Alyssa Cole comes to the blog today with another in her smart and funny contemporary romance series, Reluctant Royals. Please read on for my review of
A Duke by Default
It’s been a while since a contemporary series has me so excited or captivated, but the diversity of characters, smart writing and touch of humor from Alyssa Cole’s pen in the Reluctant Royals series ticks every box. I won’t jump on the issue of diversity here –but I want to read stories that come closer to reflecting my own life and neighborhood, a tapestry of life in all the shades possible. But here – we have Portia’s story. First met in A Princess in Theory, she’s one of Ledi’s best friends, but more than a bit of a lost soul. With looks, wealth and friends –one would think she has it all –but she’s often her own worst enemy. Intelligent and unfocused, she’s got the attention span of a gnat, and this reinforces her parents’ “Good thing she’s pretty, she’ll need caring for” attitude, and her own lack of self-worth. She was free-falling into a series of drunken escapades, half-finished projects and uncounted instances in the walk of shame category.
But, her twin sister (a force in her own right) has her back, and pointed out an apprenticeship for a sword maker in Scotland – the history, art and anyplace but New York setting are perfect for Portia’s new chapter – one in which she sticks with something, discovers the path meant to be hers, quits drinking and random partners, and moves on in her view of the grownup person she should be, in hope of getting that tiny bit of praise and pride from her family.
Tavish MacKenzie is the owner of Bodotria Armory in Edinburgh: a sort of catch-all helping space for the neighborhood, as well as the place he crafts swords, employs his brother and his partner, provides a shoulder and diversion for neighborhood kids and generally growls his way through life. His brother had convinced him that a bit of publicity and social media buzz would come from bringing an apprentice in – a buzz that would certainly offer some hope to their bottom line. But, Tav has secrets – aside from his feeling like a failure when his marriage ended, he’s always felt as if he’s had to defend, protect and even fight for those he cares about and those who need a helping hand. Son of an immigrant with father unknown, he’s also got major issues with the current climate of “Britains First”, and hates the heavy-handed ‘gentrification’ of his neighborhood – pushing generations of families out in their increased prices and lack of regard for the history of the area. Of course, he’s not interested in an apprentice, particularly one that arrived to pepper spray him in the midst of sparring with his brother’s girlfriend. Oh – and the fact that he can’t stop thinking about her isn’t a problem at all. Nope. Not one bit.
These are two people that are meant to be together. Portia is renewed with the challenges- and there are many – to bringing Bodotria into the 21st century. Insatiably curious with her love of history and mysteries, she does some digging to reveal history, family and claims to a title that the staunchly republican-leaning Tav, with his dismissal of the ‘toffs” and scorn for the protocol and behavior, but mostly the callous disregard they show for those with less. Even as Tav is frustrated (mostly due to his own conflicted feelings and fears of being hurt) by Portia, he can’t help but see her heart, her intentions and her ability to bring and share everything he needs to succeed to him, in ways unexpected. She’s a light in the often-dark recesses of his stress: the burden of supporting the armory, his brother and his girlfriend, be a role-model and helping hand to the poorer kids in the neighborhood, and providing a sense of security and welcome for the kids, he’s taking on responsibilities with his whole being – if one should fail, he’s convinced that HE is the failure. But, there’s Portia, with all of her apologizing and hesitance, willing to take on multiple time-consuming tasks all for the momentary moment of praise, developing in confidence in their friendship and working relationship, the joy and wonder in which she takes in new sights and experiences – and how easily that all goes away when her parents call. Not one for mincing his words, he’s gradually (and occasionally gracelessly) pushing her to grab onto those good moments and use them to push herself forward. A task that her bestie Ledi has been trying to work for ages. But – it all goes spectacularly wrong, Portia runs from Scotland in typical “old Portia” fashion, and all just may be lost. ….. and then – it isn’t.
I love this series – it grabs onto some difficult and trying issues and brings most around to a satisfying conclusion that had me smiling (and laughing) frequently. Of course, Portia’s flightiness and lack of attention span is briefly addressed – and being similarly tasked with the ability to pick up something quickly and then being bored easily, the challenges for her are solidly presented and some tricks to manage and maneuver through the day are clever. Tav is a typical bull-headed alpha, but his heart – one of pure gold – is the key to making him oh so special. Grab this and A Princess in Theory while you wait for the next book – you’ll love the conversations, characters and writing in this series!
Author: Alyssa Cole
Also in this series: A Princess in Theory, Once Ghosted, Twice Shy, Can't Escape Love
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Interracial, Setting: Scotland
Published by: Avon
Published on: 31 July, 2018
Source: Avon Addict, Publisher Via Edelweiss
Audio Length: 12 Hours: 26 minutes
Heat: Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ Barnes&Noble ♦ iTunes ♦ Kobo ♦ Downpour ♦ IndieBound ♦ Google ♦Audible
Award-winning author Alyssa Cole’s Reluctant Royals series continues with a woman on a quest to be the heroine of her own story and the duke in shining armor she rescues along the way
New York City socialite and perpetual hot mess Portia Hobbs is tired of disappointing her family, friends, and—most importantly—herself. An apprenticeship with a struggling swordmaker in Scotland is a chance to use her expertise and discover what she’s capable of. Turns out she excels at aggravating her gruff silver fox boss…when she’s not having inappropriate fantasies about his sexy Scottish burr.
Tavish McKenzie doesn’t need a rich, spoiled American telling him how to run his armory…even if she is infuriatingly good at it. Tav tries to rebuff his apprentice, and his attraction to her, but when Portia accidentally discovers that he’s the secret son of a duke, rough-around-the-edges Tav becomes her newest makeover project.
Forging metal into weapons and armor is one thing, but when desire burns out of control and the media spotlight gets too hot to bear, can a commoner turned duke and his posh apprentice find lasting love?
A copy of this title was provided via Avon Addict, Publisher Via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: