A Duke Like No Other by Valerie Bowman
Series: The Playful Brides, #9
Released: May 1, 2018
St. Martin’s Paperbacks.
Reviewed by Sheena
Favorite Quote: “Is your horse named Zeus, after a man who ruined the lives of most of the people around him?” Mark’s lips quirked. “…No…Zeus was a god, not a man.” His lips spread open into an unrepentant grin. “Are you comparing me to a god?” “We’re speaking about your horse, not you,” she replied before snapping shut her mouth. She might as well stop her barbs. He was clearly enjoying them…
General Mark Grimaldi is devoted to his service for the Crown, risking his life and giving up everything for his career. The political promotion he’s always wanted is now within his reach, but he needs to convince his estranged wife to return to England and play the role of happy bride in order for him to get the position.
Nicole Huntington Grimaldi has spent the past ten years in France, not having seen her husband since she left England. But now he’s on her doorstep, asking her to return with him, and Nicole sees the opportunity to get something out of this deal. So she agrees, on one condition: she wants a baby.
The Playful Brides series by Valerie Bowman is one of my all time, all genre, absolute favorite series. It is a regency historical series that is deliciously romantic and features dynamic heroines who are unbelievably witty and fun. In a previous review for book three in this series back in 2015, my first line was “Fun. Find every synonym for fun and insert here.” It is a testament to Bowman’s undeniable talent that three years and six books later, that sentiment still rings true. Nine books deep and Playful Brides is still as fresh and enjoyable as it was when it began. With each entry we meet a new vivacious and amusing heroine and watch her not only fall in love, help friends, save their families, settle old scores, prove their mettle and their invaluable worth and solve mysteries!
Such was the case in A Duke Like No Other where we meet Nicole Grimaldi, a young woman who is living the life of a single woman in Paris, though she is well and truly married. General Mark Grimaldi is a life long military service man and is ready to take the next step in his career, however, doing so requires that he reunite with his estranged wife, Nicole-a reunion that would prove to be mutually beneficial to both Mark and Nicole and force them to bury old hatchets and finally mend old wounds. Their reunion comes at a most vital time as Mark’s family is thrust into the spotlight when a murder plot takes center stage. Not only do Nicole and Mark have to navigate their newly reinstated quid pro quo relationship, the Duke of Clouchester is ailing, a murder had taken place and Mark is duty bound to do the one thing he’s never, ever wanted to do. And Nicole is by his side to help him, even if getting close to Mark puts her own vulnerable heart in peril!
What I loved? The characters. The characters and their back stories are beyond engaging! I felt as if I had known them all for years! Nicole is a wealthy woman in her own right, the granddaughter of an Earl. She care nothing for excessive materialism and married Mark for love, leaving her grand familial estate to live a more modest life as the wife of a serviceman. She is also wicked clever and occasionally lends her skills to the Bow Street Runners (think bounty hunters) justice and crime solving a drum in her blood. Mark is the half Italian, half English grandson of a wealthy and titled English family. He rejects his heritage and wants to make his own way in the world on his own merit. He too marries Nicole for love but a terrible misunderstanding and lovers quarrel drives a wedge between the young couple and they go their separate ways for ten long years. I loved that they never forgot one another and carried mutual torches all that time. I was further tickled by the fact that they both needed something that only the other could provide (without scandal of course) and they had to face one another after all that time, set conditions and play a game of romantic wits with one another. *swoon*
What I did not like? What was maddening and made me soooo perturbed? What was so distracting and frustrating that it got in the way of my good time?
The goddamn flashbacks.
I can take flashbacks in novels. They are a rather common device in fiction and helps add a good foundation to stories. But damn if the overabundance of flashbacks in this story didn’t get in the way! I mean every time I turned around the characters were randomly dropping into a flashback. Mid chapter, at the beginning of chapters, at the end of chapters, all over the damn place. It drove me insane! I didn’t find out what exactly caused their big blow up until 82% due to all the flashing back.
82%! Unacceptable! I was so torn because outside of all the relentless flashing back, the meat and potatoes of the story was so freaking delightful. There is also this girlpowery, authentic respect and appreciation for women that also shined through. It wasn’t in your face bra burning, but the decisions the characters made and their motivations and the way in which the powerful men, respected and revered capable women, even in regency, bossy ton centric romance it came across beautifully and I appreciated the timelines of the positive feminine strength and having the men as champions and allies to the ambitions of the women. And it was done in such a manner that it fit the times. I hate when I read historical novels and even with reality suspension, all you can think is “OH YEAH RIGHT PAL! Not in that day and age.”
Ugh the flashbacks (but her emails!) Sorry, but that is the defcon level of distraction the flashback abundance caused. *sigh*
On the whole, A Duke Like No Other was exciting to read. There were times I was so anxious to skip forward I had to take breaths to calm down and that’s no exaggeration. The murder mystery had a twist or two and I really appreciated that it wasn’t quite so obvious. I changed my mind a few times about the “whodunit” and that was a little thrill I enjoyed.
I recommend this novel (despite the flashbacks! *shudders*) because it is so, so much fun to read and so female positive, witty and clever (and sexxxy!) I am already stalking the author’s website and Goodreads profile to see what she has in store for Playful Brides 10!