A shy wallflower meets her dream man—or does she?—in the next book in New York Times bestselling author Eloisa James’ Wildes of Lindow series.
Miss Viola Astley is so painfully shy that she’s horrified by the mere idea of dancing with a stranger; her upcoming London debut feels like a nightmare.
So she’s overjoyed to meet handsome, quiet vicar with no interest in polite society — but just when she catches his attention, her reputation is compromised by a duke.
Devin Lucas Augustus Elstan, Duke of Wynter, will stop at nothing to marry Viola, including marrying a woman whom he believes to be in love with another man.
A vicar, no less.
Devin knows he’s no saint, but he’s used to conquest, and he’s determined to win Viola’s heart.Viola has already said Yes to his proposal, but now he wants her unruly heart…and he won’t accept No for an answer.
I didn’t realize it, but I’ve read every other book in this series. Maybe I’ll go back to the previous stories, but in general James’s books have been “good-not-great” for me. I picked up SAY YES TO THE DUKE because of stellar reviews, and I’m happy to say this was the strongest in the series! The main characters are absolutely adorable – separate and together – and their vulnerable moments are very real in this story. The banter is perfection (featuring snark without malice), and the supporting characters were all super fun and interesting additions. All in all, I would say romance readers looking for a warm-hearted read and are okay with a lack of plot will want to pick this one up.
I think the blurb messes up the timeline of things, to be honest. The book starts with Viola’s late coming-out, delayed because of her shyness and tendency to throw up in social situations. She meets a vicar around that time – Mr. Marlowe – who is angelically handsome (and betrothed!) that she can’t help but want to save, from his fiance. Viola’s a compassionate soul; she’s the type to nurture hurt animals and think the best of people and help them save face. Since her mother married into the famous Wilde family, she can’t help but feel like an outsider. She’s not Wilde by blood nor personality, being on the shy side. Throughout the book she finds her confidence and poise, recognizing that she may not have been born a Wilde, but was certainly raised by them. Along the way to help is Devin, the Duke of Wynter.
I wasn’t sure of what to expect from Devin at first. In the past, James’s heroes come off as cold, mean, rude, or all of the above, which Devin seemed like in the beginning. But after a confrontation from Viola’s side, he can’t help but be charmed at her easy dismissal of him. Their dialogue was witty and full of playful, slightly snarky comments about the other. Underlying it is soft vulnerability and a connection that they’ve never experienced before. Devin experienced a negligent childhood, with an easily-angered father and a mother who liked to run away from the house. However, his lovable uncle and cousins keep him grounded and human. The romance itself is super sweet and gentle, with not much angst to pull down the couple (despite the blurb’s premise). There’s a lot of comical moments to keep the story refreshing and funny. I love how Devin was a calm spot to Viola’s nervousness, and how he was able to see the creativity and wit in Viola underneath her shyness. They were so lovely together!
Something else I enjoyed, as a whole, is Viola’s easy refusal of Devin. It’s often seen in romances to have the heroine fall head-over-heels for the hero and act a bit ridiculous because of it, but Viola doesn’t fall under that category. I also loved seeing Devin so smitten and a bit unsure of what to do with himself. I kind of love clueless heroes when it comes to love. Another aspect that differentiates this book from typical historical romances was the lack of an actual argument/conflict that creates tension between the characters. Sometimes a weak argument or action sequence is slapped on near the end because “they must fight for their true love!” or something to recognize they love each other. The couple in this book, however, stick together through and through. Instead, readers get to enjoy a comical climax with friends and family of Viola and Devin. It’s honestly quite refreshing, keeps the book light-hearted, and in general saves the reader from suffering through that kind of superficial hardship to get to their predictable HEA. I think this coincides with a lack of obvious plot in general, but honestly I enjoyed seeing the characters fall in love without worrying about the other shoe dropping.
The thing about SAY YES TO THE DUKE is that it’s pure fluff from beginning to end. Despite that factor, the characters are quite fleshed-out and readers will get to fall in love with them as they fall in love with each other. It keeps its light-hearted and comical energy throughout the book. All in all, if you’re looking for a read where you don’t want to worry about anything, this historical romance fits the bill.
What are some fluffy reads you’ve enjoyed recently? Or any historical books that have just warmed your heart? Let me know your thoughts!