I’ve made no secret of the fact I’m a massive fan of Alexis Hall. I’ve read a few of his books in the past and will be reading so many more. I’m not a massive historical romance fan usually, so I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about that one, but since this had a trans protagonist and was by an author I love, I wanted to give it a go. And I adored it.
A Lady For A Duke follows Viola Carroll, a woman who was finally able to live as her true self after everyone thought she died at Waterloo. Now she’s back home, and her sister-in-law convinces her to visit her former best friend, the Duke of Gracewood. He’s a mess dealing with the grief, and Viola wants to bring him back to himself. It’s difficult though, and both Viola and Gracewood will learn to love themselves again as they fall for each other.
One of the big reasons I’m not a big fan of historical romance is that I’m super picky about the historical aspects. Things have to be right or I’ll get annoyed. But though this book was definitely historical, and there were certain specifics mentioned, like Waterloo and the Prince Regent. But there was nothing specific enough for me to be picky about. I was able to just lose myself in a story for once, even with the understanding of the world the way it was.
Probably my favourite aspect of this book was how it dealt with serious issues. We have a trans woman back during a time when she wouldn’t have been able to transition physically or chemically. All she could do is use clothing and makeup and change her name. Many people still saw her as a woman, and it was wonderful to see. But she’s still terrified of being discovered, as back then, it wouldn’t have gone well if she’d been caught. She’d have been shamed for sure, possibly murdered. It’s hard to say for certain. Either way, it was nice to see an example of a trans character in something like regency England living a happy life and being able to have a family, despite all the challenges she would have faced.
On the other side, we’re also seeing examples of PTSD from an earlier war. It was sad because we see Gracewood suffer, but we know that his mental illness won’t even get a name during his lifetime. We don’t acknowledge PTSD until World War 1, but it was very much present before then. It hurt seeing Gracewood suffer, but it also felt realistic. Again, this is something that we don’t talk about in history in this period, and I love that we actually get to see it and see someone starting to live with it and again be happy.
This book was intensely emotional. Funny in places, sure, and definitely sweet in others. But overall, it focused on a lot of serious points. The romance was always there, brimming in the background. And there is some smut, though it’s not too detailed, but my main takeaway was how this book made me feel. It made me want to cry and hug the characters. I want them to know they’re normal and that if they were in the now, they’d have so much more help. But they aren’t. I’m so happy that they got their happy ending. The epilogue was perfect and everything I needed for them.
I liked both Viola and Gracewood as characters. I also enjoyed the side characters quite a lot, even if some of their storylines were a little predictable. That’s something you expect with this genre though. Viola’s nephew was definitely one of my favourites. He was such a weird kid, but also so sweet and accepting in his own way. I wish we could have seen more of him and the other kids from later on. So precious.
Since I listened to the audiobook of this, I also want to say a little bit about that. We had a trans woman narrating the book, which was ideal, and Kay Eluvian did a great job. I loved the voices she did for some of the older women, they were pretty amusing but felt right, and she had a good balance with all the characters’ voices. It didn’t feel like voices were being repeated, and I liked listening to her.
Though this wasn’t my favourite Alexis Hall book, I still enjoyed it a lot. It’s actually made me want to give more historical romance a chance.
Title: A Lady For The Duke
Author: Alexis Hall
Genre: Historical Romance
Age Range: Adult
Publisher: Piatkus (UK) | Forever (US)
Release Date: 24/5/22