickly. I loved how both Donovan and Geoffrey get the chance to show their feelings. And there's also a great message of acceptance that rounds out the good feelings this book will leave you with.

Very happy thanks to NetGalley and WebMotion for the romantic read!
I also got a copy through GoodReads' First Reads.

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Book #7 of the Lords in Love series, this worked great as a standalone.

This was a shorty, easily read in a couple short sessions and enjoyable although not earth shattering.  Cozy, would be a better description, albeit there is some internal angst in the set up reflecting the Duke's internal struggle with his sexuality and near obsession with his valet.

I debated whether or not to add a CW, because if you are looking for a m/m romance with absolutely no inner turmoil or concern about public perception, this isn't it.  But there is a nice resolution, particularly with the Duke's family that provided balance.

Due to the page limit, there is a not a lot of action and a fairly simple plot.  The romance has really been building before the open for twenty years, so what you are reading is two MCs who finally admit their feelings and figure out how to have a HEA.

There are a few intimate scenes, but Ridley sticks true to her style of keeping those scenes fairly light on details.  There was no violence and not much in the way of mature subject matter.

I did like the snippets of the marriage festival in Marywell for a change of scene.

I won't re-read, but generally recommend for readers looking for a m/m novella on the soft side.

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The Duke of Southbury has enjoyed the services and companionship of his valet for twenty years… Too bad he has to let him go after he finds a wife at the Marrywell matchmaking festival … because he’s in love with him.

Erica Ridley brings us back to the festivities with Undressing the Earl, the final instalment in the Lords in Love duet series with Darcy Burke.

This series revolves around the Marrywell May Day marriage festival- and the weeklong festivities were single people mingle in the hopes of meeting their match!

Of all the festival attendees we have met in the series, Southbury is the least inclined to find a match! Twenty years of unrequited pinning is A LOT!!! The best thing is that the valet, Vachon has been pinning for him the whole time too! They decide to have a last hurrah before the Duke sets to his duty and in Marrywell they are anonymous companions who are able to just enjoy the festivities together! Very Prince and the Pauper like!

This story was the cherry on the top of the Lords innLove series! A delightful friends to lovers romance with the slight edge of the forbidden with the employee/ employer dynamic the nature of their relationship in the timeframe. Ridley respectfully approaches both of these potential conflicts and creates a fun and satisfying HEA for this lovable pairing!

The whole Lords in Love series has been a lot of fun, and this book was a delightful way to wrap up the festivities!

Thanks to author Erica Ridley and WebMotion for my review copy.

#LordsInLove #UndressingTheDuke #EricaRidley

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With pressure building to take a wife, the Duke is teased and cajoled into doing the opposite - taking the time to actually relax and enjoy himself, opening himself up to the possibilities of actually being happy... what results is a novella full of pining and budding romance between a man and his valet of twenty years who have both struggled not to show their feelings before now...

While this book does escalate to full penetrative sex between two men, the romance takes the center stage and is a truly fun and engaging read about balancing happiness with duty and making the right choices for your future... If you like a romance that builds slowly once acknowledged, you'll enjoy this novella. As a reader of spicy M/M romance I would give this a low 3 on the spicy scale and if you prefer not to read the steamy scenes, you can easily skip them without it ruining the story.

I will keep an eye out for any future M/M stories from this author for sure!

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Not anything super special, but it was plenty fun & cute. If you're looking for an hour or two of distraction, this novella is a fun way to spend it. (& finally, a book by Erica Ridley that I liked enough to finish!)

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Donovan and Geoffrey’s story was the epitome of slow burn goodness. Decades of pining for each other in a society and time when their love was definitely not welcome.

I loved the characters and the longing between them. The author did a great job of giving us insight into their feelings and fears. I absolutely loved it.

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The Duke of Southbury wanted to do the right thing by doing what his family expected from him, to marry someone. He didn't want a bride though, He wanted his valet. Vachon was with the duke for 20 years and both were fighting the attraction. When the duke decided to find his future bride the right thing to do was dismiss his valet to remove the temptation. They have two weeks left together, What will they do? Saying goodbye to each other or finally taking the leap and confessing their desire?
This was my first read from Erica Ridley. I loved everything about it. This book even being on the shorter side didn't feel like I was missing out. It was a cozy read with no drama, sweet, and just perfect.

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I received an ARC from the author/publisher via NetGalley and am voluntarily posting a review. All opinions are my own.
Undressing the Duke closes out the Lords in Love series, although it was previously published as a standalone novella in the Duke in a Box holiday anthology. While I make no secret of my distaste for dukes, this book addressed many of my issues with them (not to mention rectifying an issue I had with an earlier Ridley installment in this series that originally turned me off).
I love how this story explores the intimacy between a duke and his valet, who literally dresses and undresses him, and how the rules of propriety and the expectations for a duke to continue his line weigh on him. Donovan is morally upright to a fault, trying his best to set boundaries with his longtime valet, Geoffrey, as he navigates this tricky situation. Geoffrey, meanwhile, is the one who pushes back on this, and their romance as they end up at the Marrywell festival is super sweet. I rooted for them to figure things out, even amid the obstacles in their way, and I was pleasantly satisfied with how things ended.
This is a super adorable read, and I’m glad it’s being re-released during Pride Month. If you’re looking for a short queer historical romance, I’d recommend checking this one out!

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This was a very cute romance between a duke and his valet, both of whom have been pining for each other for 20 years and who finally take a chance on love. It's too short, in my opinion; there isn't time to get to know the characters or have more than the most superficial recounting of events. As such it lacks the depth of a lot of Erica Ridley's other books. I know her best for rich, believable characters and we only get hints of that here.

I wish there was more time spent showing Donovan and Geoffrey exploring and having fun at Marrywell and more time showing their deepening attachment. I also wish we got a better sense of who Geoffrey is. There also isn't really any conflict beyond Donovan's insistence on his duty. An additional obstacle or two might have made the story feel more well-rounded.

Donovan is soft-hearted and driven by duty and reluctant to take a chance with Geoffrey. His brother and sister-in-law were cute and I wish they'd had a larger role in the story. I'd have loved a bit more of his mother as well.

Donovan and Geoffrey have an ease of long familiarity together which made the moments where they were alone feel more real. They also have moments of boyish mischief which are a lot of fun and which really show how long they've been friends. I would love to see more of those moments.

It felt almost more like a rough draft than a polished story and I kept being pulled out of the story by the clunkiness of the writing - which is not something I usually run into with this author.

Despite its flaws there is real potential here and I would love to see this novella reworked into a more complete novel with some of the awkwardness smoothed over.

*Thanks to NetGalley and WebMotion for providing an early copy for review.

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I really enjoyed this book.

I thought that it had a well developed and good storyline and some excellent characters.

I have read a few books now by this author and they have all been thorough enjoyable and this one was no exception - the story was about wanting something that is unbidden and how love will find a way - a good read with a happy ever after ending!

It was a fairly short story at 200 pages but there was a lot packed in to those pages and it was very well written. I really enjoyed getting in to the story and meeting the characters.

It is 4 stars from me for this one - highly recommended!

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A promising story let down by lackluster sex.
Donovan, the Duke of Southbury, is 36, and finally accepts he must bend to his mother's will and marry. He has no interest in women but vows that when he takes a wife he won't be unfaithful emotionally, which means that it's time to dismiss his valet, Geoffrey, who's been the object of his desires for the last 20 years.

He's convinced to accompany his brother and his wife for a week at Marrywell, a matchmaking festival, where he decides to make the most of Geoffrey's remaining time with him. After all, if he doesn't take a chance now, he'll never know...

This got off to a good start. I really enjoyed both characters and the dynamic between them. Donovan, the gruff duke, hates everyone except Geoffrey who is not just an assiduous valet but his closest friend.

Initially I thought they had great chemistry together. Donovan seeks (and receives) as much touch from Geoffrey as he can: asking him to check that his shave is satisfactory results in a soft caress to his jaw, undressing him for a bath is a languid affair...

What I didn't realise going into this, is that Erica Ridley is a MF romance author, and unfortunately it shows in the sex scenes which were rushed and almost uncomfortable. Now, I don't have a point of comparison with her other books, but either way this would have worked better without those scenes.

Seriously, they were a cute couple, this could have been great!

This book is completely anachronistic which didn't bother me but it has to be said. It's also pretty unbelievable (though still appreciated) how everyone comes around in the end. I did like the little call-back to Geoffrey's joke of giving his regards to Donovan's mother.

I also think this was too short. In the copy I read, the book ends at 82% with a preview of another book, so this was probably only about 85 pages long. Because of this, some parts felt like they were skipped over and I would have liked more detail of their holiday scenes at Marrywell, as well as some peek into their future together.

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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