Series: Reluctant Royals #2
Publication date : July 31st, 2018
Publisher : Avon Books| Harpercollins
Genre : Adult | Romance
Page Count: 374
Synopsis : New York City socialite and perpetual hot mess Portia Hobbs is tired of disappointing her family, friends, and—most importantly—herself. An apprenticeship with a struggling swordmaker in Scotland is a chance to use her expertise and discover what she’s capable of. Turns out she excels at aggravating her gruff silver fox boss…when she’s not having inappropriate fantasies about his sexy Scottish burr.
Tavish McKenzie doesn’t need a rich, spoiled American telling him how to run his armory…even if she is infuriatingly good at it. Tav tries to rebuff his apprentice, and his attraction to her, but when Portia accidentally discovers that he’s the secret son of a duke, rough-around-the-edges Tav becomes her newest makeover project.
Forging metal into weapons and armor is one thing, but when desire burns out of control and the media spotlight gets too hot to bear, can a commoner turned duke and his posh apprentice find lasting love? (From Goodreads)
CW: Toxic parents, on page sex, drugging, threats.
With how much I adored A Princess in Theory and the fact that I was approved for an arc of A Prince on Paper (the third book), I just knew I would have to catch up as soon as my schedule allowed and bask in the glory that are Alyssa Cole’s romances. My copy showed up just in time for me to pick it up and with no surprise at all, IT DID NOT DISAPPOINT. I mean, A Princess in Theory is still my favourite, it’s pretty tough to top, but A Duke by Default had its own merits and was awesome in its own way.
I obviously loved the writing as much as I did in the first book in the Reluctant Royals series. These books read like goddamned fairytales and I don’t know how or why, and no it’s not just because they center aristocrats and their fancy ass lives. In fact this one does not, as Tavish, our duke, does not know he’s one early on in the book and isn’t the fancy duke type you’d imagine when hearing he’s a duke. But I digress. The writing style is gorgeous and a perfect balance between funny and emotional whenever it needs to be. Here again, the book is written in duel perspectives, from Portia’s POV, who’s Naledi’s best friend from the first book, and Tavish, the swordsmith she goes to work for in Scotland.
I would honestly die for Portia and would do anything to protect her from any harm *cough* her parents *cough*. She’s an incredibly smart Black woman who always feels like a failure, too impulsive and not reliable enough because she rarely goes through with things, which her parents never fail to remind her, and that in turn makes her think she’s disposable. Before the book started, she used to drown all of that in partying, drinking and one night stands, which turned out to not be a great coping mechanism, and she decided to turn her life around when her relationship with her best friend, the one person who’s ALWAYS there for her, was at stake. Then along the book, Portia discovers that she might have ADHD and things start clicking in her brain.
I absolutely adored her character, she was definitely the highlight of this book for me. She’s strong, fierce, ambitious and Gets. Shit. Done. But she’s also extremely caring sensitive, and puts people’s needs before her own. She’s the exact opposite of all the things she let people make her believe about herself and I loved seeing her come into that realization, learn to navigate her ADHD and embrace herself.
NOW we can talk about Tavish, he’s what I like to call 38 going on 78 because this man does not understand anything about technology and is EXTREMELY gruff and grumpy. And I’m not gonna lie, he was an ass at first, so it took me a little while to warm up to him buuut as the Grumpy But Actually Soft Man trash I am, I ended up absolutely loving him. He’s Chilean-Scottish and the son of a refugee who often doesn’t think before he speaks and makes a lot of assumptions about Portia that he acts according to at first. That’s until she puts him in his place and he sees how huge of a jerk he’s being. Oh and until he starts falling for her, of course. I really loved how soft for her he ended up being, how gentle he was and how respectful of her boundaries he was, pushing her just enough in the right direction but never too much. And only for her own good.
He did his best to make her comfortable and put her feelings before his. I also loved how well he handled their boss/employee relationship. He let the her make the first move and made sure she was okay and that he didn’t have any power over her in the relationship. That combined with the 10 years age gap between them made this romance *chef kiss* delightful to read.
And I think this is why they worked so well together, they were both very mindful of the other person’s wants and needs, knowing that they both have other priorities that dating each other and being okay with that (mostly). Before they met, they’d both sworn off dating, Tav because he thought he already had his one chance at love and Portia because she didn’t want to fall back into the toxic hellhole she was in before and I LIVED for the initial hesitancy between them even after they casually admitted their attraction to each other and the innuendos in their banter made me crack up more than once, their whole banter and chemistry were on point for that matter. The only reason this book didn’t get a five star from me like its predecessor is because by the time I finished the book I need more, the ending and the way things wrapped up, albeit cute, felt a bit lackluster to me.
Alyssa Cole keeps on delivering some of the best romances out there that balance fun and emotions in the most amazing of way. And I cannot wait to read the next (and final *cries*) book in this series later this month.
That’s it until next time.
Did you read A Duke by Default? If so, what did you think?
Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.