A Duke by Default will undoubtably remain the Romance that hit me the hardest of the year. My love for A Princess in Theory, the Reluctant Royals series opener, is no secret. But, A Duke by Default forever cemented a place in my heart on a more personal level because of the heroine, Portia Hobbs.
If you like meet-cutes involving accidental pepper sprayings, grumpy silver foxes, and unlikeable~ heroines in male dominated fields, then A Duke by Default is your next favorite read.
❈ Huge thanks to Avon for providing me with an ARC for Reviewing Purposes ❈
Title: A Duke by Default (Reluctant Royals #2)
Author: Alyssa Cole
Release Date: July 31st 2018
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Content Warning: Racism, Xenophobia, Emotionally Abusive Parents
Award-winning author Alyssa Cole’s Reluctant Royals series continues with a woman on a quest to be the heroine of her own story and the duke in shining armor she rescues along the way…
New York City socialite and perpetual hot mess Portia Hobbs is tired of disappointing her family, friends, and—most importantly—herself. An apprenticeship with a struggling swordmaker in Scotland is a chance to use her expertise and discover what she’s capable of. Turns out she excels at aggravating her gruff silver fox boss…when she’s not having inappropriate fantasies about his sexy Scottish burr.
Tavish McKenzie doesn’t need a rich, spoiled American telling him how to run his armory…even if she is infuriatingly good at it. Tav tries to rebuff his apprentice—and his attraction to her—but when Portia accidentally discovers that he’s the secret son of a duke, rough-around-the-edges Tav becomes her newest makeover project.
Forging metal into weapons and armor is one thing, but when desire burns out of control and the media spotlight gets too hot to bear, can a commoner turned duke and his posh apprentice find lasting love?
What I love about Alyssa Cole’s books is that I feel like I’m reading something utterly new every time I pick one up. She does a masterful job of creating a unique world with distinct character voices. Reluctant Royals is a stand out series because of Cole’s strength in Contemporary world building. While reading both A Princess in Theory and A Duke by Default, the Royals felt like they belong in our world. Modern Royalty books can have a hard time carving out their own identity while maintaining that sense of realism, but Cole has no problem balancing the two. I’m always in awe of her settings.
Portia and Tav’s story felt especially timely. I could easily imagine myself scrolling through #SwordBae on Twitter. At times, I forgot I wasn’t reading about a real hashtag. Also, I could VERY MUCH imagine a certain scene involving accidentally pepper spraying yourself because of a similar scene in community.
Tav’s side of the story also deals with the very real anti-immigrant sentiments that exist in our world. His mother was a Chilean refugee, and he discusses what it was like for him growing up. And once he learns he’s nobility, he begins to leverage that power for change.
Plus, there’s the adorable Bodotria where the story takes place in. It features a bookshop and Doctor Who inspired restaurant called Doctor Hu’s. I’m refuse to believe it’s anything but real. I’m going there when I go to Scotland.
ADHD Rep & the Heroine 💙
It was love at first sight for Portia Hobbs and I. When I read A Princess in Theory, she was always in the back of my mind. Even though she treated Ledi like crap and was a walking mess, I knew she had the makings of a favorite character for me (there’s a reason why my bio on Twitter says that I like unlikable heroines). And, Alyssa delivered on making Portia a sympathetic heroine who is struggling against herself to be a better, “new Portia”.
Portia Hobbs has ADHD. She wouldn’t be Portia without it, and it’s a lot of what contributed to her Hot Mess lifestyle. For a long time, probably since I read Percy Jackson back in Middle School, I’ve been wanting on a book with ADHD rep that got it. A Duke by Default is that book. Alyssa Cole did fucking amazing job of showing what it’s like to have ADHD. Portia’s experiences and inner thoughts are almost word for word what mine are living with ADHD. So many Portia’s insecurities exactly mirrored my own.
How much of Portia’s inner thoughts I highlighted and tabbed with “ME!!!!!!!!” over the course of A Duke by Default was truly terrifying. I don’t know if I’ll read anything that gets me like A Duke by Default did. After finishing the book, I immediately went through my highlights and reread Portia’s quotes because I wanted to cry again.
Beyond the inner dialogue, I appreciated how Portia found out she has ADHD. At the start of A Duke by Default, Portia thinks she’s just a huge fuck up. Then, she’s send a link to a youtube channel run by a woman known as the Hot Mess Helper who gives advice/tips for people with ADHD. Through the videos, Portia learns that she’s someone with a disability, not a fuck up who doesn’t try hard enough. A lot of people with ADHD don’t learn they have it until much later in life when they’ve been ingrained to believe that they have character flaws. A Duke by Default portraying that experience was special. Late life diagnosis aren’t talked about enough. I’m grateful Alyssa Cole made a place for that topic in her book.
Portia’s journey will always have a special place in my heart. I don’t think I can put it into words. Honestly, I end up crying if I think about specific scenes for too long.
I strongly encourage you to read the interview Corey Alexander did with Alyssa Cole. She talks about how writing Portia and a youtube channel called HowtoADHD helped her realize she has ADHD (and that channel is totally amazing & a life saver for me too).
Addressing Power Imbalances ⚔️
Going into A Duke by Default, I was worried. My dislike of age gap is no secret. That combined with the fact that the Portia and Tav’s relationship was a boss/employee one… Well, if this wasn’t an Alyssa Cole book I probably wouldn’t have read it in the first place. There’s a lot of room to go wrong with those topics. What surprised me was how unbothered I was by the age gap. It’s addressed, but there’s no overarching angst about how Tav is older: Thank god. I don’t think I’ve ever read an age gap book where I didn’t care it was age gap. A welcome feeling for sure.
Plus, Cole does a great job of addressing the power imbalance of a boss/employee relationship. Portions of Tav’s inner dialogue are devoted to him working out whether his feelings for Portia are because she’s his employee or because he truly feelings something for her. I liked that the grey area was addressed. Also, other characters comment on the imbalance of their relationship, which I enjoyed.
My Rating Reservations 📱
Despite my undying love for this story, I did have two grievances with A Duke by Default. Towards the end of the book, the pace was incredibly fast. In the scheme of the story, it felt out-of-place. The final developments between Tav and Portia were rushed. It was hard for me to emotionally buy into their end game when my mind was still whirling. Then, there was the fact that A Duke by Default had an open ending. As much as I appreciated the handling of the power dynamics between Portia and Tav, I needed an explicit end that addressed how they solved their boundary issues. Typically, I adore open endings. A Princess in Theory did a stellar open ending. Despite that, Portia and Tav’s situation warranted a more explicit ending for me. I know a lot of people won’t be bothered by the ending in A Duke by Default. It’s more a personal preference. That and the fact the last part of A Duke by Default felt rushed were why the book falls just shy of 5 stars. Obviously, A Duke by Default is still an amazing book that has a special place in my heart. I just needed that iron clad closure to be 100% satisfied with the ending.
Just fucking read this book.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR⚔️
ALYSSA COLE is a science editor, pop culture nerd, and romance junkie who lives in the Caribbean and occasionally returns to her fast-paced NYC life. In addition to writing, she founded and hosted the Jefferson Market LibraryRomance Book Club and taught Romance Writing for Beginners. She speaks on topics such as writing erotic romance, writing multicultural romance, and self-editing. She has contributed romance-related articles to publications including RT Book Reviews, Heroes and Heartbreakers, Romance at Random, and The Toast. She has also started a bi-monthly column in the Romance Writer’s Report, Romancing the Globe, in which she chats with romance writers from around the world. When she’s not busy writing, traveling, and learning French, she can be found watching anime with her husband or tending to her herd of animals.
PRIZE: To celebrate the release of A DUKE BY DEFAULT by Alyssa Cole, we’re giving away three paperback copies of A PRINCESS IN THEORY!
GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS: Open to US shipping addresses only. Three winners will each receive a paperback copy of A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole. This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Avon Romance. Giveaway ends 8/10/2018 @ 11:59pm EST. Avon Romance will send the winning copies out to the winner directly. Limit one entry per reader and mailing address. Duplicates will be deleted.