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Book Review

Book Review: A Duke by Default

A Duke by Default
Reluctant Royals, Book 2

By Alyssa Cole
Released: July 2018


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 a very fun modern take on Beauty and the Beast! Portia Hobbs is Ledi’s best friend from A Princess in Theory, and this is her redemption story. She’s a bit of a hot mess and she had put a hiccup in their friendship, but this book does well to develop her character. If you didn’t like her or her actions before, you’ll love her by the end of this installment!

Portia is such a wonderful dynamic character! She’s really making an effort to be a better person, friend, sister, and employee throughout the book, but it’s a process. She’s misunderstood but trying her best. She’s smart as a whip and genuinely invests in the people around her. I love that Portia pursued the arts as it’s a wonderful balance with Ledi in science! 🙂

I loved the slow burn attraction that was built up between her and the Scottish Beast, Tavish (Tav). I highly recommend if you enjoy forbidden love with a slow burn… OhEmGee!! 🔥 But then, why the drop in my rating if I really liked it? Well, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the Tav’s overall actions or demeanor toward Portia, even when given his reasons. Frankly, I’m tired of assholes, and he was more than a bit of a wanker throughout the book. The majority of his actions were challenged, but I still didn’t like the overall tone of their relationship. I didn’t mind the age gap between Portia and Tav, but I did not like the master-apprentice or duke-squire dynamics that translated into their sex life. (Turns out I don’t care for choking in a sex scene? Yeah, still not over it…)

I wanted to completely fall in love with Tav’s character. I tried. I failed. (There’s no denying he has a smoking hot physique!!!) Unfortunately, I ended up liking him less and less the further along it went (particularly in the last 35%). Every time I thought he was going to be redeemed for me, I was disappointed. Ultimately, Tav ends up claiming Portia as his liege lady which I assume should be taken as “owing primary allegiance and service” rather than “a loyal subject” because the latter would be getting nowhere? However, the issue I have with this whole declaration regardless of the definition used, is it never relinquishes the power dynamics, where I was hoping for equality in their relationship.

There’s topics that I applaud Cole for including (alcoholism, sexual freedom, ADHD, physical disabilities, gentrification, immigration, etc) in an otherwise light contemporary romance. It’s balanced in such a way it doesn’t overshadow the enjoyment of reading, but enhances it instead because it makes it more real and relatable. I’ll be continuing the Reluctant Royals series, even though this one wasn’t one of my favorites. (I still love Portia!)


Reluctant Royals:
Book 1: A Princess in Theory ★★★★½
Book 2.5: Once Ghosted, Twice Shy ★★★★★
Book 2.75: Can’t Escape Love  (2019)
Book 3: A Prince on Paper (2019)



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