Tuesday, April 10, 2018

ARC Review: What a Difference a Duke Makes by Lenora Bell

Series:     School of Dukes #1
Pub. Date:March 27, 2018
Length:384 pgs

What a Difference a Duke Makes is the first installment of a new series by Lenora Bell, School for Dukes. This was a beguiling story inspired by Mary Poppins and I had such a good time reading it.

Miss Mari Perkins is our heroine, and  that's Mari-rhymes-with-starry, if you please. Mari was raised in an oppressive orphanage and has come to London to find work as a governess and find out more about her her parentage. When the proprietor of the employment agency refuses Mari a position, she takes it upon herself to present herself to a duke's residence and pose as a quality governess. Mari was a delightful heroine. She was courageous, compassionate and cheerful. I was really surprised at Mari's optimistic nature given her difficult childhood, but I appreciated it all the same. She was great with the children, and even better with the distracted duke. My only hang up with Mari's character was her name... the rhymes-with-starry bit just didn't work with my southern accent, so I called her Mary most of the time.

Edgar Rochester, Duke of Banksford, is an unusual member of the aristocracy. He shunned his title for a period of time and worked as a commoner, and now he is a duke engaging in trade. Specifically, our duke is endeavoring to build a lighter, faster steam engine for use by railways and fire brigades. I admired his determination and self-assurance. Edgar didn't give a whit about society or its ideals, he was trying to make travel easier and cities safer from fire. He also didn't hesitate to acknowledge and accept his illegitimate children when he learned of them, and he appeared quite distraught that their mother hid them from him for so long. While Edgar was self-assured when it came to his work and societal standing, he was vulnerable when it came to his past and his father. I liked this dichotomy in his character and felt it made him more relatable.

This relationship was sweet and uplifting. I loved Mari's banter with the duke - she had some great quips in response to his more overbearing behavior. I liked that the duke was attracted to Mari from the very first, where she saw herself as undesirable with her carrot top and freckles. Through Edgar, Mari's self-esteem grew and she blossomed on the page. Edgar grew as well, realizing that he wasn't his father and didn't need to maintain such strict control all the time.

The Mary Poppins aspect of this story was great. I thought the touches were subtle, but recognizable. When something familiar popped up, it made me nostalgic. Edgar's children were great as well. They were precocious, but also unsure of themselves in their new life. I liked that Mari decided to be a bridge between their old life and new.

I highly recommend this story to any fans of historical romance. I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book that I received from the publisher, Avon.

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