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review 2019-03-29 05:36
A Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole - My Thoughts
A Duke by Default - Alyssa Cole

So this is a daunting book only because it's one of the darlings of 2018.  EVERYONE loves this book and it's a darling of Romancelandia.  So I was a little wary going into it.  The last time I read a book that was so universally loved, it was The Bollywood Bride, and I hated it.  Did not see what any of the fuss was about.

Thank God, this book was a different experience.

So, I had been advised that I didn't need to have read the first book in the series to enjoy this one, but I'll tell ya, I wish I had.  There were so many instances where the heroine's past was mentioned that had important bearing on the plot but were never explained that my wondering took me out of the story.  And the story was GREAT, so this was quite bothersome.  I STILL don't know the deal with Portia's (the heroine) sister.  And it BUGS me.  So YES, READ THE FIRST BOOK.

So, Portia is a screw up, who, it turns out, suffers from ADHD.  This explains many things about her and her issues.  I liked her.  I liked her a lot. I liked that she was smart and clever. I liked her smart mouth and like many of her friends and her sister, I often wanted to shake her to make her believe she wasn't the mess she thought she was. 

I liked the hero, Tav, the Duke by Default of the title.  He was older, 37 to her 30 (THANK GOD for mature characters!!) and your typical taciturn Scot.  And he was HOT.  And he forges weapons, swords, daggers, axes... the whole thing!  That's darned sexy.  Anyway, he hit all the right buttons for me. 

From my lofty 62 years of life, I thought that if they only would take an hour or two to actually talk about all these things that bothered each of them about themselves, the whole emotional mess could have been dealt with quickly and easily.  But we wouldn't have a story then.  *LOL*  And it was a good story, maybe a little heavy at times with the ADHD and the immigration problem, but the author's writing style is breezy and fun (a big reason why AC is a fave of mine.) which saved it from being too lecture-y. 

In the end, it was a really good romance.  I totally enjoyed it and I can easily see how it garnered so many accolades and such noisy support. Just read the first book first!

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review 2019-01-14 12:51
entertaining
A Duke by Default - Alyssa Cole

Portia Hobbs from the previous story (and this works alone, there are some references to the previous book but it's not necessary to have read it to get this) gets an apprenticeship with a swordmaker in Edinburgh, Scotland. There she starts to try to help him turn things around and it's all complicated by their feelings for each other.

And then she finds out that he's the heir to a dukedom.

Complicated things make things complicated and make relationships difficult.

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review 2018-11-10 06:50
I Knight Thee Good Fun
A Princess in Theory: Reluctant Royals - Alyssa Cole
A Duke by Default - Alyssa Cole

I started reading Alyssa Cole sometime last year. I think I saw her name on a list of women of color writing contemporary romance, and given how tragically white much romance is, I thought I should give her a shot. I read her Off the Grid series, which, in addition to being both science fictional and post-apocalyptic (these things are not necessarily the same things, a distinction I'm happy to fight about), also include a gay romance and one with and Asian dude as the hottie. Oh, and Cole is clearly a nerd and a geek, and she is not afraid of some pop cultural jokes. Really good stuff. 

 

I didn't read more, at the time, because I'm, like, not as interested in modern day princess stories. I once went regularly to this open mic at an Irish bar run by a Welshman, and there was this woman who showed up regularly in full on tartan explosion. (Yes, I recognize that's all very Celticly confused, but this is America; deal). She tended to sit in the booth behind mine, and we were nodding acquaintances. She drove me absolutely fucking bananas with her bullshit.

 

See, she claimed to be some sort of Scottish royalty, like maybe not a duchess, exactly, but more like a countess? Honestly, I find it hard to give a fig about titles so none of that stuff is going to track for me. Anyway, she had this younger dude who liked to do sweeping bows and a bunch of hand-kissing, probably because he spent too much time at the Ren Fest. Once, he tried to drag me into it, and I was like, sorry, I live in a representational democracy and have zero interest in kowtowing to someone because of who their grandparents are.

 

There was a record scratch noise and some people got pissed at me, but fuck royalty. Some of my people were hapless drunks, others were fleeing various wars, some just hated their hometowns. I feel neither pride nor shame about my ancestors; they were just people: good, bad, and indifferent.

 

Point being, I have something of a chip when it comes to the concept of hereditary monarchy. Sure, fine, if they're figureheads like in Denmark (though I'm still not bowing and scraping), but actual ruling dynasties like the al Saud family are monsters, as one recently brutally murdered journalist could attest if he hadn't been dismembered and murdered, not exactly in that order. 

 

Which is to say, I'm a fucking crank about a little subgenre of romance novels with lighthearted wish fulfillment about being a princess. I recognize I have issues. 

 

So, it came as something of a surprise when I actually earnestly enjoyed Duke by Default. Cole dives right into the class issues of the peerage, and doesn't cut those assholes any slack. Her Duke character is actually the child of a Scottish Duke and a refugee, raised by a step-father and with half siblings who are straight up black. He's not some ponce, and more's the better. Oh, and his love interest is coming to terms with an ADHD diagnosis, which was sensitively written. All told, well done. 

 

Princess in Theory, less so. (Note: I read these books out of order.) The main character, who has aged out of the foster care system and is struggling to make it in the STEM field as a black woman of no means, was a fucking great character. Prince what's his face from an imaginary African country, him I did not like much at all. Sure, some of this is intentional: he's to have a redemption arc from being a rich dickhead to monarch with a heart of gold. But I just couldn't get on board, though of course some of this is my aforementioned issues. And Princess in Theory is still a well written novel with an admirable heroine, so do not credit my bitching too much. 

 

Anyway! So, one which didn't work so great for me (due mostly to me), and one which knocked it out the park. I would totally read number three. Alyssa Cole is pretty great. 

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text 2018-11-04 20:40
A Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole is $1.99!
A Duke by Default - Alyssa Cole

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?

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