A Lady for a Duke

A Lady for a Duke

by Alexis Hall
Genres: Fiction / LGBTQ+ / Transgender, Fiction / Romance / Historical / Regency, Fiction / Romance / LGBTQ+ / Transgender
Published on May 24, 2022
Pages: 384

An NPR Best Book of 2022
An Entertainment Weekly Best Romance of 2022
A Library Journal Best Romance of 2022
A Publishers Weekly Best Romance of 2022
A BookPage Best Romance of 2022
A New York Public Library Best Romance of 2022
When Viola Carroll 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.

I’ve been reading a lot of Alexis Hall books this month. This is my first historical romance of his and it blew me away.

Two childhood friends go off to war together. One is wounded and presumed dead at Waterloo. The other, Justin, is crippled by survivor’s guilt and PTSD. In reality what happened was that the first realized that this was their opportunity to reinvent their life. They allowed the world to think that the Viscount Marleigh died and let the title pass to a brother. They then returned home to live as Viola, a woman who is a companion to the new Lady Marleigh. The family knows the truth but no one else does.

Two years later, the Lady and Viola are needed to help the younger sister of Justin. His mental health is so poor that it is endangering people around him. Viola is terrified that Justin will recognize her as his “dead” friend. He doesn’t at first. He just knows that talking to Viola calms him.

This is a story about a trans woman where the main conflict isn’t about her being trans. She has already transitioned as much as is possible in this era when the story begins. The conflict here is between Viola and Justin’s feelings about how she went about it. Why didn’t she let him know she survived? Can he accept his best friend living now as a woman? How does that change their relationship?

I loved all the characters here. Viola’s sister in law is very meddling because she is assured that she is always right.

“So,” announced Lady Marleigh, sitting briefly on Viola’s sewing basket and then relocating to the nearest chair, “new plan.”

“Does the new plan have anything to do with minding our own business?”

“What do you think?”

“I think… hope springs eternal?”

Justin’s sister is a reclusive, imaginative girl who wants to help him. She has decided that means living in isolation with him and will not hear of any other options.

Viola is very blunt when she needs to be but spends most of her time trying to hide in plain side so no one recognizes her.

Justin is so wracked by guilt for not being able to find his friend’s body that he has spiraled into drinking and drugs.

This is a great historical romance between characters with deeper issues than just finding a rich husband.