I received a complimentary copy of this ARC via Netgalley but all opinions provided are my own.
Wow wow wow.
Not the most skillful beginning to a review, but that’s honest to God how I felt when I finished the last line of Kerrigan Byrne’s historical romance How to Love a Duke in Ten Days. Byrne’s books are so immersive, so luxuriously written, that each one feels like an experience, a journey that you’ve taken with the characters from one deep emotion to another.
Her books don’t just toy with darkness. They’re unafraid to tackle the most challenging of topics, and in the case of the opening chapter of How to Love a Duke, it’s Lady Alexandra Lane’s rape by the headmaster at her school when she’s 17. Ten years later, Alexandra is an accomplished Doctor of archaeology who avoids putting herself into one on one situations with men, who has no intentions of marrying ever, and who is struggling with how to figure out the best solution—any solution—to her blackmail problem.
When she sees the possibility of a marriage of convenience to a duke, she takes it, even though Piers Atherton is also known as the Terror of Torcliff and is unabashed about his desire to marry for revenge.
Byrne’s books are swimming in feelings. The passion is at a whole different level on every front—the characters lust and fight and desire powerfully—they want things they shouldn’t and sometimes their best impulses war with their worst. She’s a brilliant writer, crafting a story that’s bold and atmospheric and characters that are forged in the fire of suffering, without everything feeling too dour.
How to Love a Duke has this distinctive style, but it also has a lightness that made it my favorite of her books despite the many passages that are sad, disturbing, and difficult to read. In some of her other work, I’ve sometimes felt like the women were more passive than I would like—I didn’t doubt their strength or their love stories but I had flickers of worry that they were being used too much for redemptive purposes.
But the female friendship in How to Love a Duke is critical to the story itself, and there’s no denying that Alexandra and her friends, the Red Rogues, are brave, intelligent, and resourceful, willing to do nearly anything to fight back against the people who have hurt them and who would continue hurting them. I can’t wait to see where their beautifully fierce friendship goes next (that Epilogue!).
Then there’s Piers, who’s entertaining, devoted, and honest with Alexandra, who's occasionally stupid when it comes to matters regarding her, but who isn’t afraid to admit to his mistakes. His weakness for Alexandra, juxtaposed with how terrifying he can be to others, is purely lovely. Their maddening sexual tension kept me engrossed (slooooow burn, anyone?!) and I was so relieved to finish the book in one day so that I wouldn’t be held in suspense any longer.
Finally, the ending is exquisite. There’s no doubting the HEA of this one, folks.
This was a 5 star read for me and I’m so excited about the rest of the series. It’s sure to be luscious and lusciously dark, and by the time of its release I should be emotionally recovered enough to read it 😉.
This book includes a fairly detailed description of Alexandra’s rape and then very frequent flashbacks to the incident, as well as descriptions of Alexandra’s present physical, emotional, and mental response to being touched by men (the Duke in particular).
Give me that HEA, please.
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