One Dance With A Duke by Tessa DareGenre: Regency romance
General premise Spencer Dumarque, the handsome and mysterious Duke of Morland, is also known as “the duke of midnight”. He shows up at balls right at that hour, asks one of the young debutantes to dance (usually a gorgeous teenager awed into silence by his presence), and then escorts her in to dinner and disappears. Unlike her younger friends of marriageable age (and their mothers), Amelia d’Orsay isn’t impressed. Page 4 quote: “What other ladies saw as intriguing and romantic, she took for self-indulgent melodrama. Really, an unmarried, wealthy, handsome duke who felt the need to command more female attention?”
This time, though, when the duke arrives at the ball and reaches out for the girl next to her, Amelia grabs his hand, seizing the opportunity to spend several uninterrupted minutes with him so she can insist he forgive her brother’s gambling debts. This leads to a heated conversation on the patio, the arrival of unexpected bad news, and a midnight ride away from the ball. The next morning, the duke finds himself accused of the murder of an acquaintance, and (much to her chagrin) Amelia finds herself engaged to the arrogant duke to avoid scandal following their midnight disappearance.
Despite my love of Regency romances, the two most common “hero-types” in the sub-genre irritate me. That’s probably a charitable way of putting it. Anyway, there’s the brooding duke (the superior, rude, rich guy hiding a dark past and a heart of gold) and the romancing rake (the witty, handsome, ne’er-do-well who sleeps with lots of willing, attractive widows/actresses and is constantly in and out of trouble and gambling halls, but becomes monogamous and angelic once he meets his virginal true love).
Generally when I love a Regency romance, it’s because the love interest doesn’t fit either of these tired and tiresome tropes. Oddly enough, Spencer Dumarque definitely fits brooding duke-mode. But because we’re in his point of view for parts of the book, we know why he’s that way fairly early on, and it makes all the difference in the world for me. Not to get all spoilery, but when he finds out from Amelia that society views his midnight dance as the height of social excitement and mystique, his response is pure astonishment. But you’ll have to read the book to find out why he does the midnight dance. J
One Dance with a Duke is the first book of the Stud Club series. Yes, the name is a wink and nod for us modern readers, but the stud in question is actually a legendary stud horse called Osiris. The founder of the club is a popular member of society (genuinely liked by everyone because he’s thoughtful and friendly as well as rich, good-looking and well-connected) who created ten brass tokens giving access to this horse. The tokens can only be won, not bought, creating all sorts of excitement as men gamble for these tokens. The series is built around solving the mystery of who murdered the club founder.
History, mystery, romance, and horses. Works for me!