Review: Dare to Love a Duke by Eva Leigh

Reviewed by Caitlin

Eva Leigh is an auto buy for me, even if her most recent book — Counting on a Countess — wasn’t my favorite (I didn’t quite believe the romance). However, this pairing has been hinted at for quite some time, and I was very, very excited for it. I am pleased to say that I adored this novel, and it got me through a rough couple of days while I dealt with a loved one in the hospital.

Thomas Edward O’Connell CĂșchulain Powell, Earl of Langdon, has spent his youth drinking and carousing and whoring and gambling and acting a proper hellion. He’s a good man who respects women (and demands others do the same) and wants to do good in the world, but he also likes to have his fun. One night, his good friend Christopher Ellingsworth (hero of book 2) suggests they visit the Orchid Club, an egalitarian sex club that’s very secret and therefore very exclusive. Tom agrees, and there he meets the manager of the club, who (like everyone else) wears a mask. She calls herself Amina and she doesn’t interact with the guests much, but she makes an exception for Tom. There is an attraction there that is not good for either one, but they enjoy each other’s company too much to stop flirting.

Lucia Marini is the bastard daughter of an Italian housekeeper and an English gentleman. Her father died before she was born, and her mother died when she was young. She journeyed from Italy to London by herself and threw herself on the mercy of her English grandparents, who promptly turned her out. Alone in a foreign country, Lucia turned to the world’s oldest profession. Eventually, she worked her way up to managing the Orchid Club. On the side, she uses her savings to help poor girls get an education.

When Tom must take up the mantle of the earldom after his father dies, he realizes he must put away his frivolous pursuits – including his time at the Orchid Club. His father was a conservative who saw it as his duty to uphold a pious example and vote against anything even remotely progressive. He and Lucia agree to one night of passion before a final goodbye.

Of course, it’s not goodbye. Turns out, his staunch, moral father owned the Orchid Club, and now his life and Lucia’s are intertwined until he decides what he’ll do with his new property.

I really liked the romance. I liked Maria. I liked Tom. I liked the majority of the characters (even if the villain did strike me as one note). If there is any suspension of disbelief over a duke and a sex worker getting together, the book does a good enough job setting up Tom and Maria’s romance and the idea that Tom would flout convention to marry the woman he loves.

I will say there is some sloppiness. Tom’s sister has to meet her beau in secret because she is in mourning for her father and therefore is not allowed to leave the house, but only a few weeks later Tom suggests an outing to the opera (which she passes on). Why would Tom suggest that if she’s not allowed to be in public? There’s also the issue that Tom can’t marry Lucia because she’s half Italian, and the English nobility must marry the bluest possible blood. But… he’s half Irish. His very conservative father obviously never saw an issue with marrying someone who wasn’t English, so why should the progressive son?

There also isn’t a satisfying explanation for why his father secretly financed the Orchid Club to begin with. Part of me appreciates that. There are layers to people, and we can’t always solve all their mysteries. But another part of me thinks the man is a hypocrite, and it makes any positive recollections of the man feel a bit off to me.

All of the issues I listed above are, frankly, nitpicks. The world created is one that’s lovely to sink into, where even the more jaded rakes demand women be treated honorably. I just wish there was a little bit more attention paid to the details.

Rating: B-

Click to purchase: Amazon

Dare to Love a Duke
by Eva Leigh
Release Date: December 24, 2018
Publisher: Avon

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