If you’ve been with me for a while, you’ll know I’m a fan of Erica Ridley’s historical romances, and this new series starter is one of her most fun yet!
Book: The Duke Heist by Erica Ridley
Read before: No
Publication date: 9th February 2021
Content warnings: death of father figure (not recent, but central to heroine’s motivation).
The Wild Wynchesters is a family made up of six orphans, recovering from the death of their adopted father, Baron Vanderbean, whom they call Bean. He rescued them from poverty and made them his heirs, and though they aren’t quite accepted in society, they’re fiercely loyal to one another and talented enough to get everything they need. Chloe, our heroine, has a talent for disguise – so much so, in fact, that she feels like no one ever sees the real her behind the ‘acceptable’ persona she’s created. Bean’s dying wish was for the siblings to recover a painting they all loved from the son of the man who stole it from him, and Chloe is the natural choice to undertake the heist – except the mark is Lawrence, the new Duke of Faircliffe, who is a very different man to his villainous father. Chloe was only meant to steal the painting, not abduct the duke – but it turns out, he might be exactly the right person to finally see the true her…
This is the kind of book you pick up when you want pure escapism – I’m not going to lie, it’s pretty silly, and not for those who value historically accurate behaviour in their characters. But it’s extraordinarily good fun, a real romp of a romance, and the Wynchesters are just so entertaining! Every single one of them seems to be an eccentric genius, and even while you might be thinking ‘this is ridiculous’, you’re racing ahead to watch them set the ton on its ear. From their ‘Planning Parlour’ to their various talents (animal training, voice throwing and mimicry, inventions and more), they are more akin to a family of supervillains or spies than young Regency ladies and gentlemen! Their interactions are some of the funniest and most enjoyable of the book, and I can’t wait to see more of them, particularly since there are hints here that the next sister to be focused on, Tommy, is sapphic, and the book will be f/f!
The family being a highlight doesn’t mean that I didn’t love the romance too. I really did! The budding relationship between Chloe and Lawrence is exactly the kind of dynamic I like, with plenty of banter and challenge in it. I enjoyed Lawrence’s journey from doing everything ‘right’ to finding a way to be himself – the more time he spends with Chloe, the more he kind of absorbs freedom from seeing how much she refuses to play by the rules. I also really liked Chloe’s smarts – her ability to blend into any situation is very powerful and requires a lot of work – and the fact that he was rather in awe of them, which in turn let her appreciate them! Her journey is equally about becoming able to be her true self, but in a very different way to Lawrence. The two of them really bring out the best in each other, and that’s all I really ask for as a reader to make me smile.
As I say, if you’re a stickler for historical accuracy, maybe give this one a swerve, as the characters and situations are anachronistic as hell – but if you’re up for a joyously fun romance with its tongue firmly in its cheek, then The Duke Heist will be perfect. Four out of five cats!