by Valerie Bowman
Series: Playful Brides #9
Published on May 1, 2018 by St. Martin's Paperbacks
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Genres: Adult, Historical Romance, Romance
General Mark Grimaldi is devoted to his service for the Crown, risking his life and giving up everything for his career. The political promotion he's always wanted is now within his reach, but he needs to convince his estranged wife to return to England and play the role of happy bride in order for him to get the position.
Nicole Huntington Grimaldi has spent the past ten years in France, not having seen her husband since she left England. But now he's on her doorstep, asking her to return with him, and Nicole sees the opportunity to get something out of this deal. So she agrees, on one condition: she wants a baby.
A Duke Like No Other is a Regency spy caper with Valerie Bowman at her best as husband and wife match wits and may just fall in love in the process.
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I’m a big fan of second chance romances and A Duke Like No Other was an interesting take on the familiar trope though I’m not sure if it fully succeeded in hooking me from start to finish.
So Mark, spymaster extraordinaire, wants a promotion and in order to get it, he has to appear to be a “family man” (image is everything, after all). The only problem is that his wife lives in another country and they haven’t spoken in 10 years and she (Nicole) isn’t too eager to get into the home life.
No doubt you can see the tension this sort of situation could create.
I liked some aspects of the story. The actual plot, the murder mystery, and all that business, was interesting enough but my problem fell with the characters’ relationships. There were a number of flashbacks and I never felt like they served a purpose beyond offering the backstory of the couple. To be honest, I didn’t really need it. I found that only knowing parts of their history was enough because the whole point of the book was Nicole and Mark reconnecting after a decade.
Between the mystery (sub)plot and the flashbacks, I was left with little time to get to know the “modern” Nicole and Mark. The lack of communication and indecisiveness drove me up a wall because it is SO COMMON in romances anymore (at least the ones I’ve read). It’s like a game of keep away. As long as the characters don’t talk to each other about whatever it is they have a problem with, there’s suddenly tension and excitement. EXCEPT instead it leads to frustration for readers like me and feels a bit lazy. I would have been more interested in how the two interacted during and after a conversation about their feelings and everything that happened between them. That, to me, would have added the richness that I look for in a story.
Does it mean I didn’t enjoy it? Of course not. A Duke Like No Other has plenty of snark and heat, both aspects I enjoy, and the story wasn’t so off course that I couldn’t follow along. Nicole is Miss Independent and can dish out the sass like no other. Mark is just as stubborn as her and impulsive, leading to numerous entertaining situations. And on their own I enjoyed each character.
As a couple? I felt like I was given more time to connect with the past Nicole/Mark rather than the present so I was never fully behind the second chance romance.
Much like I’ve found Bowman’s previous books in this series, it’s a fun read but not a standout when it comes to historical romances. I’ll certainly read more in the series as each has its own quirks and pitfalls, and if you’ve kept up with the Playful Brides books, this one is worth checking out.