Somehow I’ve gone my entire romance-reading career without opening a book by Alexis Hall. I know, I know – shocking. When I saw the blurb for A Lady for a Duke by Alexis Hall, I knew itw as up my alley, and I’m so glad I scored an eARC of this title. Hall’s writing style is beautiful, and the story itself was just as emotionally satisfactory.

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The summary, from Amazon:

A lush, sweeping queer historical romance from the bestselling author of Boyfriend Material—perfect for fans of Netflix’s Bridgerton, Evie Dunmore, and Lisa Kleypas!
When Viola Carroll was presumed dead at Waterloo she took the opportunity to live, at last, as herself. But freedom does not come without a price, and Viola paid for hers with the loss of her wealth, her title, and her closest companion, Justin de Vere, the Duke of Gracewood.

Only when their families reconnect, years after the war, does Viola learn how deep that loss truly was. Shattered without her, Gracewood has retreated so far into grief that Viola barely recognises her old friend in the lonely, brooding man he has become.

As Viola strives to bring Gracewood back to himself, fresh desires give new names to old feelings. Feelings that would have been impossible once and may be impossible still, but which Viola cannot deny. Even if they cost her everything, all over again.

Buy A Lady for a Duke here.

After Waterloo, Viola was assumed dead. During this time, Viola was taken in by a French couple as she healed, and she learned a lot about her identity. Things that always felt wrong in the past suddenly clicked together. Viola returned to England and shared with her brother, who believed she was dead and had assumed her title, and sister-in-law that she is a trans woman. Since then, she has lived with them as her sister-in-law’s paid companion.

Viola has missed her best friend the Duke of Gracewood since then. When Gracewood’s younger sister write’s Lady Marleigh (Viola’s sister-in-law) a letter about how her brother is struggling, Lady Marleigh and Viola decide to pay a visit to convince him to let his sister enjoy a season in London and to cheer him up. Viola is hesitant. Gracewood has no idea his best friend is really alive. Will he recognize her? Should he tell him? Will be accept her?

When Viola and Gracewood reconnect, he is not in a great place. Gracewood has PTSD from the war, and his disability comes with a social stigma. Additionally, he has become addicted to opiates. Losing his friend has brought him a lot of grief. Though Viola does not share her identity with Gracewood immediately, the two are drawn together as they were in the past. But this time, there’s something else there they had never been in a position to consider before – romance.

Eventually, Gracewood realizes Viola is his old friend, and while this leads to joy, it also leads to mixed feelings. Nonetheless, Gracewood still loves Viola, not just as the friend she has always been to him, but as the woman who he has recently grown to care for and become attracted to. Their class differences and the fact that Viola is unable to bear an heir make her unsure about marriage to Gracewood, and societal rules indicate that as a single man and a single woman, a friendship between them is next to impossible. After discussion between their families, Viola agrees to work as a chaperone for Gracewood’s younger sister during her season. This allows for their friendship – and feelings – to continue to develop.

What an emotional read. The first third of the story is pure hurt/comfort goodness and I could not stop crying every few pages.  Once our hero and heroine worked out how they could remain in one another’s lives, if only temporarily, the tone cheered up a little, but there was still plenty of angsty romance goodness. And as I am led to believe is common for this author, the side characters added so much heart and humor to the story. This emotional, romantic read is my favorite romance of 2022 so far and I rate it 5 stars.

Find out more about how I rate books here.

A Lady for a DukeA Lady for a Duke by Alexis Hall
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The best romance novel I have read in years.

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Book Club Questions

  1. Viola and Gracewood never considered there was a romance between them before. Was their relationship prior to the start of this novel completely platonic?
  2. Explain the relationship dynamic between Viola and Gracewood.
  3. Do Gracewood’s disabilities impact how he looks at potential romantic relationships? How so?
  4. Viola and Gracewood were best friends before they fell in love. What impact does this have on their relationship?
  5. Who was your favorite side character? Why?

bean bag chair chill

@daily.manifestationx One of my favorite romances I’ve read in years 😍 🏳️‍⚧️ ❤️ #greenscreen #booktok #romancebooks #romancebooktok #historicalromance ♬ original sound – Marissa