RogerBW's Blog

A Duke by Default, Alyssa Cole 14 April 2020

2018 romance, second in the Reluctant Royals series. Portia Hobbs, former self-indulgent hot mess, has gone to Scotland to apprentice in sword-making.

Well, it's more a fantasy Scotland, and that's where the book tends to lose me; Thesolo was fine as a fantasy kingdom, but Scotland is an actual place I know about, and Cole has missed some fairly elementary points about it (like the fact that the title of Duke of Edinburgh is substantive). I wouldn't write a novel set in New York City without at least running it past people who lived there…

And, while both hero and heroine have genuinely good reasons to deny their obvious attraction to each other, our hero spends far too much time being unpleasant to her. Sure, once he realised she's his True Love that all changes, but really, if he's not prepared to be at least slightly pleasant to the person he's agreed to employ as an apprentice for three months without being in love with her…

(What could you learn in a three-month apprenticeship that would be worth a damn?)

The first book in this series showed two quite different approaches to being African and the way that might affect one's life, but while Portia has "golden brown" skin, mentioned once, there's really nothing beyond that to indicate that she's meant to be non-white. The racists in the book don't even seem to notice.

All right, there is some character development, and it mostly convinced me; some of the later problems basically stem from these people being too polite to each other. But the conventions of the genre are much closer to the surface here than they were in A Princess in Theory, especially with its smouldering Scotsman and perky American woman, and in particular the willingness of both parties to hear something about the other and put the worst possible interpretation on it causes me, as always, to doubt that the relationship has any sort of future.

After that rather fine first book I was very surprised by this step down in quality.

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Previous in series: A Princess in Theory | Series: Reluctant Royals | Next in series: Once Ghosted, Twice Shy

  1. Posted by Chris at 10:49am on 14 April 2020

    "(What could you learn in a three-month apprenticeship that would be worth a damn?)"

    In my first day apprenticed to a good teacher I learned how to make a copper rose-bowl; on my second I finished planishing it, and at the end of my third day I was more than three-quarters done making a copper ring which stood up from the finger and held a round, flat enamelled plate my Master gave me.

    In week two I learned enamelling so that I could make myself a ring of silver with an enamelled "stone" in it.

    Then I moved on to a silver pill-box on a chain.

    I think by the end of the third month I would have been fit to set up on my own, though I didn't earn my hallmark until six months into the year my father had paid for.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 11:01am on 14 April 2020

    Fair enough.

    (They end up wasting two of the three months on other things, but they'll be Together Forever so it doesn't matter. This is a romance, after all.)

  3. Posted by Michael Cule at 12:33pm on 14 April 2020

    She made up a fictional Duke of Edinburgh?

    This almost makes me want to read the book....

  4. Posted by RogerBW at 12:40pm on 14 April 2020

    In the world of the book, it's simply a normal heritable title. Which means you can have unknown heirs and all that romance-tropey stuff.

    If I knew more about Scottish history I could build a whole alternate history off that single change…

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