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Alexis Hall is a fairly well-known author of queer romance, and A Lady for a Duke has definitely made the rounds on the bookish internet. I read his Great British Bake-Off inspired Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake last year and while I overall enjoyed it, it didn’t quite deliver on my high, high expectations.
Still, when I learned that A Lady for a Duke features a trans woman as the protagonist in a regency romance, I knew I had to pick it up. I’ve read very few books with trans protagonists, something I’m trying to be better about, and I was curious to see how the incredibly binary gendered world of this time period would play out for a trans woman.
As a cis woman myself, I can’t fully speak to the representation in this book, as there may be things I wouldn’t pick up on since they’re outside of my experience. With that caveat, let’s get into my review!
What I Liked
I enjoyed spending time with our heroine and seeing the world through her eyes, watching her try to fit into a part of society she didn’t have access to before her presumed death in the war let her start over as herself.
She and the other women in the book are the stars of the show, proving that women can be brave and spunky and have minds of their own even in a time when most of what they were supposed to put their minds to was marriage.
While we do see Viola being careful to meet the expectations of her gender, the fact that she is trans isn’t the entire, central conflict of the story. Instead, we see her attempting to support her oldest friend, who has struggled with PTSD after the war and who is trying to be a better brother to his younger sister, who he was raised to more or less ignore.
What I Didn’t Like
This book has a bit too much mutual pining and angst, making it incrediby slow through the middle. I stalled out so much when I got to 53% of the book and realized we were in for a long haul will they or won’t they, and I honestly wasn’t sure I’d wind up finishing the book. This pining largely falls on the central fact that Viola cannot bear biological children to continue the line, something considered essential to being a wife at that time.
I also found the balance of point of view to be a bit off. Initially we’re almost entirely with Viola, then we spend a bit too much (in my opinon) time in Gracewood’s mind. While it is nice to see how he views Viola, so differently to how she views herself, I didn’t really care for his narration and wanted less of it.
In all, I enjoyed the beginning and the end of A Lady for a Duke but wish it was paced a bit better through the middle. It’s a unique premise and a compelling story, and I’m ultimately glad I stuck with it to see where we ended.
I recommend this book to fans of Alexis Hall, to Jane Austen fans who like a modernized sensibility for their regency romance, and to readers who love a slow burn, mutual pining situation.
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3 thoughts on “Some Mixed Feelings on “A Lady for a Duke””
Nice review, I really like the premise. Too bad it dragged a bit in the middle, but I’m glad you enjoyed it overall.
Nice review, Amanda. It doesn’t sound like a book for me, I am not a good fit for slow burn, angsty romance.
Probably not! I like a slow burn and even I was like, oh come on already lol