A Lady for a Duke by Alexis J. Hall. New York, NY. Forever. 2022.
A Lady for a Duke by Alexis Hall is a dashing regency romance that follows Viola Carrol after she is presumed dead at the battle of Waterloo. This “death” allows Viola to reinvent herself and live the life as the woman she always knew she was, but it is also means giving up everything she knew and loved. In her disappearance, Viola loses her wealth, her title, her inheritance, and all her friends. Viola believes this is a loss she suffers alone until word reaches her of closest companion, the Duke of Gracewood. Like Viola, Gracewood was changed by the battle of Waterloo. He was left crippled with terrible PTSD, believing Viola to be truly dead and her death to be his fault. Viola longs to go to Gracewood and help him, but revealing herself to be alive with a new identity could destroy everything she has built and sacrificed for. Can these friends make a fresh start, meeting each other again and finally seeing each other fully so their friendship can, perhaps, become something more?
Do not let this summary fool you; while A Lady for a Duke tackles serious themes, it also has everything we know and love from a regency romance. Gracewood brings his sister for her debut in London, surprising Viola there. The book describes lavish balls, longing glances, new fashions in lady’s embroidery, and love embodied in a private dance.
In the spirit of Jane Austen, the side characters in A Lady for a Duke shine. Meddling though well-meaning relatives interrupt situations where they do not belong. Insidious social climbers get their comeuppances. Evil dukes swagger with swishing mustaches and Shakespearean references. More importantly, all these characters speak with their own memorable voices, their roles underlined with humor and wit even in the direst circumstances of the book, adding to the ambience and enjoyment of this escapist romance.
Unlike more classical fare, A Lady for a Duke is not afraid to mix regency romance with modern sensibilities. The novel’s characters curse. The book contains a sex scene. A Lady for a Duke revolves around LGBTQ+ issues and uses the backdrop of the regency era to question the healthiness of fixed gender roles. If these topics offend you, turn back now, but if you loved Netflix’s Bridgerton or the 2020 movie adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma, this book is for you.
Alexis Hall’s A Lady for a Duke is an unexpected regency romance, but nonetheless a delightful one. Heartfelt and swoon-worthy, it introduces readers to flawed, but lovable characters who, through sword fights, kidnappings, and masquerade balls, must learn that it is only through loving, trusting relationships of all kinds that they can become the best and truest versions of themselves.
Rebecca Mincher is a Children’s Library Assistant at the Graham Public Library. She can be reached at email@example.com.