What a Difference a Duke Makes by Lenora Bell (School for Dukes #1)

Publisher: Avon on March 27, 2018

Source: Publisher

My thanks to the publisher for providing me with a digital review copy. No compensation was provided for this review, and all opinions are my own.

Edgar Rochester, Duke of Banksford, is one of the wealthiest, most powerful men in England, but when it comes to raising twins alone…View Spoiler »

When Miss Mari Perkins is hired as a governess to Edgar Rochester’s unruly children Adele and Michel, she changes the course of the Duke’s life – and her own – forever. Although he’s instantly drawn to the pretty, sassy, and compassionate governess, Edgar knows that a Duke could never marry a governess…

Y’all, Edgar and Mari are absolutely adorable together! It was really refreshing to see how frank both of them were about their attraction and growing feelings. They have some lovely tender moments throughout the story, and more than anything I appreciated the acknowledgement of their respective positions in society and the power imbalance that exists between an employer and an employee. There are also some top-notch examples of consent here, too!

Normally I’m not that big on romances that prominently feature parents with young children because, in my experience, the kids are often used as plot devices and have little substance as actual characters. Thankfully that’s not the case here: the twins are a delight, and their experiences with feelings of abandonment helped Mari (an orphan herself) forge a connection with them that was really sweet. There’s a Mary Poppins vibe to the relationship between Mari and the twins, but it didn’t feel saccharine or trite. It was just genuinely heartwarming!

Admittedly the circumstances surrounding Mari’s birth parents was a bit too convenient, but I’m pretty willing to play along and suspend my disbelief. After all, convenient endings are sort of the done thing in most romances.

Overall the plot was a little unfocused and had a few too many loose plot threads, but I still really liked WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DUKE MAKES. I’m excited to read more from Lenora Bell!

Wrong to Need You by Alisha Rai (Forbidden Hearts #2)

Publisher: Avon on November 28, 2017

Source: Library

Accused of a crime he didn’t commit,Jackson Kane fled his home, his name, and his family.View Spoiler »

Jackson Kane has always loved Sadia Ahmed, his best childhood friend…and his older brother’s widow. Jackson’s bad reputation has kept him away from home for years, ignoring Sadia’s pleas for help after her husband’s death. But he can only resist the demands of his family – and his heart – for so long…

Sadia is such a wonderful romance heroine! A single parent who’s struggling financially, Sadia’s trying to balance the expectations of her high-achieving family while knowing that what they want for her will never make her happy. I haven’t rooted for a protagonist this much in a long, long while. Her struggle to be a good mother, sister, and friend while struggling with depression was so relatable and well-written. Plus, she’s bi! #represent

Friends to lovers isn’t normally I trope I throw in for, and frankly neither is boyfriend’s/husband’s brother because that’s a recipe for drama and angst. But this is Alisha Rai, and she can make me believe in and root for pretty much any type of couple. Throw in the fact that Sadia wasn’t pining for Jackson while she was married and only developed real romantic feelings for him after her husband’s death, and readers leery of this trope have nothing to fear. I also really appreciated reading an interracial romance featuring two characters of colour!

The romance between Sadia and Jackson is tender and surprisingly sweet, especially given how steamy they are together. I particularly liked the fact that Jackson never pushes Sadia to commit or declare her feelings before she’s ready; while Jackson had a decade to accept how he feels about her, Sadia’s blindsided by the chemistry between them and needs time to figure out what she wants.

I didn’t love WRONG TO NEED YOU quite as much as I did the first book in the series, but it’s still one of the best romances I’ve read in ages. If you like romance, you need to read Alisha Rai!

Diary of an Accidental Wallflower by Jennifer McQuiston (The Seduction Diaries #1)

Publisher: Avon on February 24, 2015

Source: Purchased

Pretty and popular, Miss Clare Westmore knows exactly what (or rather, who) she wants: the next Duke of Harrington. View Spoiler »

Miss Clare Westmore is just about to secure a marriage proposal from the Duke of Harrington when an injured ankle sidelines her at the most important ball of the London Season. Even worse? Her attraction to the handsome, clever Dr. Daniel Merial may sideline her future.

Clare and Daniel click instantly, trading clever barbs and feeling a mutual attraction. When Daniel begins treating her injured ankle, he learns more about the real Clare than any other man — or her hateful “friends” — ever has before. It turns out that they share similar values, and Clare’s sense of adventure helps hardworking Daniel lighten up a bit. Of course, Daniel realizes that there’s no way a highborn woman like Clare would ever deign to marry a physician and Clare knows that it would be social suicide if their friendship were to be revealed. But the heart wants what it wants. Cue the swoons!

As much as I loved Daniel though, Clare is the real star of the show. She’s an intellectually curious, politically minded, and adventurous young woman…all detrimental characteristics for a young woman trying to rise in Society. Although she’s the daughter of a Viscount, Clare desperately wants an advantageous match to secure her future — and her siblings’ — without depending on her eccentric family. So Clare pretends to be the perfect marriageable miss, and cares for appearances and her reputation more than she should. I think some readers might find Clare unlikable, but I found myself sympathizing with her and understood her desire to be accepted. After all, she takes risks when it really counts!

Jennifer McQuiston’s writing style reminds me of Julia Quinn, with the witty sense of humour and heart that Quinn’s known for. If you’re looking for an under-the-radar romance author, McQuiston is one to watch!