Review: “If I Only Had A Duke” by Lenora Bell

One thing I loved and hated about this book is that it is a cringefest, but it’s almost as if it basks in the very cringiness of everything that was happening.

That is to say, both our ML and our FL were totally besotted with each other, even though both of them were rather odd and incredibly awkward.

Actually, I loved this, so let me not be mistaken because it’s always a little strange when only one party is weird in a relationship. In my opinion, for a relationship to work, both parties must be equally weird.

And just to be clear, I know that there is usually this hesitation to bring historical books under the umbrella of road trip books, and that’s probably because the road trip trope usually only incorporates or refers to contemporary romances, but this is a road trip romance historical book.

Anyway, without dropping any spoilers, let me just quickly give you a rundown of this book and tell you what I felt about it.

Our FL, Thea, is a girl who was brought up to be perfect, as every other girl was brought up in historical times. So essentially, right from the moment she was born, she has been told that she has certain duties to her family and the realm, and she has done her best to fulfil these duties.

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But then one day, while on vacation with her aunt, she discovers a cache of paintings which belong to a long-forgotten and incredibly ignored but ultimately talented female artist.

Soon enough, she starts to equate her existence with this female artist who, despite being talented, has been relegated to the background, and she decides to take charge of her destiny.

After a failed coming-out year and several intervening years wherein she never gets a marriage offer that is pleasing enough to her burdensome mother, she decides that she is no longer interested in getting married and that she simply wants to study art.

Earlier, she learned that some of the female artist’s paintings might be on a ducal estate, in the attic to be specific and after writing to the duke multiple times to no avail, she decides to confront him woman to man. 

But one thing she forgets in all this is that she is a painfully shy girl who is very much content with remaining a wallflower. So when she sees him, she is understandably very daunted and discouraged from meeting him. The difference between this year and her previous years of being in the ton is that she plans to make this year a total failure so that her mother can confidently realize that she’s now permanently fixed to the shelf.

But through a stroke of events very much involving the Duke, who is our ML, she becomes known as a diamond of the first water and she gets a lot of attention. She is very annoyed about this, and then she challenges Dalton and tells him that it’s not enough that he fails to allow her to look at the drawings, but now he has ruined her only chance at being independent, so he has to fix things.

When he tells her he couldn’t care less, she decides to run away, and somehow she ends up travelling with him, and it is on this journey to Ireland that their whole romance starts.

On the other hand, our ML, Dalton, is a tortured man who goes incognito at night to punish corrupt members of the ton and dissuade young people from gambling away their whole fortune. He is on a mission to get revenge for a death in his family many years ago, and for 10 years, he has been active with his trusted manservant, Con. 

When he meets her, it’s almost as if a hurricane sweeps into his life, and he is understandably shaken because this is the first time in his life that he has felt such violent feelings, and he doesn’t really know what to do with it.

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As I said, the story develops while they are on the road and continues like that up until they get to the end, and they have a happily ever after for sure, with a few twists that I feel like were a little unwanted (check below), but all in all, it’s a decent story.

I am going to try my best to avoid any spoilers, but let me first start with the fact that I didn’t really understand his whole Robin Hood thing at first. In fact, it was later on I understood what was happening, and that’s never a good sign because, at this point, I was already tired of the book. He had to actually discuss this with our FL before I understood what was happening, and that was not really the best strength of the book.

And our FL was quite quirky, and I know that the latest thing is to make the FL as quirky and as trendsetting as possible, but I personally do not favour it. My major reason is that when the execution is less than flawless, it ends up making the whole story feel a little silly and it totally dilutes the existing tension. 

You are going to see it if you do give this book a chance, but our FL would charge into danger headfirst, and I know an argument could be made for the fact that she has lived a very protected existence up to this point, so she’s simply spreading her wings, but there was this very awkward scene where she managed to subdue, and I’m using this word very loosely, some dangerous men by singing arias.

But I did find her lovable, and I totally understand her conflict in the story, even though everything still felt a little exaggerated and overdone, perhaps for dramatic conflict and for tension in the story, but she was actually a pretty solid character.

In time, we learn that our ML intentionally cultivated the rumour of his rakish exploits, and so essentially he is a fake rake, but even at that, it just felt a little too much, especially when taken together with the myth thing. The story felt very busy, for sure.

We got this very crazy twist at the end of the book, which I genuinely could have lived without. If you have read my other reviews on the site, then you probably see that I’m not a fan of books having that extraordinary twist at the end of the book, especially when twists like that should have been obvious to everybody involved.

I mean, there’s no way you can stay dedicated to a course for more than a decade and simply miss some details. It didn’t make sense to me in the context of the story, and it just felt a little superfluous.

I know that some authors are usually wary of simply killing off characters towards the end of the story, but I promise it doesn’t affect the happily ever after. What we are concerned about are the leads and side characters, though important for bolstering the story, shouldn’t determine the end.

And it’s also great that we got to meet several side characters that I came to care for a whole lot, like our ML’s mother and Con, who also got his HEA, and I think that is a win no matter how you look at it. 

Finally, as I said earlier, this was a very decent book, and I think anybody would enjoy it if they like fish out of water stories where someone comes into the world and sort of finds their feet while learning about themselves. It is also very steamy, so there’s a lot of fun there that you can get swept into.

I have written reviews on so many other books to help you make a decision whether you want to read it or not, so make sure you check those out and let me know what you think in the comment section below.

Preye http://therookiejurist.com

Hi! I'm Preye ("pre" as in "prepare" and "ye" as in "Kanye"), and I am a lifelong book lover who enjoys talking about books and sharing bits and pieces of all the fascinating things I come across. I love books so much that I decided to become a developmental editor, and right now, I work with authors to help them tell their stories better. On this blog, I share everything from book recommendations to book reviews and writing tips, so feel free to stop by anytime you like!

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