For Christmas 2018, we got the first four books in Erica Ridley’s The Twelve Dukes of Christmas series – for 2019, we got four more! My review is somewhat belated, but despite the series name, these are definitely not so festive you couldn’t read them all year round!
Book: Dukes, Actually by Erica Ridley
Read before: No
Ownership: E-ARC sent free of charge by author. All opinions my own.
Dukes, Actually is book five of this series set in the wintry town of Cressmouth (pronounced Christmas!) in rural England. It follows Caroline Quincy and Adam, the Duke of Azureford, two characters we’ve glimpsed and heard about in the other stories so far, and it’s in hot competition with book four for my favourite of the series overall! It definitely works as a standalone, or an entry point for the series, and is just so incredibly heartwarming and cute.
Caroline is a fun and forward heroine with a love of architecture and a longing for more than her provincial life, while Azureford is a duke whom everyone thinks is aloof and condescending, but is actually cripplingly shy. When Caro goes to search for her sketchbook – full of illicit architecture drawings and more – after it was misplaced at a party at Azureford’s house, she unexpectedly runs into the man himself, and a friendship blossoms between them (not to mention, a strong attraction). I absolutely loved their interactions – it’s so wonderful to read about two characters who just genuinely like each other. Caro’s personality is so sunny that Azureford can’t help but be charmed, and I just adored how she coaxed him out of his shell. He’s utterly sweet under his awkward exterior – I really believed in their banter and camaraderie, and there are some really funny moments as Azureford practices flirting with Caro. As with my other favourite in this series, Never Say Duke, it’s nice to see a relationship built on friendship and trust first, and attraction later (though the latter is also super well-written).
Also, I cannot believe that we are five books into this series, and it’s taken me this long to notice that each book has a reference to the corresponding line from ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’! The series is called ‘The Twelve Dukes of Christmas’, for goodness sake, and I somehow missed that the turtle-doves and partridges might be more than just ‘oh, this town has a lot of birds’. I am officially a Fool with a capital F! There are plenty of ‘five golden rings’ references in this one, which I eventually caught on to, so I was able to look out for the swans, geese, and milkmaids in books 6-8. It’s a very cute device.
Dukes, Actually is just a delightful read. It’s light-hearted, with really sweet characters who I’d love to see more of. I can’t wait for them to pop up in future books so we can see how they’re getting on. Five out of five cats!