Dukes, Actually is the latest installment in Erica Ridley’s 12 Dukes of Christmas series. Adam Farland, the shy Duke of Azureford visiting his cabin in the village of Christmas (Cressmouth), asks extroverted socializer Miss Carole Quincy for help with his lack of conversational skills and the design of his new billiard room. The story is short and sweet, with the usual quirky cast of characters you can expect in a 12 Dukes book.
Carole has many passions, but the ones that burn most brightly are architecture and her commitment to her father’s well-being. Her commitment to caring for her absent (yet present) father is pretty extreme, and little by little you see her shed the mantle of caretaker that she never should have taken up in the first place. Adam nurturing her other interests helps her to gain the freedom of choice she was missing.
Adam seems aloof on the surface, but is so shy that he pretends to be detached. It isn’t until he sets aside his year-round dedication to Parliament and spends time talking about his real self that he learns to shed this fear—at least around Carole. He’s a bit hardheaded in his view of what his duchess should be (as are most dukes in historical romances), but nuances like his list of qualities modeled off of Carole are endearing and lead to Adam realizing that he doesn’t need perfection, but instead, the right person.
After losing her sketchbook in Adam’s library during a house party, the two are brought together as Carole insists on searching for it while he packs up his books for donations. Adam discovers her architectural talent, and the two find themselves in each other’s company for weeks as she directs the design of a new billiard room in Adam’s cabin. Though this is the premise that throws the two together, it’s the connections they make that seals the deal.
The town of Cressmouth/Christmas is as quirky as ever, with a spookily-accurate fortune teller, the never-ending feast at the castle, and familiar faces from the previous stories. Carole’s maid and Adam’s butler have a side romance going on as well, adding some hilarity to the book.
This is a witty and fun story that proves Paula Abdul’s assertion that opposites attract. The only drawback for me was that the ending felt rushed, especially after all the build-up that went into their relationship. It was a bit too easily resolved, but still gives a satisfying conclusion.
An excerpt from Dukes, Actually: Continue reading “Review: Dukes, Actually (with excerpt)”