In Duke, Actually by Jenny Holiday, Daniela Martinez is an New York professor who studies 19th century literature, teaches, and is hoping to get tenure, soon. She's recently been stung by her husband's infidelity and decided she is "Post-Men". She has no interest in a relationship, has written a list of things she'll never do for a man again, and just wants her husband Vince to sign the divorce papers. Then she and her little dog, Max, can move on.
Maximillian von Hansburg, Baron of Laudon and heir to the duchy of Aquilla is not actually a duke, not yet. He's a baron who has been dubbed the "Depraved Duke" and he honestly doesn't want to be a duke at all. But, he's at loose ends since his fiancée decided to marry someone else. As Duke, Actually opens, he's in New York to meet someone his parents want him to marry.
Max (the baron, not the dog) and Daniela have mutual friends who are going to get married and Daniela already met Max when she went to Eldovia to visit her best friend Leo, who is marrying Princess Marie, Max's former fiancée. She knows the baron's reputation but he's not really in the mood for a socialite's party and and would like to see Dani. And, Dani could use a bit of handsome arm candy at the faculty Christmas party, if only to show Vince she's not pining away for him.
The baron is happy to accompany her and stick to her terms. He likes Dani. She's got no interest in his money or title, unlike most people. After the faculty party, they start a long-distance friendship (by text and phone), make resolutions and help each other figure out how to fulfill them, and then slowly, slowly find that they're becoming best friends. But, when their friendship turns into the kind of attraction that neither was hoping for, what will happen?
Highly recommended - Duke, Actually is a little longer than most of the romance novels I think I've read but I loved that because I enjoyed the witty banter between Dani and Max and kind of wanted to stay in their world for as long as possible. Plus, I think the slow development of their friendship and even slower realization that they were becoming physically attracted to each other after about a year of platonic friendship felt more realistic to me than most romance novels. There's a lot of sex talk and some scenes I found uncomfortably graphic, but as I've said before . . . I prefer a book that tippy-toes around the bedroom scenes, so that's a personal thing. In general, I think romance lovers will enjoy this sweet, modern fairytale of a growing love between an ordinary gal and a peer of the Eldovian realm.
My thanks to Avon for the review copy! Duke, Actually was just released this week so you can find it online or in bookstores near you.
Note: I avoid reading other reviews and don't read teaser chapters (there's one at the end of the book) so I didn't realize till after I read Duke, Actually that it's the second in a series. It obviously stands alone perfectly well. But, now I really want to go back and read about how Leo ended up with Princess Marie!
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