I loved My Fake Rake, the first book in Eva Leigh’s Union of the Rakes series, which spices up Regency romance with pop culture references from the 1980s, so I’m really excited to be on the blog tour for book two, Would I Lie To The Duke!
Book: Would I Lie To The Duke by Eva Leigh
Read before: No
Publication date: 17th September 2020
Ownership: E-ARC provided through NetGalley and paperback review copy sent directly from publisher, both free of charge. All opinions my own.
Content warnings: Mention of house-fire; heroine has fear of fire with phobic attack shown on page; mentions of parental death.
This series follows a group of men who formed an unlikely bond in their youth, despite their differences, while in an all-day detention at Eton – yes, it’s a Regency take on The Breakfast Club, and it’s as fun as it sounds! The prologue here (as with My Fake Rake) is a glimpse into that fateful Saturday, and a pitch-perfect take on a scene from the film, reminding us of all the characters and the roles they are playing. My Fake Rake followed Sebastian (the nerd); Would I Lie to the Duke is Noel’s book. Noel is the Duke of Rotherby, and takes the ‘princess’ role played by Claire in the film; popular and charming, he’s the ton’s most eligible bachelor, but he’s crushingly lonely, since no one bothers to get to know the real him. That is, until he meets Lady Whitfield – a smart, confident woman whom Noel can’t resist. Trouble is, Lady Whitfield is really Jessica McGale in disguise, posing as a high-class widow at a Dragons’ Den style business society Bazaar in order to gain the trust of elite investors to save her family’s business – though she only wanted to get close to Noel to gain his influence, the sparks between them indicate that they’re not only a good business match, but possibly perfect for each other in every way…
Jess is exactly the kind of heroine I love: she’s got both book-smarts and street-smarts, and can talk her way out of almost any situation. After the death of her parents, she feels responsible for keeping her family afloat, and when a fire wrecked their farm and their soap business, she was forced to take work as a companion, so when we meet her, she’s feeling like a failure. But it doesn’t take long for her to find an opportunity to get back on track, and when she does, it’s like she lights up – you can really tell she thrives on being useful, efficient and respected. I loved seeing her set the stuffy business society on its ear! Noel is a really enjoyable character too, and one that it takes Jess (and the reader) time to get to the heart of. He seems carefree and happy, and he instantly has a connection with Jess that leads to wonderfully arch banter, but there’s a loneliness at the heart of him that means he doesn’t ever really feel anything for other people. I loved seeing him learn, through Jess, to stop being so careless in assuming people would just go along with his ideas – he grows a lot through their relationship. In fact, they both do – this isn’t a terribly long book (353 pages, but the font is massive!), but there’s a wealth of character development packed in. I won’t spoil anything about the way the relationship unfolds, but this is definitely a book where the steamy scenes do some important character work, which I always appreciate more than having them randomly tacked on.
The plot is pacey, and there’s plenty of drama – Jess’s deception proves the rule that a small lie can spiral into bigger and bigger lies, and there are moments when I was genuinely worried for her that it was all going to fall apart in an unsalvageable way! I’m not usually a huge fan of stories where one of the main characters maintains a hidden identity for so long, because I feel like it undermines my belief in the strength and honesty of their relationship, but that’s really nicely subverted here, because though Jess takes on a new name, she’s more herself in the fast-paced business world than she ever has been before, and so it really is her true self that Noel falls in love with. I often say that the success of a romance novel for me is in how much I trust that the pair would be happy after the dramatic ending, when they actually have to live together, and Jess and Noel definitely have a good solid future ahead of them, I think.
If I had to sum this book up in one sentence, it would be that it’s just a huge amount of fun! I loved spotting the 80s references (I’m sure I must have missed plenty, though!), and though the Dragons’ Den style Bazaar- where a group of rich investors audition business owners – is towards the farfetched end of the historical romance spectrum, it leads to some extremely funny scenes. It’s a romp, for sure, and exactly what I’m after from the genre: charming gentlemen, clever women, and pure fluffy escapism! I’m really looking forward to book three, Waiting For A Scot Like You. Five out of five cats!