A Lady for a Duke
by Alexis Hall
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Pub Date 24 May 2022 | Archive Date 10 Aug 2023
A lush, sweeping queer historical romance from the bestselling author of Boyfriend Material—perfect for fans of Netflix’s Bridgerton, Evie Dunmore, and Lisa Kleypas!
When Viola Carroll was presumed dead at Waterloo she took the opportunity to live, at last, as herself. But freedom does not come without a price, and Viola paid for hers with the loss of her wealth, her title, and her closest companion, Justin de Vere, the Duke of Gracewood.
Only when their families reconnect, years after the war, does Viola learn how deep that loss truly was. Shattered without her, Gracewood has retreated so far into grief that Viola barely recognises her old friend in the lonely, brooding man he has become.
As Viola strives to bring Gracewood back to himself, fresh desires give new names to old feelings. Feelings that would have been impossible once and may be impossible still, but which Viola cannot deny. Even if they cost her everything, all over again.
A Note From the Publisher
Gracewood has a disability to which he and others will occa- sionally refer using ableist language. There are some references to his suicidal ideation, as well as references to drug and alcohol abuse.
Some language has been modernised for tone, voice and readability.
For a more detailed list visit: https://quicunquevult.com/books/a-lady-for-a-duke/
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Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 457 members
Thank you to Forever and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review
CW: PTSD, ableism, self-medicating with alcohol and drugs, grief, abusive parent (past), use of a dead name, war injury, violence
I would recommend if you're looking for (SPOILERS)
-m/f (trans heroine) historical romance
-childhood best friends to estranged to lovers
-amazing secondary characters
-this is just a hookup
-elements of forbidden romance
I'm going to do my best to review this book but honestly words fail me to describe how beautiful it was. It is not a light read, my heart broke for Viola and Gracewood. Viola making a difficult choice, live her life as her authentic self but leave her old life behind in a lot of ways, including Gracewood. I loved their transition from friends to lovers this story was so full of love and joy but also angst.
How they loved each other for themselves. The use of the historical setting to make the separation of the sexes so much clearer, their different classes, ugh this book was just so beautifully done and you can tell that each choice was just intentional, with Alexis Hall's sharp wit. The slow burn as these two just kept PINING for the other in the best way. Both dealing with inner demons and doubts, realizing they had to love themselves in order to trust and be able to love someone else.
And the secondary characters. Alexis Hall just writes secondary characters who sparkle. How adorably in love Louise and Badger were, and the soft aunt moments with Little Bartholomew. And Mira (I am rooting she gets her own book so badly). How accepting and loving everyone was, all about building the family of your heart.
Just please read this book and get ready for the journey your heart will take with this beautifully and tenderly written love story that wrecked me in the best way.
There are a lot of very serious themes in this book, and yet every heavy thing is held so kindly, with such compassion and care, that it is not a heavy story. Indeed, it is delightful, full of wit and humor. It evokes beauty at every turn: in the personal empowerment expressed in the detail of an embroidered glove or a pretty pair of shoes; in the strength and courage that it takes to be a better person than you were; in the ways that simple expressions of care can create breathtaking intimacy.
This is a historical romance, featuring a trans heroine, set in England in 1818. We learn that before the book opens, its main characters were close friends who met at school, grew up together, then fought together against Napoleon. Both were grievously injured at Waterloo, and one presumed dead. For the latter, this turns out to be an opportunity for a new life, and Viola Carroll recovers from her injuries and discreetly returns to her family under her new name, taking on the role of paid lady’s companion and leaving her old identity dead on the battlefield. She assumes her friend, the Duke of Gracewood, will mourn his lost friend and move on, but two years later, Gracewood is mired in grief and drink and laudanum. This is where the book begins.
End to end, this was an impeccable and exquisitely executed historical romance. Not only did I adore this book, but it made me better love every book I’d read before which gave me the context to appreciate this one. If you are not a reader of historical romance, the key to the genre (apart from the romance) is that it takes characters whose desires and motivations are familiar and recognizable to a contemporary audience, then places those characters in a reasonable facsimile of a historical setting. And that setting frequently serves to allow the characters to swan around in pretty clothing and cast heated looks across candlelit libraries and so forth, but it also permits authors to do some interesting things with social dynamics to explore some unseen or forgotten bit of history, or to illustrate parallels to today’s world, or both. With this book, Hall fulfills that promise to the fullest.
Here are just a few tropes of the genre which were employed beautifully in this story:
- A lady with a secret, who must choose to be true to herself;
- A man grappling with an unloving upbringing, learning how to give and receive love — as a friend, as a brother, and as a lover;
- Characters returned from war, having seen things and done things they now must live with;
- The highly gendered expectations of what is appropriate or accessible for ladies and for gentlemen, and creative ways of recasting or defying those expectations;
- Action taking place in settings including a cold and severe ducal estate, and an airy and modern London townhouse, and a turn about Vauxhall Gardens;
- The threat of compromised virtue and a midnight chase to avert disaster;
- Definitely some swanning around in pretty clothing, to excellent effect;
- And the triumph of love, in all the ways.
I also loved it that there was no sense of imminent threat at every turn that Viola might be outed, and that she was known to and accepted by the people most important to her. In the reading group guide appended to the book, Hall notes that it was one of his goals “to write a historical romance with a transgender heroine in which the fact that the heroine is transgender is not the main source of conflict or narrative tension.” I thought this was brilliantly done, not heavy-handed or artificial, not disregarding the challenges faced by Viola but not playing them up for dramatic effect, and building tension and story in other dynamics between the characters and in the challenges they face.
A Lady for a Duke releases May 24, 2022 and is currently available for pre-order. It is really good.
Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow. *Insert mind blown emoji here* That was all I was able to think after finishing A Lady for a Duke by Alexis Hall.
Viola is presumed dead at Waterloo and she takes that as her opportunity to live the life she is meant to live. Unfortunately, this choice leads her to lose her childhood best friend, Justin de Vere, the Duke of Gracewood. Years later, they meet again and their connection is just as strong as it was before. After the war, Gracewood is left with guilt and grief with the lost of his best friend and suffers from PTSD. It takes Viola coming into his life to bring the spark back into his life.
There was so much about this that I absolutely loved. First, Alexis Hall has the ability to make you FEEL ALL THE FEELINGS with his writing. This story made me cry a little, laugh, and swoon. I felt for Viola, Gracewood and the rest of the characters. I was rooting for them and wanted them to end in a happy place. I think what is amazing about Hall’s writing is that he has the ability to make you both laugh and pull at your heartstrings over and over. It’s one of the reasons why I will always pick up his books.
I can tell that there was a lot of care put into this story. The story involves a transgender woman but the story itself is NOT about being a trans woman, which I really appreciate it. It takes something that you don’t commonly see in books and normalizes it. It’s fantastic. I cannot (hopefully) wait to see more of this.
If I had to describe this book in two words, it would be tenderness and care. Hall took those two things to create a beautiful story filled with hope and beauty. I cannot wait for everyone to read this book and I will definitely be gifting it to basically everyone in my life.