“A Duke by Default” by Alyssa Cole


Contemporary; Romance


July 2018


Reluctant Royals (book 2)

Goodreads summary:

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? (Goodreads)

My thoughts:

Don’t judge me, but I read this book because I love the dress the woman on the cover is wearing. Luckily, I enjoyed what I read.

Alyssa Cole is a new-to-me author. I’ve often heard of her books, especially An Extraordinary Union, which often receives positive praises, and first read about her back in May when I read a BuzzFeed article that features three Black women who are trying to bring much needed change to the romance novel industry. (I recommend the article too.)

I read a lot of romance novels when I was younger. When I ran out of out my own store of books at my aunt’s house, I turned to her romance novels, which I’d sneak and read. I think it’s when I started high school that I began to lose interest in romance novels because the structure seemed too formulaic and it became easy for me to predict what would happen. Also, I didn’t like the message in some of the novels I read, which often showed women as jealous and conniving and in need of romance while men must be reined in from “sowing their wild oats.” I became frustrated and stopped reading them.

But this year, I’ve been pretty lucky in the romance genre and almost all the romance novels I read were good reads. A Duke by Default is one of the best romance books I read this year. In addition to the dress on the front, I liked the story itself, the characters, and the setting. Now I want to visit Scotland to meet a Scottish man who makes swords so that I can feel hear his Scottish burr. 😉

I didn’t pay attention to the synopsis, but even so the story wasn’t what I expected. It begins with Portia, a Black woman who goes to Scotland to work as an apprentice to a swordmaker. I immediately thought that was cool and looked forward to seeing some swordmaking, but unfortunately, not much swordmaking was included since the characters were busy with other…things.

I immediately liked Portia and could easily relate to her. I think most millennials will be able to relate to her as well, especially if you’ve struggled to find your passion because you think, or are told, that what you love to do isn’t what you should do. I liked how she developed throughout the story and gained more confidence in herself.

The story is also told from Tavish’s perspective. He’s the sexy silver-fox Scottish swordmaker with a prickly edge, and I immediately liked him too. I did not expect him to be an older character, because I didn’t pay attention to the synopsis, so that was a pleasant surprise. It made him all the more appealing. To me, he didn’t change much by the end.

There’s not much else I can say about this one. I simply enjoyed reading it. It was entertaining, it kept my interest, and made me want to visit Scotland.

Overall: ★★★☆☆ ½

It’s a quick, entertaining read. I think I’ll try more of Cole’s work.

Buy | Borrow | Bypass

10 thoughts on ““A Duke by Default” by Alyssa Cole

  1. I swear I’m not stalking your blog. I was looking through Tikka Chance On Me and this popped up at the bottom as a recommended post. Since I had read the previous book in the series, I was curious. but SERIOUSLY? NO SWORD-MAKING? Absolutely disgraceful. …I’m joking lol. I do love books where a character has a craft/skill they perform well and we as readers get a detailed examination of how they perform that skill/craft, but I shouldn’t expect that from a romance novel. I really liked Portia from A Princess in Theory, so I might pick this one up in the future. (Also, that dress? I completely agree; it’s gorgeous).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Why not read a book for its cover! Her dress is beautiful. There are many books I don’t read because of the cover. Emotions play such a large part on why we read or don’t. If only going to Scotland and entering a bookstore would do the trick! ♥️♥️


    1. It was a sweet one. I just completed The Diary of a Book Seller by Shaun Blythell and now I really want to go Scotland hopefully to meet a sexy sword-making Scottish dude in The Book Store.

      Liked by 1 person

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