Regency Romance fans, rejoice! Amalie Howard’s latest, Always Be My Duchess, gives readers lots of romance goodness. Howard has narrowed in on what romance fans want and need. Even if this is to be a passing trend, Howard manages to make an impact. The end result is a perfectly enjoyable romantic romp that will have readers sighing with delight from beginning to end.
Bridgerton Fans, Unite!
Seriously, if you’re like us and impatiently waiting for Bridgerton Season 3 and all of the Polin goodness, Always Be My Duchess might just scratch your itch. We need solid Bridgerton-adjacent content to keep us occupied before we get Polin in all their glory. Always Be My Duchess delivers. It doesn’t feature the long line of siblings looking for love. The novel does, however, feature a determined, daring, and capable heroine and a lovable rogue of a Duke.
It might seem tired to compare a Regency romance to the Netflix series that has captivated millions. But the book is arguably a distillation of everything that captivated Bridgerton audiences. It isn’t just the steamy sex among attractive people (though that certainly doesn’t hurt). It’s the effective use of romance tropes to build compelling characters that are worth cheering for. It gives hope to us all that love can be found, even in the most unlikely places.
Regency Era Escapades
The Regency era is experiencing a cultural moment right now. It’s a great opportunity to interrogate the colonialism and imperialism that have left their mark on the modern age. Always Be My Duchess doesn’t fully analyze the rampant racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, et al. that were staples of this era. And it’s a shame since each fictional work of art set during the Regency period is another opportunity to place the people of the time in context, rather than giving in to the temptation to romanticize the past.
This is something Always Be My Duchess categorically does not do. It’s frankly refreshing to read any historical fiction novel that doesn’t pine for the days of old where straight cisgender white men were the only ones with anything resembling human rights. Instead, Howard manages to shine a spotlight on the world of ballet in particular, and the brutal history behind the ethereal artistry fans know today. It’s a sobering reminder that white patriarchal societies have caused incalculable damage. By focusing on ballet in particular, readers are invited to be all the more radicalized by the horror. While the commentary on the book’s historical accuracy should be left squarely to those with the corresponding credentials, it’s frankly just fun reading a new take on the history.
Pretty Woman Adaptation
As a take on Pretty Woman, Always Be My Duchess works exceptionally well. While Lord Lysander Blackstone, the Duke of Montcroix, may not be a Richard Gere, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Genevieve Valery is frankly just as loveable as Julia Roberts as a woman out of her comfort zone. The journey that these two go on to navigate their differences in class is an endearing one.
If anything, Always Be My Duchess takes the best parts of Pretty Woman. In particular, the fake dating trope, which has never been a personal favorite, is played to near perfection. It’s clear that as in Pretty Woman, our heroine is more than equipped with enough charm to endear her to pretty much everyone she meets. The glow-up sequence even translates to the page in such a captivating way. All she was missing was Héctor Elizondo to guide her way. She does just fine on her own, though.
We Read This for the Plot…We Promise
In terms of the romantic spice, Always Be My Duchess maybe comes in at a medium-level. Full disclosure, I personally don’t read tonnes of spice. Truthfully, the spice serves to enhance the characters and the rest of the stories themselves. Will your grandmother be able to tolerate this? Maybe. But there’s just enough humor and heart to make each spicy scene work every time. This part of the story is never overplayed. It’s enjoyable and sweet at its core.
What makes the actual spice work is Howard’s commitment to weaving the necessity of consent into each romantic encounter. Always Be My Duchess, while being firmly set in its time period, manages to present consent as something that always should have been a part of romantic relationships. It’s presented as an integral part of the romantic journey. And its absence is felt keenly in other relationships readers are introduced to. The story always comes back to why this critical component makes relationships sizzle.
As a whole, Always Be My Duchess is a delightful romantic period piece that will leave readers with a distinct impression of being charmed. It’s a fun romp that is a fun callback to two beloved pop-culture properties. Rather than being a straight re-telling of a 1990s rom-com, Always Be My Duchess manages to find its own way within the genre.
It’s well worth the romantic journey. You may just find your heart warmed when it needs it most.
Always Be My Duchess is available now.
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