Book Talk: What a Difference a Duke Makes by Lenora Bell

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Talk: What a Difference a Duke Makes by Lenora BellWhat a Difference a Duke Makes by Lenora Bell
Series: School for Dukes #1
Published by Avon on March 27, 2018
Genres: Historical, Romance
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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Wanted: Governess for duke's unruly children

Edgar Rochester, Duke of Banksford, is one of the wealthiest, most powerful men in England, but when it comes to raising twins alone, he knows he needs help. The only problem is the children have chased away half the governesses in London. Until the clever, bold, and far-too-enticing Miss Mari Perkins arrives.

Lost: One heart to an arrogant duke

Mari knows how to wrap even the most rebellious children around her finger. But their demanding, wickedly handsome father? He won't be quite so easy to control. And there's something else she can't seem to command. Her heart. The foolish thing beats so wildly every time the duke is near.

Found: A forbidden passion neither can deny

As his employee, Mari is strictly off-limits. But what if she's the one breaking all his rules? In the game of governess versus duke, how can Edgar maintain his defenses when the only thing he wants to do is let the tempting beauty win?

Somehow a romance novel review seems like a weird thing to post on July 4th. But, honestly, I have nothing good to stay about the state of our unfair nation today. I’ve never been particularly into this holiday anyway, and so you can imagine my feelings now. In some ways, it’s deeply fitting I review this book today, because books like this one are what keep me going. Everyone could use a little something to feel happy about, and What a Difference a Duke Makes made quite a difference in one of my days.

Bell’s romances have been the purely fluffy, low-on-angst and dark drama kind that I can’t get enough of. (I know some of you guys love your romances full of angst, and I get it because sometimes that works for me, but I’m a fluff queen deep down. No judgment for loving the angst, though, I promise.)

From the very beginning I was charmed by this book’s heroine, Mari, which is really half the battle with a romance novel. Mari has an unusual name, but I love it because she renamed herself in the orphanage, not liking the standard “Mary” they assigned her. The story of her name really sums Mari up perfectly, because she spends every moment defending her agency. She’s vibrant, sarcastic, clever, and deeply kind. Though they’re not like me at all, I love these fierce but hufflepuffy heroines who aren’t pushovers so much. Every heroine doesn’t need to be the badass rebel type to affect change, something Mari does in spades with kindness and caring.

Mari, very fittingly, is fighting for agency when the novel opens: fighting for the agency of governesses that promised her a job to give her said job. Spoiler: she loses this fight. Doing a little snooping while waiting to do some begging, Mari overhears of a position that has just become vacant and decides to pretend to be a replacement from the agency even if it means working with a “devilish duke.”

Edgar, aka Duke of Banksford, turns out to be super not devilish, though society would certainly think so since he disdains functions, works in trade for fun and to improve the world with his designs for trains and fire engines, and has illegitimate twins. But really from his first scene, Edgar’s established with the reader as a total sweetheart and nerd who isn’t really the best at interacting with people and who has some hang ups about romance because the twins’ mother broke his heart when she left him. Still, there’s no believing this guy a devilish monster when he sponsors his younger sister’s archaeology trips abroad, amirite. (Also, I cannot fucking wait for India’s book, even if I’m a bit disappointed she doesn’t get a girlfriend. India’s such a scene stealer; I love her.)

Typically, I’m really not into the whole employer/employee romance thing. And master/governess is even worse, because it’s even squickier since the women had even less rights than now. (Sidebar: yes, I am more comfortable with it if it’s a woman in the power position but still not my favorite.) This romance completely works for me, though, mostly because Edgar’s very aware of consent and how important it is in sexual encounters. He’s actually pretty damn determined not to have a relationship with Mari because he’s aware that him being in a position of power over her messes with consent. HELL YES. As a result, Mari is the aggressor in the relationship, and it’s amazing.

Edgar’s children, Michel and Adele, are actually pretty cute. They’re rambunctious but clever and funny, and I really love that they’re little shippers (as is everyone in the cast basically). Mari winning them over perhaps comes a bit too easily, but part of me likes that because all they really needed was to not be treated like terrible balls of sin. In terms of family dynamics, I was reminded a lot of Julia Quinn’s To Sir Phillip, With Love. This is a case where I can very much imagine this family being very happy into the years, which isn’t always easy to picture by the close of a romance novel, but there’s such clear respect and love and understanding between Edgar and Mari that it seems very likely this match will be a happy one.

What a Difference a Duke Makes is Bell’s fourth novel and the beginning of her sophomore series. I recently binged that series, and, while they started fairly well, they got better with each book. Bell absolutely is a must read for fans of Tessa Dare and Julia Quinn. She’s rapidly becoming one of my favorite romance authors.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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