So, I’ve enjoyed several of Eva Leigh’s past books (read, devoured and whined incessantly about wanting more) and was ready and raring for her newest. However, it surpassed many of my dreams.
Content and trigger warnings first: some attempts at finding out someone’s secret identity, racism, gossip causing difficulties, different power dynamics between romantic pairing, group sex acts (with full consent of all parties), occasional boundary pushing that is resolved.
This particular series is set in a London that has within it a rather fantastic and adventurous club known as the Orchid Club. It is sultry, sexy and has amazing consent rules built into the club, which is so lovely. Members attend masked and several of her other romances have featured the club in some form. This one however stars the elusive proprietress, previously known only as Amina to the reader.
We’ve seen some inklings of a romance between her and a side character in a previous book and now we get to know what happens. Tom, the newly made Duke, has become slightly obsessed with ‘Amina’. Amina has in turn become intrigued by him, but doesn’t want to open her heart to him partially because this is where she does business and partially because she’s been hurt before.
There’s a large score of hijinx and tropes and one particularly wonderful way of solving the inevitable problem of other people poking their noses in, but I will let you enjoy those to yourself.
The thing that made this worthy of a review here and of my everlasting love is one particular line that struck me. “Understand this. I don’t want or need saving. My life is not perfect, but its mine and I’ll find my way. On my own.” Now, its a traditional strong woman sort of line in some aspects. But its also interesting that earlier in the story, they both acknowledge the power dynamics in their relationship and how complicated things are for them. Most romances involving a Duke and a commoner hand wave this away with ‘true love’ but this book actually addresses it.
Furthermore, Lucia is anxious to keep a hold of her life and isn’t wanting to fling it all away on some promise. She’s not an idiot and she’s also had a plan for her life before Tom blows in. Its a nice change of pace from some romances I’ve read. There’s a sense of choosing to make a life together, despite the difficulties and with that fully known to all parties. Again, good consent throughout this book in many places.
Lucia also has a close knit group of female friends, two of whom are in love and they have a lovely chosen family together. It doesn’t quite pass the Bechdel test, but they do have some conversations about running the club and their own needs. Even Tom’s sister is involved in the whole romance and has some agency about her choices and Tom considers her needs during a particularly tricky situation and asks her opinion! GASP!
Lastly, its an interracial marriage and that part is not thrown aside. There are whispers, there are difficulties, and they are acknowledged. Its a romance, so we don’t spend eons wailing over it, but I’m actually very ok with that. Acknowledging it is sufficient for me, as well as the characters making some real choices about what it costs.
So if you are looking for a fun, slightly angsty, hot, sexy novel that also manages to do a good chunk of things right, look no further than Dare to Love a Duke by Eva Leigh.
5 out of 5 and planning to read it again!
*I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.