Etta

Book Review: Duke, Actually (ARC)

Expected publication: October 26th 2021

Author: Jenny Holiday

Maximillian von Hansburg, Baron of Laudon and heir to the Duke of Aquilla, is trapped. Under pressure from his domineering father, he must marry a suitable bride before he inherits a title that feels like a prison sentence. In New York to meet a prospective wife, he ditches his responsibilities and appears on Dani Martinez’s doorstep. He’s been intrigued by the no-nonsense professor since he met her at the Eldovian royal wedding and is determined to befriend her.

Newly single Dani is done with love—she even has a list entitled “Things I Will Never Again Do for a Man”—which is why she hits it off with notorious rake Max. He’s trying to escape relationships, and she’s resolved to avoid them at all costs. All they want from each other is friendship and a distraction from their messy lives.

As their bond begins to deepen, so does their attraction, until they end up in bed together. Falling in love was never part of the plan—Max’s family doesn’t see Dani as a perfect match, even as his heart tells him she’s the one, and Dani isn’t sure she can make it in Max’s world. Can they find the courage to live they life they desire, even if it means risking everything?

[A Princess for Christmas Review]

Duke, Actually is the sequel to A Princess for Christmas where readers can either read them as a series or as standalones. If you choose to read both, which I would recommend, I would start with Princess before moving on to this one as the events in Duke take place after the ones in the first. First things first, the title of this story is adorable and fits extremely well with the story. Not only is the move Love Actually referenced throughout the story, but the title of Duke is a running joke with one of the main characters.  This novel centers on the best friends of the two main characters, Leo and Marie, from A Princess for Christmas.

Daniela (Dani) Martinez is a 32-year-old English Professor in New York, who is Leo’s best friend. She is dealing with the fallout of her marriage to fellow professor Vincent (Vince) Ricci, who is now dating a 20-year-old named Berkeley. Due to her past, she has sworn off dating men and is content to live her life with her dog Max and to try and find her way in her career. While she enjoys her job, she is anxious to try and get tenure and she also struggles with her dream of writing novels. With Leo now living in Eldovia (a fictional country near Luxemburg) and living his new life with his fiancée, Marie, Dani is trying to find to navigate the new dynamic.

Enter Max von Hansburg, a 28-year-old Baron and heir to the Duke of Duke of Aquilla, who is Princess Marie’s best friend and also her ex-fiancé (a marriage of convenience).  Max is in New York to meet Lavinia von Bachenheim, who his father wants him to marry now that Marie is taken. Max remembers Dani from her past visit to Eldovia and decides to text her to hang out. The two of them begin a friendship where they get to lean on each other. The two of them share a lot about their lives and I loved how they connect with each other throughout the story. Dani shares a lot about her marriage and her dreams while she waits for the day for her divorce to be final. Max shares his lack of direction in life and his private family life, including some secrets about his abusive family members and his father’s alcoholism.

Overall, I love the Hallmark feel that this series continues to have as Eldovia and New York are both excellent holiday backdrops for the stories. While the two characters had attraction for each other, it was not the only thought that occupied their inner thoughts. With the story including both of their perspectives, I appreciated that there was a lot of focus on building a connection between the characters rather than either of them only focusing on being attracted to the other. This novel was a slow burn romance that felt natural in its progression. Each character was going through a lot in their own journeys, so their build up to a potential romance made a lot of sense. For me, I hope that the author continues to expand the series as I really would love a story with Max’s brother, Seb, as a main character since he was a delight when he was on the page!

**I give a special thank you to Netgalley and the publisher, Avon and Harper Voyager, Avon, for the opportunity to read this entertaining novel. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.**

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