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A Lady for a Duke

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A lush, sweeping queer historical romance from the bestselling author of Boyfriend Material—perfect for fans of Netflix’s Bridgerton, Evie Dunmore, and Manda Collins! When Viola Caroll was presumed dead at Waterloo she took the opportunity to live, at last, as herself. But freedom does not come without a price, and Viola paid for hers with the loss of her wealth, her title, A lush, sweeping queer historical romance from the bestselling author of Boyfriend Material—perfect for fans of Netflix’s Bridgerton, Evie Dunmore, and Manda Collins! When Viola Caroll was presumed dead at Waterloo she took the opportunity to live, at last, as herself. But freedom does not come without a price, and Viola paid for hers with the loss of her wealth, her title, and her closest companion, Justin de Vere, the Duke of Gracewood. Only when their families reconnect, years after the war, does Viola learn how deep that loss truly was. Shattered without her, Gracewood has retreated so far into grief that Viola barely recognises her old friend in the lonely, brooding man he has become. As Viola strives to bring Gracewood back to himself, fresh desires give new names to old feelings. Feelings that would have been impossible once and may be impossible still, but which Viola cannot deny. Even if they cost her everything, all over again.


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A lush, sweeping queer historical romance from the bestselling author of Boyfriend Material—perfect for fans of Netflix’s Bridgerton, Evie Dunmore, and Manda Collins! When Viola Caroll was presumed dead at Waterloo she took the opportunity to live, at last, as herself. But freedom does not come without a price, and Viola paid for hers with the loss of her wealth, her title, A lush, sweeping queer historical romance from the bestselling author of Boyfriend Material—perfect for fans of Netflix’s Bridgerton, Evie Dunmore, and Manda Collins! When Viola Caroll was presumed dead at Waterloo she took the opportunity to live, at last, as herself. But freedom does not come without a price, and Viola paid for hers with the loss of her wealth, her title, and her closest companion, Justin de Vere, the Duke of Gracewood. Only when their families reconnect, years after the war, does Viola learn how deep that loss truly was. Shattered without her, Gracewood has retreated so far into grief that Viola barely recognises her old friend in the lonely, brooding man he has become. As Viola strives to bring Gracewood back to himself, fresh desires give new names to old feelings. Feelings that would have been impossible once and may be impossible still, but which Viola cannot deny. Even if they cost her everything, all over again.

30 review for A Lady for a Duke

  1. 4 out of 5

    Alexis Hall

    THIS IS A QUEER HISTORICAL ROMANCE THAT DEFINITELY EXISTS AND IS DEFINITELY BEING PUBLISHED. FOR DEFINITE. MAY 2022. AHHHHHHH!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Marieke (mariekes_mesmerizing_books)

    A trans heroine. A grieving Duke. Two old friends. A moving and beautiful historical romance. Alexis Hall has outdone himself! Longing for the sequel of Boyfriend Material? Wanting to be back with Luc and Oliver? STOP! Husband Material can wait. First, pick up this moving and beautiful story! In my opinion, A Lady for a Duke is Alexis’ best so far. After reading the first sentence of this book, I knew this would be a five-star read. This book! OMG! This book is LOVE! Two beautiful people, grievi A trans heroine. A grieving Duke. Two old friends. A moving and beautiful historical romance. Alexis Hall has outdone himself! Longing for the sequel of Boyfriend Material? Wanting to be back with Luc and Oliver? STOP! Husband Material can wait. First, pick up this moving and beautiful story! In my opinion, A Lady for a Duke is Alexis’ best so far. After reading the first sentence of this book, I knew this would be a five-star read. This book! OMG! This book is LOVE! Two beautiful people, grieving in different ways. Viola, who decided to leave her old life behind, choosing herself first to finally be who she wanted to be, who she really was. Gracewood, who thought his oldest friend died and searched for comfort in alcohol and opium use. From the moment those two people met again, the love splashed off the pages and found a place in my heart—the tenderness, the grief, the intimacy, the craving, the heartbreaking moments, all so vivid and palpable, imbued with Alexis’ humor, and again love, so much love. Despite its tough topics, A Lady for a Duke is a comfort read, and I haven’t even mentioned the gorgeous side characters yet, especially Lady Marleigh, Miranda, and Lady Lillimere. And how Alexis brings historical queer characters to life and lets people back then accept queer family and friends so easily. Our current world (think of Florida and Texas) could learn so much from this book. Because it keeps coming back to that one word: LOVE, LOVE, LOVE! I received an ARC from Forever through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Follow me on Instagram

  3. 4 out of 5

    Heather K (dentist in my spare time)

    My feelings on this book are a bit mixed, but ultimately a transwoman getting her unequivocal HEA in a well-written historical romance book deserves to be celebrated. I started off absolutely loving this book. I mean. THE EMOTIONS. I was near tears and thought I would give this story 5-stars for sure. I'm not usually a fan of stories where there is an off-page, prior to the story emotional connection between the MCs, but I really understood it here. The grief and the depth of the emotions betwee My feelings on this book are a bit mixed, but ultimately a transwoman getting her unequivocal HEA in a well-written historical romance book deserves to be celebrated. I started off absolutely loving this book. I mean. THE EMOTIONS. I was near tears and thought I would give this story 5-stars for sure. I'm not usually a fan of stories where there is an off-page, prior to the story emotional connection between the MCs, but I really understood it here. The grief and the depth of the emotions between the MCs was absolutely overwhelming. However, my enthusiasm started petering out in the middle portion of the story. I think my only issue, significant as it was, with this story is that the pacing fell way off the map in the middle of the book. The whole plot felt drawn out and muddled, and I missed the feelings I had in the beginning of the book. I feel like the initial plotline only stretched so far, and then side plots were brought in to flesh it out and then things felt watered down, if that makes sense. I wanted that emotional intensity back. I greatly enjoyed that Alexis Hall gave us on page sex (YES!!!). On page sex in books with trans characters is so important to me because I love when authors treat these books with the same heat and sexual tension as any other pairing. I thought Alexis did an amazing job here with that aspect of the story. I also adored the HEA and epilogue. *dreamy sigh* Best part of the story is the fact that we had a happy transwoman living her best life in historical romance because, realistically, there WERE transwomen doing just that in all eras of existence, whether people knew it or not. I really enjoyed the side characters as well (Alexis always gets those right). Of course, I could have used more humor but I think I just love Alexis Hall when he does funny so much that I craved it here also. Overall, I celebrate every aspect of this story, even if I wanted slightly more from parts of it. Thank you, Alexis Hall, for delivering such a successful book. *Copy provided in exchange for an honest review* goodreads|instagram|twitter|tiktok

  4. 4 out of 5

    Cait (Caitsbooks)

    Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for sending me an eARC to review. A Lady for A Duke is a rollercoaster. There was one scene in particular where I think I felt every possible emotion. This book has an incredible premise, with interested characters, great representation (both with LGBTQ+ characters and disabled characters), hilarious dialogue, and beautiful writing. There were so many lines I noticed that were so quotable. However, my only issue is that this book is long, and feels it. At Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for sending me an eARC to review. A Lady for A Duke is a rollercoaster. There was one scene in particular where I think I felt every possible emotion. This book has an incredible premise, with interested characters, great representation (both with LGBTQ+ characters and disabled characters), hilarious dialogue, and beautiful writing. There were so many lines I noticed that were so quotable. However, my only issue is that this book is long, and feels it. At some points, the beautiful writing did seem a little too much, and it dragged down the pace. Luckily, I loved the characters and plot more so it didn't bother me that much, but I can see it being an issue for people who aren't typically historical romance readers jumping into this for the first time.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell

    I am not normally a fan of fluffy historical romances but if anyone can make me love it, Alexis Hall can On sale today (6/24) thanks so much to David for letting me know! I don't think I've ever one-clicked something so fast 😅 I am not normally a fan of fluffy historical romances but if anyone can make me love it, Alexis Hall can On sale today (6/24) thanks so much to David for letting me know! I don't think I've ever one-clicked something so fast 😅

  6. 5 out of 5

    sil ♡ the book voyagers

    the epilogue is SO GOOD AND MADE ME CRY OKAY???? thank you alexis hall

  7. 4 out of 5

    Crystal Cook

    This was beautifully character driven and achingly romantic. The earnest, tentative way each part of the couple approached each other hoping for acceptance and love for who they are in this moment and seeing them not only accepted, but adored, was so beautiful it moved me to tears. Also this epilogue is one of my FAVORITE epilogues in a romance novel EVER. I will say at times this did feel a bit too long. The middle can feel drawn out, but the emotional power of several scenes made it so I did n This was beautifully character driven and achingly romantic. The earnest, tentative way each part of the couple approached each other hoping for acceptance and love for who they are in this moment and seeing them not only accepted, but adored, was so beautiful it moved me to tears. Also this epilogue is one of my FAVORITE epilogues in a romance novel EVER. I will say at times this did feel a bit too long. The middle can feel drawn out, but the emotional power of several scenes made it so I did not care a bit and I would gladly read every single page. One of my favorites of 2022.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Madison Warner Fairbanks

    A Lady for a Duke by Alexis Hall Historical queer romance. Viola is assumed dead at Waterloo and takes the opportunity to reinvent and restart her life the way she wants to live. When she encounters the Duke of Gracewood years later she’d shocked at his depression and overall hiding from life. Voila helps Gracewood heal. Emotional and heavy with powerful society hazards and facing is down. Viola is so confident in her lifestyle, and even when she’s not, she has the full support and backing of fam A Lady for a Duke by Alexis Hall Historical queer romance. Viola is assumed dead at Waterloo and takes the opportunity to reinvent and restart her life the way she wants to live. When she encounters the Duke of Gracewood years later she’d shocked at his depression and overall hiding from life. Voila helps Gracewood heal. Emotional and heavy with powerful society hazards and facing is down. Viola is so confident in her lifestyle, and even when she’s not, she has the full support and backing of family. Her transition and life is simply accepted. It’s wonderful. A detailed epilogue adds depth and hope for the future. Overall great if longer than an average historical romance which was my main complaint. There were at least a couple of threads that seemed to go off on a tangent before circling back. 🎧 I listened to an audiobook which was Narrated by Kay Eluvian. What a wonderful performance. From depression to joy and every emotion in-between, plus young children to adults, the vocalizing is clear, gripping and engulfing. I did speed this up to 1.5 for conversational comfort. 4.5 I received a copy of this from NetGalley and Hachette Audio.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Alexis Hall is giving us a historical romance with a trans heroine??? If god hates the gays WHY DO WE KEEP WINNING Update: I read it! “…fuck the world. I will change it for you if I have to.” I’m a bit speechless in the face of what Hall has accomplished with this queer historical romance novel. A LADY FOR A DUKE is one of the most compelling love stories I’ve ever read, about two childhood best friends who thought they were irrevocably lost from each other, only to find one another again, both cha Alexis Hall is giving us a historical romance with a trans heroine??? If god hates the gays WHY DO WE KEEP WINNING Update: I read it! “…fuck the world. I will change it for you if I have to.” I’m a bit speechless in the face of what Hall has accomplished with this queer historical romance novel. A LADY FOR A DUKE is one of the most compelling love stories I’ve ever read, about two childhood best friends who thought they were irrevocably lost from each other, only to find one another again, both changed and the same, and fall in love - or perhaps, to finally name the love that has always existed between them. Viola Caroll, presumed dead when she went missing during battle, takes the opportunity to free herself from the strictures of the identity assigned to her at birth and finally live as herself. But the cost is heavy: her childhood friend, with whom she was as close as family, thinks she is lost. Justin de Vere, the Duke of Gracewood, has not been the same since returning from the war: his injuries are physically limiting and cause him chronic pain, he’s tortured by memories of battle, and he has come to lean on alcohol and laudanum to cope. He’s also never stopped grieving the loss of his greatest friend. When Viola and Gracewood are reunited by their families, they are faced with rediscovering each other, figuring out how they fit together after so much has shifted within and between them, and overcoming the barriers that would seek to part them once more. Almost every single page of this novel set my heart racing, aching for Viola and Gracewood as individuals and as a couple. Hall has crafted a story that centers Viola as a trans woman in the most beautiful, affirming, and empowering way. There are heavier aspects - the looming possibility of social rejection, the difficulties of gender dysphoria that Viola carries - and Viola always has family and friends on her side throughout. While part of the plot initially involves keeping her identity a secret from Gracewood, he quickly loves her as she truly is and always has been, and fiercely supports the actions she needed to take to be herself. I love how Hall navigates their shared past when Viola could not live as herself, carrying the affection and positive memories from that time and integrating it into their romance. Gracewood’s development as a character is incredibly powerful: healing from his father’s harsh parenting, changing his relationship to the lineage of power he descends from, and relearning how to be a man outside of the strict gender roles he was taught. As a couple they have both scorching chemistry and beautiful intimacy; I loved their banter, as Viola’s fierce will collided with Gracewood’s stubborn determination. The side characters are an absolute delight, and the ending is everything I could have wished for Viola and Gracewood as a couple. This story is going to stay with me for a long time, and I want many more books like this, with fearless trans protagonists getting the happily ever afters they so deserve. Thanks Forever Books for the review copy! This book is out 5/24 and I can’t wait for everyone else to fall in love with Viola, Gracewood, and their epic romance. Content warnings: chronic pain, nightmares and other trauma responses, substance dependence, gender dysphoria, some dead-naming/misgendering, kidnapping, attempted sexual assault, fighting/violence

  10. 5 out of 5

    Shelley Parker-Chan

    The emotional interiority of this book is flawless. The bravery and vulnerability of these two characters—the beautifully nuanced acknowledgment that necessary choices can bring relief but also loss (but also hope, and new opportunities)—I cried so much while reading that my mask became utterly saturated and probably lost structural integrity. No regrets!!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    ↠ 4 stars After being presumed dead at Waterloo, Lady Viola Caroll decided to let the world go on thinking that and begin to live for herself. Sundering the past, Viola does not regret much. The loss of her wealth and title are trivial against the greater loss of her friend and closest companion, Justin de Vere, the Duke of Gracewood. For several years, Viola has kept her distance, believing that grief has given way to peace of some kind, yet when their families reconnect again she finds that it ↠ 4 stars After being presumed dead at Waterloo, Lady Viola Caroll decided to let the world go on thinking that and begin to live for herself. Sundering the past, Viola does not regret much. The loss of her wealth and title are trivial against the greater loss of her friend and closest companion, Justin de Vere, the Duke of Gracewood. For several years, Viola has kept her distance, believing that grief has given way to peace of some kind, yet when their families reconnect again she finds that it is actually the opposite. Gracewood is a shadow of the man she once knew, withdrawn so far into his grief that he is completely unrecognizable. Striving to somehow bring him back to his former self, Viola is drawn closer to her former friend, and desires she could never name before are brought to the surface. Denial is useless, and as Viola and Gracewood grow closer these feelings become harder to ignore, prompting a necessary reconciliation against loss and the impossibility of the future. A Lady for a Duke could not have come at a more perfect time for me, fresh off the historical romance binge and having just watched the latest season of Bridgerton. Looking for a romance teeming with emotion, this novel gave me everything I needed and then some. In his altogether masterful historical romance, Alexis Hall draws together a complex past between his main leads, with an evocative center of loss, memory, and intimacy driving the story forward. Our main heroine Viola is one of the more well-written queer characters in historical romance that I have read recently, giving voice to dysphoria and the trans experience in a way unforeseen previously by me in the genre. As for the other main lead, Justin De Vere, he provided quite the emotional conversation surrounding grief and the lingering trauma arising from war. Even with all of this tense subject matter, the entire story overflows with longing and an underlying comfort that disperses throughout every aspect of the novel. This is definitely not a tragic story, yes we have a trans heroine and a disabled hero living in this time period, but it doesn't bear the narrative down into tragedy like I’ve seen other period pieces do. Instead, what emerges is a tender second chance romance about two people defined by their circumstances finding love against the odds. I would also be remiss not to mention the wonderful side characters in this novel, who radiate just as much as the two main leads. With a mix of queer and playful characters, Hall really creates a wholesome cast of supporting characters for the novel. The side plots intervening in the central storyline had the most fabulous banter and made me fall even more in love with the story overall. A Lady for a Duke is honestly one of the most beautiful and exemplary historical romances I have read in quite a long time. The epilogue especially, really brought the emotion to the surface, exemplifying love found and a future once deemed unlikely. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing an arc in exchange for an honest review. Trigger warnings: death, violence, guns, PTSD, child abuse (mentioned), abduction, suicidal ideation (side character), deadnaming

  12. 5 out of 5

    Amy Imogene Reads

    3.5 stars I think the concepts, representation, and emotional journeys were all top tier. I laughed out loud a lot and absolutely loved the side characters with all of my soul. But I must say, the actual plot and pacing were dull by comparison. Representation: all of the stars Plot/Pacing: ★★ Characters: ★★★★ Enjoyment: ★★★ Viola Carroll is finally living the the life she's always wanted. When Waterloo and the war gives her the perfect opportunity to disappear for good and start a new, true life for 3.5 stars I think the concepts, representation, and emotional journeys were all top tier. I laughed out loud a lot and absolutely loved the side characters with all of my soul. But I must say, the actual plot and pacing were dull by comparison. Representation: all of the stars Plot/Pacing: ★★ Characters: ★★★★ Enjoyment: ★★★ Viola Carroll is finally living the the life she's always wanted. When Waterloo and the war gives her the perfect opportunity to disappear for good and start a new, true life for herself as Viola, she runs with it and never looks back. But Viola's past has not fully escaped her, and one of the people from her past haunts her still. Her childhood best friend, Justin Gracewood, needs help. The Duke of Gracewood is in mourning for his lost best friend. He blames himself for the loss, the war, and for his disability returning from the warfront. Gracewood is slipping into an opium dependency and a depression with no light in sight. Things are dire. When Viola learns of Gracewood's distress, she and her sister-in-law, the Lady Marleigh, decide to intervene. Viola knows she's playing with fire—how long can she hide her very-much-alive presence from her oldest friend?—but the choice is a done deal. She is going to help Gracewood no matter the cost. But Viola's new ability to explore life as her true womanly self has opened up yet another wrinkle when it comes to Gracewood: she can no longer ignore the fact that her feelings for him are considerably more than friendly. Will these two old friends see past themselves and achieve an ideal form of happiness? Quaint, happy, and filled with heart, A Lady for a Duke is a shining example of a new type of inclusive historical romance. My thoughts: Let's start this reaction off with some honesty: I am very conflicted about my star rating of this review. On the one hand, I want to support this title and showcase how happy I am to see it exist, see it hold such a positive and happy storyline, and see it receive a wide readership. Squeals all around, this was adorable and wonderful and I felt all of the feelings. On the other hand, I have to discuss the significant flaws in this novel's pacing, plot construction, and overall sense of boringness due to its drawn out pacing and lackluster scenes. This novel is almost 500 pages long... and it feels like it. Cute scenes of emotional honesty between Viola and Justin were awesome and I loved them, but after the 200 page mark it became painfully obvious that we as readers were going to basically experience the same variant of the same type of emotional scene over and over again. Viola and Justin have barely any drama—which was good for the health of their relationship—but it did lead to a lack of opportunity for newness in their dialogue and interactions. Justin reassures Viola about X, Viola reassures Justin about Y....wash and repeat. So many of their scenes could have been remixed into any spot in the plot and been completely fine, that's how identical in tone and importance they were. The only spot of freshness in this story did not come from the main characters at all—it came from the side characters, Lady Marleigh (sister-in-law to Viola) and Lady Gracewood (Justin's younger sister). They were doing fresh things in this story, thank goodness, and Justin and Viola got to semi-react to those events throughout the novel. But that did make for awkward reading in a romance subniche that tends to rely on its main characters to provide the agency in a story. Definitely a conflict, and frankly a good one to have as again, the fact that this book is here at all on the bookshelves in the store is a wonderful thing. I'm glad this book exists and that I can quibble over its issues—but as a reviewer I do still need to highlight them. Eagerly looking forward to more fresh stories in the historical romance canon to join this one on the shelves. Blog | Instagram

  13. 4 out of 5

    Madigan Likes to Read

    This is a 5/5 star read for me, but I want to heavily qualify that by saying that I am not a trans woman. I think it's super important that this book makes its way into the hands of trans women readers and that, when we read through the reviews of this book, it's the voices of trans women that should be the loudest and carry the most weight. Writing the Inner Life of a Trans Woman (1) On gender dysphoria. I am agender and have experienced and continue to experience gender dysphoria. Because Viola This is a 5/5 star read for me, but I want to heavily qualify that by saying that I am not a trans woman. I think it's super important that this book makes its way into the hands of trans women readers and that, when we read through the reviews of this book, it's the voices of trans women that should be the loudest and carry the most weight. Writing the Inner Life of a Trans Woman (1) On gender dysphoria. I am agender and have experienced and continue to experience gender dysphoria. Because Viola exists on the gender binary and I do not, the dysphoria she experiences is different from what I experience. However, I can say that the descriptions of dysphoria landed well with me. Sometimes I could relate, and where I could not relate, I deeply empathized. (2) "the rough seam between the life she used to live and the life she lived now" Here is where we need the perspective of a trans woman. For me, as a person who is agender, there is not a clear demarcation between what is referred to in this book as an "old life" and a "new life". I've always been agender. The difference for me now is that I have the language to describe my relationship with gender, whereas before I did not. For Viola though, there is a clear line of demarcation between the life she lived before presumed dead in the war and the authentic life she lives now. And it's her interaction with Gracewood, who knew her before and after transition, that forces her to confront the place where her "old life" and her "new life" intersect. In the book, AJH calls this intersection a "rough seam". I would like to know how this - the description of a demarcation and the reference to a "rough seam" weaving the two lives together - lands with trans women readers. For the most part. Viola's thoughts around being trans rung true to me, even if AJH didn't always dive very deep into those thoughts. However, while reading this I was very aware that it was a cis gay man writing the inner life of a trans woman and I wondered if that man (AJH) had a right to tell this story, and if trans women would find that he told that story well. And in the same vein, do I, who is not a trans woman, really have the right to judge this story's merits? Tragic Queer Stories (TM) Like many of us, AJH is sick and tired of reading stories that paint queer lives as tragic (I am basing this on notes at the back of the book and various social media posts). In the back of the book, AJH states, "my intent for this book was for the fact that Viola is transgender not to be the main source of conflict" and asks the reader if that intent was successful. I would say that the attempt at a story where the fact that Viola is transgender is not the main source of conflict was not successful. But not in the way you might think. This is most definitely not a Tragic Queer Story (TM). Indeed, it is a celebration of love and a celebration (and affirmation) of Viola's womanhood. In my view, this book exists in three parts - The Reunion, The Pursuit, and The Random Side Story with the Sister. (Btw, while it seemed unnecessary as I was reading it, upon reflection, that Random Side Story absolutely served a purpose). In part one, which I am calling The Reunion, Viola and Gracewood are reunited two years after Viola was believed to be killed at Waterloo. Only Gracewood doesn't know that Viola is his longtime friend. He doesn't recognize her yet is drawn to her. And it's during this section of the book that I, as a reader, was on the absolute edge of my seat wondering when it would come out that (a) Viola didn't die at Waterloo and (b) Viola is trans. Here, I believe that the fact that Viola is trans was, if not a source of conflict, definitely a source of narrative tension. And by the end of part one, Viola's transness becomes, if not the source of conflict, definitely the source of some very conflicted feelings. That leads us to part two, which I will call The Pursuit. I'm trying to avoid spoilers here, but given that this is marketed as a romance, it can be no surprise to any reader that there is in this middle section a pursuit of romance. And it's during The Pursuit that the fact that Viola is a trans woman once again becomes a source of conflict. But again, not in the way you think. As I said before, this is not a Tragic Queer Story (TM). Rather than being denied happiness because she is trans (as one might expect), happiness is instead laid at Viola's feet and it is she who hesitates to grab at it because she's always believed that being trans necessarily meant that she would be denied romance. The joy here is that Viola is given an opportunity for romance just as any other woman would be given the same opportunity. Historical Accuracy There are those that are going to hate this book because they perceive it as being not historically accurate. My fear is that there will be readers that use that argument to disguise their own transphobia. At the end of the book, AJH poses these questions: There's often resistance among fans of historical fiction...to writing stories about LGBTQ+ people that don't just consist of wall-to-wall bigotry and misery, on the basis that it's "historically inaccurate." So two questions: Firstly, is it, in fact, historically inaccurate? Secondly, does it matter? Is the purpose of historical fiction only ever to imagine historical societies as they were (or as we are in the habit of imagining that they were)? I think that second question is the most vital to me personally: does it matter? Does it matter that this affirming love story between a trans woman and a cis man may not be historically accurate? I've said it before and I'll say it again here, queer people, including trans women, deserve happy endings too. If AJH is presenting this book as entertainment rather than proven history, can't we just, you know, enjoy it? Conclusion As I reflect on this book, and even as I write this review, I am realizing it is going to take a re-read for me to fully absorb what AJH has given us here. There are some aspects of the romance I was unable to truly savor because I was wringing my hands worrying that the fact that Viola is trans would somehow become a source of tragedy (even though I was assured that this was not a Tragic Queer Story (TM)). Additionally, every AJH book contains nuances that are impossible for me to pick up on during the first pass. So I look forward to re-reading this one to find its hidden gems. This is a 5/5 star read for me. But again, I think when trans women read and review this one, it's incredibly important for us who are not trans women to listen to and uplift their voices. In the end and imo, it's for trans women readers to decide if this one hit all the right notes. ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Check out my blog Madigan Likes to Read to see more reviews like this one.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Noah

    Five gold stars, Two thumbs up, a third thing! This was absolutely beautiful, and I loved every word on every page. Stellar in just about every way! I’ll admit, I tear up more at happy moments than sad, so this was a regular tear-jerker for me. You know, I’m growing a bit tired of stories that are steeped in irony and a “wink-and-nod” type humor, where every moment of sincerity is undercut by a joke. It was such a relief to come by a book that isn’t afraid to be unapologetically itself. Also, I’v Five gold stars, Two thumbs up, a third thing! This was absolutely beautiful, and I loved every word on every page. Stellar in just about every way! I’ll admit, I tear up more at happy moments than sad, so this was a regular tear-jerker for me. You know, I’m growing a bit tired of stories that are steeped in irony and a “wink-and-nod” type humor, where every moment of sincerity is undercut by a joke. It was such a relief to come by a book that isn’t afraid to be unapologetically itself. Also, I’ve never read an epilogue that actually improved the book until this one, just absolute perfection. This book was earnest, heartfelt, and just all around lovely. It’d be so easy to make most of the conflict centered around bigotry. And being historical fiction, I’ll admit I was a little worried. What’s a “brave lgbt+ story” without trauma and hatred imbedded in its fabric, right? As if queer stories can only exist or be interesting based on how much abuse is endured within them. “A Lady for a Duke” is a story that understands that when it comes to queer folk, just… being is plenty brave enough.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Raluca (hedonicbooks)

    Hi. I am here to tell you that this book is perfect. Yes, you read that correctly. PERFECT. I know, I know, you're probably thinking I'm exaggerating since I've been in an Alexis Hall induced bliss for the past few months. Well, you'd be wrong. While I am indeed a big fan of Mr. Hall's writing, I am still capable of acknowledging when a book isn't good (which is a very subjective thing anyway). And, my dear friends, this book is PERFECT. Here's why. Mild spoilers ahead, proceed with caution. Also, Hi. I am here to tell you that this book is perfect. Yes, you read that correctly. PERFECT. I know, I know, you're probably thinking I'm exaggerating since I've been in an Alexis Hall induced bliss for the past few months. Well, you'd be wrong. While I am indeed a big fan of Mr. Hall's writing, I am still capable of acknowledging when a book isn't good (which is a very subjective thing anyway). And, my dear friends, this book is PERFECT. Here's why. Mild spoilers ahead, proceed with caution. Also, please check the trigger warnings before starting this book. There are quite a few. 1. A Regency romance, with a twist. I'm not much of a historical fiction reader. I'll pick a book now and then from different time periods, but regency romance has never been something I would normally choose to read. However, this time I was so glad I did. The story takes place just a couple of years after the battle of Waterloo, so we get to read about lavish balls, gorgeous dresses, but also about the strict hierarchy of that time and social etiquette. There's a lot of emphasis on gender roles and what men and women are meant to be doing in those times. But this is also a world where queer people exist and thrive, where language isn't as stiff as it should be and where women are more outspoken than usual. 2. A strong, trans heroine. Viola Carroll is the heroine of this book. A trans heroine. And while this particular characteristic is so perfectly portrayed and used throughout the book, it is not the main focus of it. Viola dies and is reborn on the battlefield of Waterloo. She leaves her old life behind, and starts living as her true self, giving up her titles and fortune in order to become who she's meant to be. She becomes lady Marleigh's (her sister in law) companion, also giving up her rights and place on the hierarchy ladder. But this decision also takes away her oldest and most important friendship of her life. 3. A flawed, disabled hero. Justinian de Vere, duke of Gracewood is a complete mess. He is scarred, both physically and mentally, by the war he's fought in alongside his oldest friend. He is in pain not only from his injured leg, but the loss of his best friend on that battlefield pushes him into the hands of alcohol and narcotics. He's suffering from severe PTSD while trying to fulfill his duty thrust upon him by the name he carries. He is constantly torn between following his heart and fulfilling his legacy, exactly as his strict father would have wanted. 4. A spin on second chance romance. Viola and Gracewood used to be best friends. But more than 2 years have passed since that dreadful day on the battlefield in Waterloo, and Viola has accepted that she will never see Gracewood again. How could she? But fate and lady Marleigh's meddling work in mysterious ways. Prompted by a letter sent by Lady Miranda (Gracewood's sister), the journey to second chances begins. 5. Slow burn, angst and longing. Viola is thrust into Gracewood's world once more. Reluctantly, she befriends the duke and she is both relieved and disappointed that he doesn't recognize her immediately. Their chemistry is so raw and natural, it's absolutely hypnotic. The bond they've had before is still so strong, giving birth to the most delicious period of longing I have ever read. The angst and pain are practically seeping through the words, it's so heartbreaking but yet so beautiful to witness. Gracewood's acceptance and love is so pure that you can't possibly not fall in love with him. 6. On page, graphic intimate scenes. The book has sex scenes in it. If you're not used to that, just skip them. I honestly think they were so carefully and perfectly done, with tact and tenderness. Don't disregard the book as a whole, just skip those parts if you're not comfortable with them. Trust me. 7. Beautiful side characters. Alexis Hall is the master of fabulous secondary characters. Lady Marleigh and Viola's brother, for instance, are not only comic relief, but key players in Viola's life. Her nephew, Bartholomew is such a precocious, funny little boy. His interactions with his aunt add so much depth to her character, it was beautiful to witness those intimate moments. Lady Miranda! Ah, my favourite, I do hope she gets her own book. She's the catalyst for much of the plot and I adored every single minute of it. Amberglass, you bastard, I can't wait to read your story. 8. The Epilogue I usually dislike epilogues. They're so over the top and annoyingly perfect, but this one... This epilogue was everything. It made me so happy. I cried. A lot. I am completely in awe of Alexis Hall. As I concluded today with a friend, even if he writes across so many genres, he always manages to deliver brilliantly thought-out books. I honestly couldn't find a single flaw to this book. The writing was superb, everything just clicked together. Ah, I'm happy. I'm so happy right now and immensely grateful for being able to put my hands on an ARC of this book. Can't wait for its release so I can clutch it to my chest and smile dumbly at the ceiling. Ahem. ------------------------ 2nd read in April 2022. I think this book is becoming my favourite comfort read of all time. It's just freaking brilliant.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Justin Chen

    5 stars A beautifully articulated queer romance that's completely worthy of its length, A Lady for a Duke feels like an old-school historical romance in the best way possible, with its lyrical writing, the near-obsessed dedication to capture every single emotional nuances, and the sense of sweeping scope and place. I don't think I've read any new HR release that devotes this much page count in decoding an evolving relationship dynamic, as well as the psychological impact on the parties involved ( 5 stars A beautifully articulated queer romance that's completely worthy of its length, A Lady for a Duke feels like an old-school historical romance in the best way possible, with its lyrical writing, the near-obsessed dedication to capture every single emotional nuances, and the sense of sweeping scope and place. I don't think I've read any new HR release that devotes this much page count in decoding an evolving relationship dynamic, as well as the psychological impact on the parties involved (the only comparable one I can think of is Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale); the commitment wholeheartedly pays off as I was left wanting more after the epilogue wrapped up (which by the way was extremely joyful and poignant). A Lady for a Duke takes the best of old and new: classically crafted in scope with a progressive premise and ideology; yes, one can argue it's a little bloated plot-wise surrounding its secondary characters, but nothing can be categorized as a meaningless filler. This feels like a 'director cut' of an already epic story with all the trimmings—do not rush through it and enjoy the journey. **This ARC was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Much appreciated!**

  17. 5 out of 5

    chantalsbookstuff

    Viola Caroll is presumed dead, but she decided to fake it and live as a trans and be free. She worries about Duke Gracewood who is her best friend and has gone off the rails after presuming she is dead and so she decides to go back to him in her new best self. A story of drama, self-worth, doubt and love brings you this very beautifully written historical romance. It shows courage and dedication to overcome all obstacles and leaves you all warm and fuzzy with an ending to make you smile from ear Viola Caroll is presumed dead, but she decided to fake it and live as a trans and be free. She worries about Duke Gracewood who is her best friend and has gone off the rails after presuming she is dead and so she decides to go back to him in her new best self. A story of drama, self-worth, doubt and love brings you this very beautifully written historical romance. It shows courage and dedication to overcome all obstacles and leaves you all warm and fuzzy with an ending to make you smile from ear to ear. The character building was so well-developed that you felt you knew each character. The narration was good and at first had my doubts for a male voice narrator, but it was superb. Thank you Netgalley and Hachette Audio for the ARC.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Bethany

    For those who were fans of Boyfriend Material, it's worth noting that A Lady for a Duke is tonally quite different. While this does have some funny moments, it's not a comedy and is much more serious in tone. That said, I thought it was a really beautiful love story crafted with care, featuring a trans heroine and her childhood best friend who thought she had died in the war. I've never read a historical romance quite like this but we know trans people existed throughout history. While there cou For those who were fans of Boyfriend Material, it's worth noting that A Lady for a Duke is tonally quite different. While this does have some funny moments, it's not a comedy and is much more serious in tone. That said, I thought it was a really beautiful love story crafted with care, featuring a trans heroine and her childhood best friend who thought she had died in the war. I've never read a historical romance quite like this but we know trans people existed throughout history. While there could have been major pitfalls writing this kind of story, Alexis Hall seems to have navigated it with grace. Viola and Gracewood's relationship has this sweetness and depth to it and I was fully rooting for them by the end of the book. The fact that they have so much history together, and yet are in some ways getting to know each other for the first time really worked. Close to the end there are a couple of sex scenes that manage to be both steamy and emotionally resonant without feeling lurid or voyeuristic. This book also has disability representation as Gracewood has a leg injury from the war that affects his day to day life, but he doesn't want to be pitied or defined by his disability even if it has changed him in certain ways. I wasn't sure what to expect from this but I ended up loving it. It's clear the author put a lot of thought and care into crafting this love story. I'm not trans myself so do check out own voices reviewers to hear their thoughts but I was definitely a fan. I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher and an audio review copy from Libro.FM. All opinions are my own. The author has content warnings at the start of the book and audiobook, but it's worth noting that this book does include some misgendering and deadnaming when referring to Viola in a past context, but it's not done maliciously.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Fadwa (Word Wonders)

    CW: (view spoiler)[addiction, war PTSD, panic attacks, self-hatred, internalized ableism, kidnapping, gun, physical altercation (hide spoiler)] I loved this so so much! Viola and Gracewood were so lovely to read about! I loved the way the change in their dynamics from being friends in the past to lovers in the present was done, the way the whole hidden identity plot was handled as well as the attention that was given to some side characters, like Gracewood's sister (romance in the future? possibl CW: (view spoiler)[addiction, war PTSD, panic attacks, self-hatred, internalized ableism, kidnapping, gun, physical altercation (hide spoiler)] I loved this so so much! Viola and Gracewood were so lovely to read about! I loved the way the change in their dynamics from being friends in the past to lovers in the present was done, the way the whole hidden identity plot was handled as well as the attention that was given to some side characters, like Gracewood's sister (romance in the future? possibly f/f?). The latter was sometimes a hinderance, especially in the middle where it felt like everything else happening distracted from the actual romance and it did fall a bit flat in the middle, but it picked right back up with a happy balance of sweet and angsty. Gracewook calling Viola "My heart" and "My viola" is the death of me.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Carole Bell

    Friends long thought lost are found and slowly, gingerly become lovers in this beautiful and deeply moving historical romance, with just the right amount of humor to lighten the angst. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ Ps. 2/28. Look at that gorgeous cover. ❣️❣️❣️❣️❣️ Grateful to be able to read this galley a little early thanks to the wonderful folks at Forever. Longer review to come in some form, somewhere. stay tuned!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Maisha Farzana (on hiatus)

    “I love you as a man loves a woman, but we both know that love is not bound by such narrow terms. So instead let me simply tell you that I love you." Reading this book was like devouring my favourite cheese cake. Every moment was a treat; every second - sweet and delightful. "A Lady for A Duke" is ultimately a comfort read but still manages to make you shed some tears. At least, I CRIED. A best friends to lovers queer romance featuring a trans heroine and a grieving self destructive hero. Thi “I love you as a man loves a woman, but we both know that love is not bound by such narrow terms. So instead let me simply tell you that I love you." Reading this book was like devouring my favourite cheese cake. Every moment was a treat; every second - sweet and delightful. "A Lady for A Duke" is ultimately a comfort read but still manages to make you shed some tears. At least, I CRIED. A best friends to lovers queer romance featuring a trans heroine and a grieving self destructive hero. This book is about self discovery and finding love when you aren't even expecting to! "A Lady for A Duke" isn't very different from any other good historical romances out there. Lush setting, polished prose, noble society, friends, families, conspiracies, humor etc etc. But Alexis Hall adds an exceptional TWIST to the mixture. This book features a trans heroine. I didn't about it when the book first came out. So I didn't pay much attention to it. But when I found out that "A Lady for A Duke" casts a trans woman as the main character, I was absolutely mind blown. This is the first historical romance I have come across to where queer poeple are not only recognised but also are treated with utmost respect. I have read a lot of books featuring trans man. It might come as a surprise but I had never read a book with a trans woman as the main character before this one. And, I never thought I would find my perfect, desired scenario in a historical romance. I am mind blown will be a understatement to be honest. I loved the cast of characters. The characters in A Lady For a Duke are all beautifully drawn. The main two characters, as well as, the supporting characters are amazing. Viola is the strongest, fiercest and loveliest heroines I have read about, in a long time. I loved her so much. I loved her strength, her intelligence, her determination and most of all her blunt nature. Viola had to give up everything she knew, in order to be her authentic self. Hall doesn’t just blatantly have Viola say how hard living her new life has been, but instead shows the reader through Viola’s actions and interactions with both friends from her old life as well as her new. I really enjoyed the transgender representation. Alexis Hall handles the topic with care and caution. The book community has made a lot of progress during the last few years. Wonderful trans rep is not anything new tbh. But Hall takes it to another level. I can't really explain it. So, I am gonna let it be with saying, I loved it! Though I loved Viola, the the Duke of Gracewood was my favourite character in this book. He's the most caring, supportive and understanding hero I have ever met. He never let Viola feel "fake" or "unwanted". From the moment, he finds out that his former best friend wasn't a man but a woman, he starts referring her as "She". It made me so happy. I was crying happy tears after witnessing that such amazing men exist; might have existed even centuries ago...Loved Justin's character. He isn't perfect by any means. He is ill-tempered, grumpy and self destructive. But he's also become one of my favourite characters of all time. The portraiture of his grief and PTSD was (once again) perfect. Now let's talk about the ROMANCE. God! How gorgeous the romantic relationship is! Their banter, their communication, mutual respect, understanding, love - everything were absolutely breath taking. "A Lady for A Duke" is a sweeping historical romance that is equally fluffy and emotional. From pet names to lovely monologues confessing deeply hidden feelings, Hall knows how to write an emotionally fulfilling main couple. The only word to describe it is beautiful, and yet that word is inadequate for how Viola and Gracewood’s unfolding love story will make you feel. I loved Hall's prose in this book. Of course, it was different from the author's usual rom-com books. It did felt a little stiff at time but I rarely noticed because I was busy in swooning over the main couple. Basically, what I mean is, even if you aren't a regular historical reader, you'll still enjoy the heck out this book. The pacing was a bit messy. That's the only complain I have with this book. "A Lady for A Duke" isn't just a romance book, it's an artful masterpiece. One of the best queer romances out there. I would highly recommend everyone to read it.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Trio

    Alexis Hall produces the most unique and thought provoking relationships in his novels, and he’s just completely elevated the bar with A Lady for a Duke. Way more than simply a beautiful friends-to-lovers romance, Mr. Hall delivers a profound look at gender roles, and explores how physical perception affects the relationship between these two characters. Reuniting several years after the Battle of Waterloo, Viola and Justin are two very different people. Justin returns home, emotionally and physi Alexis Hall produces the most unique and thought provoking relationships in his novels, and he’s just completely elevated the bar with A Lady for a Duke. Way more than simply a beautiful friends-to-lovers romance, Mr. Hall delivers a profound look at gender roles, and explores how physical perception affects the relationship between these two characters. Reuniting several years after the Battle of Waterloo, Viola and Justin are two very different people. Justin returns home, emotionally and physically scarred, to assume his family duty as Duke of Gracewood. And Viola is presented with an opportunity to discover herself. As a result, we as the reader uncover many of the details of Viola’s story gradually. But as Alexis Hall states in the afterward, he doesn’t mean for Viola’s transgender status to be the main focus of the story. Since it’s left up to us, I entertained various versions of Viola’s experience as she dragged herself from the battlefield, and all the steps she must have taken to become who she is at the start of A Lady for a Duke; putting her past behind her, and crafting an existence for herself in nineteenth century England. I love when authors leave us this bit of freedom! Suffering from debilitating battle wounds and PTSD, Justin is openly scorned as a coward and a failure by his peers. Sequestered in his family home, Justin has reached rock bottom when Viola re-enters his life. Knowing her as only a friendly, kind-hearted stranger, he gradually opens up to Viola. They forge a powerful connection, and Justin’s walls finally crumble. It is during this stunning scene, through the sincerity of their exchange, that Justin finally recognizes his old friend. Justin’s journey in understanding Viola, is just as important as Viola’s understanding of herself. My hat is off to Alexis Hall with his handling of the physical romance scenes. It’s incredibly moving to witness the depth of Justin’s care for Viola, processing his own reactions to Viola’s body, and the sensations of what they can do together. Plus, Viola’s dysphoria is incorporated into the story in a simply masterful and sensitive manner. With Viola’s current position as a lady’s companion, the issue of class distinction is always at the forefront, and makes her union with the Duke of Gracewood (as anything more than just his mistress) impossible. Alexis Hall also weaves in some entrancing family drama, several marvelous scenes of the ton behaving badly, and fills the pages with the clever banter which is the hallmark of Alexis Hall’s writing. Any of the issues facing Viola and Justin would make a great novel, but placing them in nineteenth century England adds a unique twist. I hope we’ll see much more from this world, and that some of the supporting characters from A Lady for a Duke might get their own novels. Or possibly, we could at least get Viola’s story. I think that would be fascinating indeed!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Fiona

    “I love you. I have, in some form, for as long as I’ve known you. You are my joy and my truth and my heart and my dreams. You are the best of me.” “You’ve always been wrong about that, Gracewood” “Oh?” “Yes.” She nodded. “We are the best of each other.” This review discusses individuals who may have identified as trans given they had the language to do so, and some quotes may use language that would not be correct, but I have made best efforts to use thoughtful language. This book was so well written “I love you. I have, in some form, for as long as I’ve known you. You are my joy and my truth and my heart and my dreams. You are the best of me.” “You’ve always been wrong about that, Gracewood” “Oh?” “Yes.” She nodded. “We are the best of each other.” This review discusses individuals who may have identified as trans given they had the language to do so, and some quotes may use language that would not be correct, but I have made best efforts to use thoughtful language. This book was so well written and just a lovely reading experience all around. While reading, I was inclined to learn about trans experiences/history contemporaneous to ‘A Lady for a Duke’. The accounts are somewhat few and far between given the largely puritanical cultural attitudes. There is a quote from the book where Viola is expressing her anger—and fear—at Gracewood for not understanding the risks of simply living as she is, and the risks she would be taking on by becoming more visible being a Duchess. “Tomorrow I could be nothing at all. Or worse, I could be a scandal, a cautionary tale. Worse yet, a mystery, my very womanhood the subject of speculation in private salons and bets at White’s”. This quote draws a parallel to a fascinating character, Charles/Charlotte, Chevalier/e d’Eon. Le Chevalier worked as a spy for King Louis XV, and lived in exile in Britain for a few years after disobeying French orders and then publishing secret diplomatic correspondence—as a warning to the French monarchy that more damaging correspondence may be published. Rumors had swirled regarding d’Eon’s gender for years, and were so fervent that “in 1771, London bookmakers started taking bets on his gender—3:2 odds that he was a woman”. D’Eon declined to place a bet, and d’Eon’s refusal to address their gender prolonged this debate. Of course we may never know how d’Eon would self identify with contemporary language and a more evolved understanding of gender. There are multiple historical accounts—some of tentative veracity—that make a cogent argument that d’Eon would identify as a trans woman. From the same article cited previously: “In May 1772, a French secretary in the service of the Secret allegedly came to London to investigate the claim that d’Eon was a woman; he left in June, fully convinced that d’Eon was indeed female because that’s what d’Eon told him”. Following the death of Louis XV, “The Chevalier d'Éon claimed to have been assigned female at birth, and demanded recognition by the government as such”, in addition to a settlement. d’Eon was required to present as a woman, and took on the image of a heroine in society. The article I have taken much of the information and quotes from discusses d’Eon’s life with the author of the biography Monsieur d'Eon Is a Woman: A Tale of Political Intrigue and Sexual Masquerade. The biographer views d’Eon’s transition as seemingly as much—or possibly more—having to do with d’Eon’s religiosity as gender. In the article this is attributed to d’Eon’s discussion of this transition, as a “conversion from bad boy to good girl”. While I have far less context than the biographer, this proclamation sounds somewhat complementary to modern trans narratives I have heard—that one was ‘bad’ at presenting and fulfilling all the aspects of their gender assigned at birth, and there is a specific rightness to the gender they identify as. Viola somewhat echoed this sentiment as well—not that she ever considered herself a man or ever refers to herself as such, but in the manner she refers to her life before her transition; “You loved a phantasm… Someone who wasn’t there”. Although Viola’s insistence in her womanhood in the face of confusion or questioning is more stalwart, it has echoes of d’Eon’s insistence at being born a woman. Viola says “I was born Lord Marleigh, but I am Viola Carroll… I am—I have always been a woman. I feel as a woman. I desire as a woman. I… I could not bear being thought otherwise”. There are many more examples of individuals in a similar time period who did not identify with their assigned gender, and many whom lived as the gender they identified as—including James Allen, who wrote to his wife that he was her “Most loving and affectionate husband until death”, and all other ‘female husbands’, the Public Universal Friend, Dora Richter, Lili Elbe, Toni Ebel and her partner Charlotte Charlaque, and many more lost to the ravages of time and poor record keeping. This book was a lovely—if somewhat progressive—portrayal of a trans woman living and loving as herself, and being affirmed by those she loves. Gracewood had already begun to love Viola before learning he already knew her—although he had not yet known her fully. Much of the conflict in this book stems from the tension of Gracewood absolutely wanting everything with Viola, but not feeling good enough for her due to his struggles with his physical disability, PTSD, and drug dependency. Viola loves Gracewood but does not want to marry him, functionally ending the line of De Vere’s. The longing and yearning in this book is incredibly well done. Justin and Viola have loved one another since they were children, and the evolution of their love—and as individuals—makes for an incredibly compelling story. The epigraph is a quote from Twelfth Night, "Do not embrace me till each circumstance, Of place, time, fortune, do cohere and jump That I am Viola". is already incredibly allusive, but after reading and getting a depth of context, it is even more meaningful. I cannot recommend this book enough. ________________________________ Initial Review: Why am I crying in the office rn... the epilogue absolutely ruined me. I plan to write more about historical context/references made etc. eventually

  24. 5 out of 5

    Adri

    CWs: descriptions of PTSD and chronic pain; instances of deadnaming/misgendering (in the past tense); some references to dysphoria; brief mentions of suicide ideation; some exploration of drug addiction; references to past abuse; some misogyny; and explicit sexual content Rep: Viola is a trans woman who passes in society; and Gracewood is a former soldier disabled by the war who uses a mobility aid, experiences chronic pain, and is contending with both PTSD and related drug dependency The CWs: descriptions of PTSD and chronic pain; instances of deadnaming/misgendering (in the past tense); some references to dysphoria; brief mentions of suicide ideation; some exploration of drug addiction; references to past abuse; some misogyny; and explicit sexual content Rep: Viola is a trans woman who passes in society; and Gracewood is a former soldier disabled by the war who uses a mobility aid, experiences chronic pain, and is contending with both PTSD and related drug dependency The perfect historical romance does exist, and Alexis Hall has not only proven that but achieved that with flying colors in this truly unforgettable book. This book ruined me. It absolutely eviscerated my emotions and left a permanent mark on my soul, which will be forever changed just by knowing that this book exists. At the time of writing this review, I read this over a month ago, and just the thought of it will still stop me in my tracks and make my heart clench in the best/worst possible way. This historical romance gave me joy, gave my life, gave me purpose. It is an incredibly tender, slow-burn romance that is the absolute *epitome* of queer yearning, and it is the ultimate second chance romance. There *is* no greater second chance than essentially coming back from the dead to win over your best friend and first love. I think what makes this romance so incredibly striking is the fact that being together allows both Gracewood and Viola to process their grief, and they’re both grieving completely different things. Viola is grieving both the person she was wrongfully raised to be along with the womanhood she was never fully invited into or allowed to embrace. Gracewood, on the other hand, is not only coming to terms with the fact that he was grieving someone who was never actually lost, but he’s also grieving the past version of himself that was stronger, more independent, and more able-bodied—because that's how he's been taught to define his masculinity and because the world has conditioned him to place value in those things. In many ways, both of these characters are haunted by those past versions of themselves and they’re still learning how to accept themselves for who they are *now*, even if those new versions of themselves come with obstacles or hardships. Through healing together and being with one another, they are slowly learning that the people they are now are fully capable and worthy of love. On the subject of representation, there is so much care and nuance put into how the other characters process and hold space for Viola's transness. To be explicitly clear, that doesn't mean that everyone reacts "the right way," or that every character easily and automatically understands or accepts Viola's transness, but it *does* mean that Viola is given ample opportunity to express herself, her feelings, and her needs in a way that’s very thoughtful and direct. I also really appreciate how this historical romance doesn’t shy away from the fact that Viola’s womanhood inherently changes the dynamic of her friendship with Gracewood, specifically in how they carry themselves in society and have to take different rules of propriety into account. As a woman, Viola cannot occupy those same spaces that she and Gracewood used to frequent in their youth. She can’t go into gentleman’s clubs, or bars, they can’t go riding or hunting together, and it could even be taboo for them to associate in public without a chaperone. There’s all these societal rules for how they conduct themselves as people of two different genders, which is not inherently a “bad thing,” but it is new and different. The story is also very mindful of how Viola is still learning how to navigate those new spaces, how she still doesn’t really know what she should wear, how she should conduct herself, what’s "polite" for a woman to say, or even how to take up "womanly" activities like arts, tea service, or being a hostess. Again, there's no judgment value placed on these new endeavors that Viola has to take on, but simply an acknowledgement that this shift in priorities and expectations placed upon her is very much a real thing she has to learn how to balance. What’s more, the banter and the dialogue in this story is just top notch. Alexis Hall was born to write regency-era banter, and he knows exactly the right words for his romantic leads to say that will absolutely tear your heart *asunder.* There is such an earnestness and lack of pretense between Viola and Gracewood that makes space for so many tender, heart-wrenching interactions and exchanges that will just leave the reader breathless with their clarity and urgency. The amount of quotes in this book that sent me reeling are just beyond measure, and the level of devotion the characters are constantly expressing to each other is simply unfair to every other romance book in existence. Additionally, that aspect of Gracewood unknowingly grieving with the very same person who unintentionally caused that grief in the first place is a romantic dynamic that I never knew I needed in my life. But it is *so* incredibly good. It is so good and so cathartic to see these characters find their way back to each other and heal each other in a way that is so incredibly earnest and powerful. If I have not sold you on this book with all that I've said so far, then frankly I never will. If you want to feel something deep in the dredges of your heart, you have to get yourself to a copy of this book by any means necessary as soon as humanly possible. As cliché as it may be to say, this is one of those stories that will make you believe in love and give you a reason to hope. I truly cherished every single second that I got to spend with this incredible story. It is one of my all-time favorite books now, and if any part of this review connects with you, I'm sure it will also become one of yours in no time at all.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Eugenia

    FABULOUS 👏👏👏👏👏 A romantic Regency slow burn with an “if only” twist: a trans heroine! Viola was lovely, but I fell in love with our Duke—what a flawed and perfect man! Bring your suspension of disbelief and be ready to cry and laugh in this romance which turns best friends into lovers with many of the historical roadblocks in place for people of society. Fabulous narration! One flaw, if possible, was the dukes’s transition from NO to YES. Gloss over that bit and it’s 5 Stars all the way! Very well d FABULOUS 👏👏👏👏👏 A romantic Regency slow burn with an “if only” twist: a trans heroine! Viola was lovely, but I fell in love with our Duke—what a flawed and perfect man! Bring your suspension of disbelief and be ready to cry and laugh in this romance which turns best friends into lovers with many of the historical roadblocks in place for people of society. Fabulous narration! One flaw, if possible, was the dukes’s transition from NO to YES. Gloss over that bit and it’s 5 Stars all the way! Very well done discussions surrounding identity and position in life. You’re in for a treat (with some spicy sexy times)!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Anniek

    This was a very emotional, but very beautiful reading experience. There's quite a lot of angst, but it balances out really well with Alexis Hall's signature humour, and the fact that there's no direct transphobia in this book (although indirectly it does exist in the society). There were so many beautiful quotes in this book, full of yearning, and I absolutely adored the romance. This was a very emotional, but very beautiful reading experience. There's quite a lot of angst, but it balances out really well with Alexis Hall's signature humour, and the fact that there's no direct transphobia in this book (although indirectly it does exist in the society). There were so many beautiful quotes in this book, full of yearning, and I absolutely adored the romance.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Chris Zable

    Viola Carroll, a veteran of Waterloo, has taken advantage of her presumed death in battle to begin publicly living her gender. She has given up a great deal to do so -- no longer heir to a viscountcy, stripped of wealth and rights, she has resigned herself to life as a spinster companion to the woman who is in truth her sister-in-law. The greatest thing she has given up, though, is her deep and long-lasting friendship with the Duke of Gracewood. Thinking his friend dead, Gracewood is living in i Viola Carroll, a veteran of Waterloo, has taken advantage of her presumed death in battle to begin publicly living her gender. She has given up a great deal to do so -- no longer heir to a viscountcy, stripped of wealth and rights, she has resigned herself to life as a spinster companion to the woman who is in truth her sister-in-law. The greatest thing she has given up, though, is her deep and long-lasting friendship with the Duke of Gracewood. Thinking his friend dead, Gracewood is living in isolation, pain, and grief in Northumberland. Then circumstances (and that sister-in-law, who is very determined in arranging other people's lives) force the two of them back into each other's company and emotions of many sorts come to the fore. The first section of the book is very much steeped in ghosts, memory, and phantasm, the past an eerie overlay on the present. The action eventually transfers to London, and the milieu becomes less gothic and more what we expect from a Regency romance: talk of the ton, gowns, balls, and the marriage mart. But, depending on which Regency romances you have read, this may not be quite what you expect. This is a Regency England where there are Black people, where there are queer people, where sex toys exist and so do people of rich and varied sexual experience. Also, there are women who drop F-bombs. If you've been reading K.J Charles or Lex Croucher, this will be a Regency you recognize, but if you have other sources, it may seem unfamiliar. I encourage you to open yourself to its enchantments and to realize that it has more historical accuracy than a world of nothing but white noblemen and pretty, innocent white women with fans. I love so many of the characters in this book. Viola is fierce and making her way against quite a few obstacles and treading carefully as she negotiates a new relationship with an old friend who does not recognize her. I don't have personal standing to comment on trans representation, but as far as I can see the text always treats her with respect. Gracewood is struggling to heal from, or at least live with, his loss, his grief, his stern upbringing, his memories of war, and his wounds. He means well but, like so many of us, sometimes manages poorly. Together they make a couple who face great challenges and for whom I was rooting all the way with bated breath. And the side characters! Viola's younger brother, affectionately called Badger, has become the viscount and is adorably buffleheaded and devoted to his forthright, managing (one might even say interfering) wife. His son, Young Bartholomew, is seven years old, possibly precocious, and given to having oddly philosophical discussions with Viola that shine a different light on the twists, turns, and challenges of relationship and identity she's going through. And Lady Lillimere is bold, ribald, and unstoppable. The writing is everything we have come to expect from Alexis Hall: erudite, playful, and deeply kind. Besides a compelling romance, the book has a complex, multilayered approach to gender, power, society, and identity that I am certain will repay rereading. And, of course, as it is a romance, there is a touching Happy Ever After. I recommend this book with all my heart, especially to those who want to see stories of a variety of people, who want a queer history where tragedy is not inevitable, and need to know that, then and now, queer joy is real.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ellie

    The most gorgeous, angsty and happy making book I have read by Alexis Hall (so far)! Can't recommend it enough! Note: I am on friendly terms with the author on social media Note 2: Alexis Hall's book usually touch me deeply and my reviews end up mostly personal reactions to the books rather than proper reviews and this one is no different. Another gorgeous, gorgeous book by my favourite author! This is a historical romance with a trans heroine that is pretty angsty and has dark moments but overall is The most gorgeous, angsty and happy making book I have read by Alexis Hall (so far)! Can't recommend it enough! Note: I am on friendly terms with the author on social media Note 2: Alexis Hall's book usually touch me deeply and my reviews end up mostly personal reactions to the books rather than proper reviews and this one is no different. Another gorgeous, gorgeous book by my favourite author! This is a historical romance with a trans heroine that is pretty angsty and has dark moments but overall is hopeful and full of promise for happiness. Viola has my heart from the start. Gracewood needed some time to grow and become the duke he was meant to be and I ended loving him as well. Together they are magic. Despite some hurts, despite the difficulties real life poses in front of their happiness, they manage to achieve it. The story was super angsty at the beginning. things seem impossible - Gracewood has given up on life after losing his best friend at the battlefield. He is a disabled veteran, with serious childhood and war traumas, barely hanging onto life. Viola is a trans woman, a lady's companion to her sister-in-law, trying to find her place in a hostile world. There is so much hurt and sadness between Viola and Gracewood, neither of them can see a future for them, either as friends or as lovers. The deep love between best friends since childhood well into their adulthood grows into romantic connection and sexual attraction and it was a beautiful thing to see it developing on page. This story is not about transphobia and I am so happy the author made that choice. Viola has a loving and supporting family. The focus was on her and how she navigates the world as a trans woman, rather than on how the world sees / reacts to her. These is no forced coming out, no gender-based violence, and I love that. The author shows the same kindness to Gracewood - his injury is a serious issue for him, his PTSD (undiagnosed and untreated at the time) causes him a lot of discomfort but we never really see other characters humiliating or degrading him over it. The tension is high but all the physical violence is mostly in the past both for Viola and Gracewood. There is a fighting scene that was quite brutal but I felt it was balanced out by a number of tender moments (Viola and Gracewood dancing, her shaving him). I rarely comment on sex scenes in my reviews but I want to say how much I liked the one in this book. It was so fitting to the characters, something that I don't find very often in romance. They were the same Viola and Gracewood that see in the rest of the story, they didn't magically transform into someone else. There was desire and need but also hesitancy and trepidation. They talked things through, explored each other, it was beautiful and touching. I felt that despite the angst and trauma this was a very romantic romance - tender and intimate, the love confessions were amazing, his marriage proposal was all tenderness and care and forever kind of love with a touch of humour. I appreciate the story as a whole with all the side characters. Viola and Gracewood are two soulmates who find a way to the HEA they want in a world that is ostensibly not made for them. But from the start they have people in their lives that love and support them and show them that happiness is a possibility. Badger and Louise are in happy marriage, Miranda finds a way to live the life she wants. I found all this very happy making and hopeful, exactly what I want in my romances. The story ends with the perfect epilogue. Viola gets what she wants - marriage and children and a big sweeping love story. CW: war trauma, violence, kidnapping, PTSD, war injury, drug abuse

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen in Oslo

    After all, what is love but understanding? A Lady for A Duke is an exquisite, moving, clever, funny, old-fashioned, modern, sweeping romance full of empathy, generosity, intelligence, kindness, and even some old-school escapades. It is utterly absorbing but not propulsive: this is a book designed to be savored. My immediate reaction was basically a string of heart-eye emojis in human form, and, hey, I stand by that. But having sat with this book a few days now, I wanted to reflect a bit on some o After all, what is love but understanding? A Lady for A Duke is an exquisite, moving, clever, funny, old-fashioned, modern, sweeping romance full of empathy, generosity, intelligence, kindness, and even some old-school escapades. It is utterly absorbing but not propulsive: this is a book designed to be savored. My immediate reaction was basically a string of heart-eye emojis in human form, and, hey, I stand by that. But having sat with this book a few days now, I wanted to reflect a bit on some of what (I think) AJH is doing here and why it worked so well. The first thing to note is that the language is enchanting: emotional, rich, languorous, luxurious, almost sensual. Contrastingly, the dialogue is sharp, clever, funny, precise, and direct – a necessary dash of acid to cut the sumptuousness of the prose. And the feelings, oh, the FEELINGS!!! There is angst and heartbreak – mostly front-loaded – and slow burn and pining, but also a plot that hums along and pulls us with it. There are hijinks! And when push comes to shove, there is admirably efficient decision-making as to what must and must not be angsted over (and as it happens, the answer to what must be angsted over when one is a duke is: not a lot). As a fan of both angst and pining and people getting their shit together, I am all for a dose of admirably efficient decision-making. But no matter how good the writing and the plot and the efficiency of the decision-making, a romance lives or dies on its MCs. And Viola and Gracewood are wonderful, both separately and together. They are generous, kind, empathetic, wounded, hurt, vulnerable, brave, intelligent, and they have amazing chemistry. They are utterly believable both as lifelong friends and as new, tentative lovers and partners. Of course, the final element a romance needs is some source of conflict that is convincing – by which I mean, grounded in and true to both the MCs’ characters, circumstances, history, and arc – and worked through by the MCs in such a way that the reader really believes in their HEA. And in this book, with a trans heroine and an (initially unaware) hero, this conflict could have gone horribly, horribly wrong. That it does not is a testimony to the care and thoughtfulness of AJH’s writing. He rips out Viola and Gracewood’s (and the reader’s) hearts, but then he gives them – us – the pieces to put them back together. This is a friends-to-lovers romance with a twist. Viola knows her history with Gracewood; she remembers and draws upon and extends their friendship and former intimacy with every interaction. Gracewood, at least initially, does not: he is immediately drawn to Viola, feels an intense magnetic attraction and connection and understanding, but is unaware that it is rooted in a lifetime’s intimacy and friendship. What is most striking is that Gracewood is already in love with Viola before he realizes their previous connection. For Gracewood, then, this is not really friends-to-lovers. It is an immediate emotional, intellectual, and sexual attraction that utterly sweeps him away, even as he cannot fully understand how he is so swept. If we’re talking tropes, then from Gracewood’s perspective this is more akin to insta-connection and love than friends-to-lovers. For Viola’s part, friends-to-lovers is more apropos. But it is also clear that the deeper intimacy and attraction she feels for Gracewood in the time they spend together at his estate, Morgencald, is fundamentally different from the platonic friendship and intimacy she shared with Gracewood in her previous life: There was an intimacy in facing him like this, one she had never before looked for, or recognised. Different to last night’s closeness because he had chosen to share it with her, his mind unclouded by alcohol or opium. And different from the days of their youth because she knew he saw her – part of her at least – not some shell the world had created. And for the first time in her life she allowed herself to look at him, truly look at him, as she had never dared before because it would have entangled her with a different set of possibilities she had somehow always known weren’t the answer she was seeking. She looked at him now as a woman to a man, claiming all the freedom of it. The major test of this connection – a connection entwined in their very beings but also, somehow, entirely new – is, of course, Gracewood’s discovery that Viola was previously known to him as Marleigh, “the joy of my life,” whose loss Gracewood has been mourning for two-and-a-half years. The scene in which Gracewood first confesses his love for Viola and his desire to marry her regardless of the difference in class and status between them – and then discovers that she is the same person he knew as his closest friend and soulmate – is the hinge upon which the rest of the book pivots. And if there was a single misstep in scene, or in the scenes immediately following (where we experience Viola and Gracewood’s reactions to the event), then the whole book would have imploded. There is a moment in that pivotal scene that ramifies through the rest of the book. Gracewood is initially ecstatic to discover that his dearest friend is alive; but these feelings of relief turn quickly to betrayal and despair, as he realizes that this friend he mourned for so long was alive but never contacted him: “All this time, I thought I’d left you. And it was you, who left me.” Viola, guilt-ridden, devastated, tries to explain that her actions were not a rejection of him, but a matter of life-or-death for her: “You were everything to me, Gracewood. My oldest, closest, most beloved friend. Your happiness was my happiness. Where you led, I followed with all my heart. I would have died for you – and I nearly did – but I could not live for you.” And Gracewood, bereft, unable to understand, asks: “But how am I to forgive you?” When I read this line, I read it as referring to forgiveness for the two-plus years of suffering that Gracewood underwent – suffering that now, in his mind, was unnecessary since Viola lived, and was therefore inflicted on him out of cowardice and lack of trust in his friendship and understanding. But it is made very clear that this is not how Viola understands it. What she hears is, “how can I forgive you for being who you truly are?” Because one cannot separate Gracewood’s grief for his friend from Viola's decision to “kill” Marleigh and be reborn (and learn to live) as the woman she always was. And I love that this line is open to interpretation, all the while I am aware that my own immediate reading of it very much centered Gracewood and his grief and his sense of betrayal, rather than Viola and her necessary, urgent refusal to give ground on begging forgiveness for her very selfhood. While normally forgiveness is framed as an act of compassion, Viola cannot accept a friendship in which her existence is regarded as a benevolence granted by others. So this is the rupture. And while it is inescapably connected to Viola being trans, it is not about Viola being trans. The break between them is as much about the secret Viola was keeping from Gracewood, even as they were both falling in love – making what happens from this point on less about “fallout from Viola being trans” and more about “fallout from the big discovery that changes their relationship in ways that, while initially complicated, are not for the bad” (she argues, catchily). And this is evident in Gracewood’s POV scene immediately following their confrontation. And again, this is so, so important. Because I suspect the temptation for a lot of authors would be to dwell on Gracewood’s pain and feelings of confusion, hurt, and betrayal, in order to really amp up the angst and sense of conflict and aggrievement. But in fact, Gracewood – who, after all, is in love with Viola, however devastated he feels at the moment – quickly decenters himself. He recognises that Viola did what she did to survive, not to hurt him. And accordingly, he realizes that his initial reaction of “my dear friend is still alive in a different guise” was, in fact, incorrect; in a moment of epiphany, he discovers instead that Viola was there all along, but only now is he seeing her as she truly is. That this epiphany is followed by extreme coping in the form of a laudanum binge is not unrealistic; his shock at the revelation is now compounded by his devastation and shame at his own reaction, and his fear that he has truly lost Viola for the second time. But what AJH does here, in a very believable way, is turn Gracewood’s focus away from his own pain and grief towards a determination to keep the relationship alive. We the reader are not encouraged to dwell on “poor Gracewood whose friend did not confide in him”; we are not led to ask, “will Gracewood ever accept Viola,” with the corollary that it is up to Gracewood to allow Viola’s personhood. Instead, Gracewood – and we the reader – pivot instead to the questions that drive the rest of the story: how will Gracewood and Viola regain each other’s trust and how will they get and stay together? For her part, Viola is distraught over the hurt she caused Gracewood – and this, too, is important, because to not acknowledge the validity of Gracewood’s suffering over his friend would make Viola seem monstrous and selfish. (It also feels genuinely the case that, before arriving at Morgencald, Viola did not believe that Gracewood would be so broken and grief-ridden over her loss; she seems to have convinced herself that he would grieve but move on, not remain mired in his bereavement.) But again, while she feels responsible for Gracewood’s feelings of grief and devastation over his lost friend, it does not shake her conviction that she does not need, and must not beg, his forgiveness. This is the line she holds: she laments some of the consequences of the actions she took, but she does not regret or apologize for those actions, as to do so would negate her very self and make her personhood conditional on the feelings of others. Begging or accepting forgiveness would be to concede that there is something to forgive. And again, I think it’s so important that this is made explicit, because we are so conditioned – not just as readers but as people living in a world of great cruelty and suffering – to believe that forgiveness is always a blessing and a gift, something that must be asked for and accepted with humility and gratitude. Even if Gracewood’s question – how am I to forgive you? – came from a place of his own suffering and hurt, accepting the premise of that question – that Viola is the supplicant and Gracewood the forgiver – is to accept the idea that Viola’s survival is a matter of Gracewood’s grace. Putting us on this footing, then, has the effect of shifting the conflict from Viola being trans to how Gracewood and Viola can build a new relationship – not rebuild an old one – and navigate this new reality of them relating to each other as man and woman, in the context of the expectations and restrictions imposed by society as to how unmarried men and women of different classes and ranks should (or should not) interact. In other words, we are now very much in traditional histrom space, where the main obstacles have to do with class and status and the question of heirs. AJH could very easily have made this about trans trauma – will Viola be accepted? Will she be outed? Will she be an outcast? Will she make Gracewood an outcast? – but instead he integrates Viola being trans as a central part of the story, but not a source of suffering and trauma. Indeed, Gracewood’s own issues are at least as much a focus as Viola being trans: his PTSD, his chronic pain from a disability suffered in the war, the legacy of losing his mother at age 12 and growing up with a physically and emotionally abusive father, his rigid, inherited notions about masculinity, strength, duty, entitlement, and courage and cowardice. As it should be: there are, after all, two people in this relationship, each bringing their own baggage and backgrounds. And while Gracewood makes it his mission to convince Viola that they can be together, despite differences in rank and class and (not least) her inability to bear biological children, Viola makes it her mission to convince Gracewood that he is a man worthy of love, affection, intimacy, and understanding, even though he sees himself as broken and damaged. I also love that the physical aspects of Viola and Gracewood’s relationship – their chemistry, attraction, and sex life – are relished and celebrated. The sex scenes are generous, communicative, and hot. It is all just so masterfully done. Also worth highlighting is the supporting cast. AJH has a tendency to make side characters a bit ridiculous, something that works fine – is, indeed, expected – in romcoms but does not work for me personally in non-romcoms. I was a bit worried that would be the case here, but happily it wasn’t. Lady Marleigh is absolutely fantastic, a wonderful, funny, direct character who is also, in her way, incredibly empathetic, caring, and ride-or-die for her family and loved ones. The way Lady Marleigh is written makes it utterly believable that she would accept Viola’s reappearance in their lives with aplomb and a matter-of-fact, “this is how we’re doing this now” attitude. Lady Lillimere could easily have been a caricature of the woman-eating cougar, but she proves herself to be honest, loyal, and a good friend. Miranda was the character I was most back-and-forth on; I’m not gonna lie, there were definitely shades of SHE WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED from Something Fabulous. But ultimately she ended up being – well, not my favorite character, but much better than I feared, showing backbone and cleverness even if it was wrapped in immaturity and naivete. Lady Marleigh, Lady Lillimere, and Miranda are the fictional characters I most want to get discreetly drunk and gossip in a corner with. And what I appreciated most of all was seeing Viola developing and treasuring friendships with other women, embracing this experience that – because of society’s rigid rules and expectations – had previously been denied her. There aren’t that many other men in the story, but they’re also worth a mention. Badger is Endymion, delightfully so. He’s so dumb. I love him. Amberglass is a dastardly villain whose sequel I am already anxiously awaiting. That is going to be one hell of a redemption arc. Finally, I think one of the reasons this worked so well for me is that – for all that it is in many ways an old fashioned histrom with the tropes and the galloping plot and the escapades and the duke-iness (as well as the angst, pining, slow burn, and the constraints and expectations of upper-class society and the world at large – there are some serious Flowers from the Storm vibes happening here, which is the ultimate compliment) – tonally it reminds me of the contemporary Spires series. The Spires series is all about grief and healing; self-discovery and self-acceptance; vulnerability and intimacy; and acknowledging and valuing past loves while finding new love and new ways forward. As with the Spires series, I will be coming back to A Lady for A Duke over and over again, and I’m sure that I will be finding new things to love and swoon over each time. This book is an accomplishment. I loved it.❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ Disclaimer: I am friendly with Alexis Hall on the intertubes. Disclaimer 2: I am not trans and therefore cannot speak to the rep from a trans POV.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    Reread #2 of May 2022 Have I already read this three times and it's not even released yet? Yes. I have not a single regret. I love every single page and can easily see this becoming a comfort read. Big thanks to netgalley, Forever Books, and Libro.fm for an eARC, ARC, and ALC respectively. My favorite scenes as single words: shaving, horse, beach, dance, fireworks, love, epilogue. Oh and also little Bartholomew, he's freaking adorable. Reread May 2022 I can't even express how much I love this book Reread #2 of May 2022 Have I already read this three times and it's not even released yet? Yes. I have not a single regret. I love every single page and can easily see this becoming a comfort read. Big thanks to netgalley, Forever Books, and Libro.fm for an eARC, ARC, and ALC respectively. My favorite scenes as single words: shaving, horse, beach, dance, fireworks, love, epilogue. Oh and also little Bartholomew, he's freaking adorable. Reread May 2022 I can't even express how much I love this book. Original review I'm obsessed. Like actually obsessed. I could spend forever with this story and want to hug these MCs. I just adored every minute of this book and it's probably my favorite of Alexis Hall's. A Lady for a Duke is a soft sweeping tale of friendship, romance, and grief. Viola and Gracewood were the best of friends growing up except Gracewood didn't know Viola was Viola. When they both ended up in war, Viola made the best of an awful situation and escaped to live as herself. She gave up her fortune and family name and her friendship with Gracewood and it was all worth it for her to finally be herself. Two years after the war, Viola is living as a lady's companion to her brother's wife. When Lady Marleigh receives word from Gracewood's sister that Gracewood is struggling immensely with depression, pain, and opium and Mira in turn can't find a way to help, Lady Marleigh starts the trip to visit and whisk Mira away. After convincing Viola to join her, Viola comes face to face with Gracewood for the first time in years. When they finally meet, Gracewood doesn't recognize Viola and Viola doesn't recognize the Gracewood before her. He is drowning in pain and suffering and grief and can't find a way out. He starts to cultivate a friendship with Viola and begins to see a shimmer of light. When Gracewood eventually recognizes his old friend things go a little haywire from there. Even if they wanted to, Viola is a lady companion and Gracewood is a duke, they cannot be together. This book is the story of them working through different pieces of grief and finding comfort and joy and love in closest friends. It's so utterly romantic and heart wrenching and just a beautiful story I'm left feeling grateful to have experienced. Trans heroine MC, disabled MC with chronic pain and PTSD, secondary sapphic characters CW: PTSD, grief, guns, alcohol, opium, drug addiction, explicit sex, violence Below are a couple of my favorite quotes that just wrecked me. They are a bit spoilery so skip if you want. "Damn the world. The world told you that you had to live the life it shaped for you, and you defied it. The world told me that I had to be as my father was, and I defied it, or I'm trying to. We can make our own world, Viola, with our own rules." "Strength is not the capacity to hurt. Or the capacity to remain unhurt. It is... What we let ourselves feel. And how truly we love." "I love you as a man loves a woman, but we both know that love is not bound by such narrow terms. So instead let me simply tell you that I love you. I love you with the unfading flame of my friendship. With every drop of ardour in my blood. I love you with my soul, as some reserve their faith for absent gods. I love you as I believe in what is right and hope for what is good. I love you with everything I am and never was - and if you will only let me, with every day that comes, and every self that I could ever be."

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