Audiobook Review: The Duke Undone

Published April 6th 2021

Author: Joanna Lowell

Narrator: Mary Jane Wells

Audiobook Length: 12 hours 34 minutes

An artist stumbles upon a naked duke and an unlikely love story begins in this captivating Victorian historical romance.

When Royal Academy painting student Lucy Coover trips over a naked man passed out in an East End alley, she does the decent thing. She covers him up and fetches help. Trouble is, she can’t banish his muscular form from her dreams as easily. She finds herself compelled to put every detail down on canvas. What she doesn’tknow is that she’s painting the infamous Duke of Weston, and that her life will never be the same.

A second son, Anthony Philby thought he could flee his brutal family legacy and become his own man. Forced back to London by his brother’s death, he inherits a fortune… with strings attached. One scandal will sink his bid for independence. It’s in his best interest to burn Lucy Coover’s shocking painting and pretend he never met the bewitching young artist. Instead, he finds himself offering a devil’s bargain. He’ll save her aunt’s dressmaking shop from ruin, if she’ll seek out his missing sister, Effie.

As they work together, an unexpected passion ignites between them. But the hunt for Effie leads to unexpected danger, and soon they find themselves risking everything… for a love that might destroy them both.

The Duke Undone was a light romance story that nicely integrated more difficult themes to become an unexpected tale. There was a lot packed into this story including an opposites attract romance, PTSD, emotional abuse, women’s rights, institutionalization, and alcoholism. The novel was an interesting introduction to this new to me author and made me curious to read more, especially as there is a sequel in 2022 set in the same world.

Lucy Coover is a painting student at the Royal Academy of Arts. She finds a naked man passed out in an East End alley and assumes he must have been the victim of a robbery. She decides to cover him to help preserve his dignity and discovers he is passed out from being drunk. His form sticks in her mind, so she decides to paint him, even though it is forbidden for female students to view and paint nudes.  

Anthony Philby became the Duke of Weston after his older brother’s death. He has an unacknowledged learning disability and his father considered him stupid and placed him under the conservatorship of his friend, Yardley, until Anthony turns 30. He has problems with alcohol and has to keep his alcohol habits a secret as it is prohibited under his conservatorship. When Lucy’s painting becomes public, he recognizes himself as the subject and he sets out on a journey to find the artist before his life could be destroyed.

This story was very surprising as I thought the main conflict would just stem from the two of them differing over the painting; however, there was a lot more to it. As Lucy’s dad was an alcoholic, there was added tension between the characters and Anthony’s alcoholism. There are additional subplots with the two characters striking a deal with each other after Lucy’s home is in danger of being taken away. Each character has their own story along with the story of the two of them developing feelings for each other and the potential obstacles that come with it.

Overall, the two characters had amazing banter and I wish that there was more of it. Each character has their separate journeys, so there were times that I wanted the two of them to spend more time together. At times, I wish there were a few less subplots as some of them got lost before they were picked up again. I loved the two main characters and how they went through a lot of self-reflection and growth. This was a very interesting historical romance and, again, I cannot wait to see what the author will come up with next!

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