I am happy there are authors like Tessa Dare that give me just what I needed when I needed it. I am drowning in work and graduate work and a looming thesis, so I had to read something that made me laugh with the bonus of making me feel warm and fuzzy. This was just it, like a warm slice of apple pie.
The characters are flawed, yet you love them dearly: Emma is so sweet and brave, Ashbury has quite a temper, but he is witty and delightful. Their chemistry was undeniable, and all you wanted was for them to tell each other those three words. I alternated between "squee!" and a barely contained giggle fit while I read. Also, the secondary characters were amazing. Emma's friends (who are the protagonists of the coming books) are so different and uniquely interesting. I loved the butler, Khan; he was as loyal and as witty as our hero.
If you need a pick me up, definitely read this book.
Reviewed for Wit and Sin
Murder, betrayal, revenge, trauma, blackmail, mysterious orders, politics, secrets, danger, and romance… Not the Duke’s Darling is a whole lotta story packed into one book. Elizabeth Hoyt dives headfirst into the intriguing world of the Greycourt family and the result is a bit of a mixed bag for me. On the one hand, I liked many of the elements to this tale. On the other, there was so much going on that everything felt incomplete.
At the center of Not the Duke’s Darling are Freya and Christopher. Christopher was once the best friend of Freya’s brother, Ran de Moray, until the night Ran was accused of and beaten nearly to death for murdering Aurelia Greycourt. It’s been fifteen years since that night, and Christopher is still haunted by it. He’s also carrying invisible scars from the death of his wife and his time as a prisoner in India. Christopher had the potential to be an intriguing hero. All the elements are there – a young man who made the wrong choice and is still suffering for it, PTSD, an adorable emotional support dog, his yearning to feel alive again – but his character development felt stifled by the abundance of plot and I didn’t get as deep a sense of him as I would have liked. Freya suffered the same fate. She’s a Wise Woman and a spy and I wish I could have learned a lot more about that part of her life, 99% of which takes place pre-book. She’s brave, independent, and definitely (humanly) flawed, but she also has a warm heart that shows in moments when the plot lets her breathe.
The romance between Christopher and Freya is enjoyable, but could have been so much more if it had been given room to grow and time for passion to be explored. Instead we are shuffled from one plot point to the next. To start, there’s the Dunkelders – men who think the Wise Women are witches and want to murder them – and their mustache-twirling plot to introduce a new era of witch hunting. The ignorance and sexism that’s innate to the Dunkelders could have been more ominous if – at the risk of repeating myself – they had been given more page time. There’s also the matter of Christopher being blackmailed, Freya’s initial quest for revenge, and looming over everything, the question of who murdered Aurelia Greycourt all those years ago. Neither Freya nor Christopher are Greycourts, but the titular family of the series is featured heavily, mostly in the form of Messalina Greycourt. Messalina is the third point of view in Not the Duke’s Darling and she’s a wonderful character who had the characteristics of a classic Hoyt heroine.
I’m a longtime fan of Elizabeth Hoyt’s which makes this book a bit difficult to put a rating on. Had it been by another author or had I been new to Ms. Hoyt’s work, I might have liked this book better (though at the end of the day, I did enjoy it). But I know Ms. Hoyt’s writing – her passionate, unique, flawed characters and their liveliness on the page – and Freya and Christopher were just missing some of that ineffable zing. I was, however, completely fascinated by some of the secondary characters. From Messalina to the mysterious Gabriel Hawthorne to Freya’s lovelorn charge, Arabella Holland, there are plenty of characters who have me excited to read more Greycourt stories. I’m really looking forward to seeing what Ms. Hoyt has in store for readers, especially given the way things ended in this book. So while I may have finished Not the Duke’s Darling wanting a bit more from Freya and Christopher, I did enjoy it and I think there’s great promise to the Greycourt series.
FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
I received an ARC of this book for free from the publisher (Tin House Books) in exchange for an honest review.
This was an incredibly atmospheric read. The setting, particularly the marsh, had a life of its own. The author did a fabulous job describing the setting which helped set the tone and the mood for the novel.
As for the story itself, I was into it, but I wasn’t thrilled by it. I think it was because I had such high expectations going in. On the cover, the book is described as being reminiscent of Jane Eyre, which is one of my all time favorite books. It’s really tough to top that book. As I was reading the book, it was hard not to compare it to Jane Eyre. The story just didn’t move me as much as I would have liked it to. I never felt that connected to Virginia.
I did like the dual storylines of Virginia when she was adopted (which was the main storyline) and Virginia as an old woman. I think the alternation between the two were really well done. The author coordinated the unfolding of events between the two perfectly. The contemporary chapter would subtly reveal something that the next historical chapter would delve into in great detail.
For me, the strongest part of the book was Mr. Deering. He was a fearsome villain. I never knew what he was going to do because he was so unpredictable and creepy. It was so unsettling every time he entered Salt Winds. He’s one of the best villains I’ve encountered in literature this year.
Overall, this book has a fantastic setting and villain, but the story leaves more to be desired.