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Review: How the Duke Was Won by Lenora Bell

by Lenora Bell
Series: The Disgraceful Dukes #1
Genres: Historical
Publisher: Avon Books
Publication Date: April 26th 2016
Source: Bought
Rating: ★★
Amazon - Barnes & Noble

The pleasure of your company is requested at Warbury Park. Four lovely ladies will arrive… but only one can become a duchess.

James, the scandalously uncivilized Duke of Harland, requires a bride with a spotless reputation for a strictly business arrangement. Lust is prohibited and love is out of the question.

Four ladies. Three days. What could go wrong?

She is not like the others…

Charlene Beckett, the unacknowledged daughter of an earl and a courtesan, has just been offered a life-altering fortune to pose as her half-sister, Lady Dorothea, and win the duke’s proposal. All she must do is:

* Be the perfect English rose [Ha!]

* Breathe, smile, and curtsy in impossibly tight gowns [blast Lady Dorothea’s sylph-like figure]

* Charm and seduce a wild duke [without appearing to try]

* Keep said duke far, far from her heart [no matter how tempting]

When secrets are revealed and passion overwhelms, James must decide if the last lady he should want is really everything he needs. And Charlene must decide if the promise of a new life is worth risking everything . . . including her heart.

What a lovely and thoughtful historical romance this was! How the Duke Was Won wasn't a book on my radar, but when I came across it while browsing Goodreads, I immediately went ahead and purchased a copy. This was so much more than just a historical romance and I loved every minute of reading it.

James, Duke of Harland, is in immediate need of a respectable society lady as a wife. So what does he do? He sends out an invitation to four society ladies, with their mothers, to spend 3 days at his house so he can find the perfect wife. James was a character that I easily warmed up to. He was rough around the edges, and unlike any aristocrat in England. All he wanted to do was to travel the world, and be in his cocoa farms doing hard work. James might have appeared cold and unfeeling at times, particularly when it came to illegitimate, mixed-race daughter, but he was in reality a caring man, who loved her very much and didn't want her to get attached to him, because he knew he was leaving England soon. His more compassionate side slowly came out throughout the book I especially loved how he cared a great deal for his cocoa manufactory workers. James could also be very arrogant, swoony and flirty, especially when it came to his heroine, Charlene. I loved how his playful and teasing side emerged in her vicinity, and how thanks to her, he became an even better hero throughout the book.

Charlene was a fantastic heroine herself. She had grown up in a rough environment, in her mother's brothel, slowly being primped to be a courtesan herself. She didn't want that though and she was willing to do anything in order to make life for her mother and sister better, which was why she easily accepted an offer to pretend to be her half-sister at James' house and to win the Duke's hand in marriage. She revealed a fiery and sassy side to her, especially around James. Most of all though, I adored what a big heart she had and how selfless and generous she was. She was so caring, especially when it came to the plight of others, and was very much willing to help people out, even if they were total strangers to her. Her open-mindedness, intelligence and loving attitude was made her an excellent heroine in my eyes.

The romance between James and Charlene was slow-building and swoony, but with plenty of pent-up chemistry! I loved how they would tease each other and all the flirtatious moments between them were a delight to read. It was one of those romances that I had a very difficult time not completely losing myself in. I wanted nothing but happiness for James and Charlene, and I have to say I was incredibly worried about how Charlene's deception would make James behavior, but he handled it all beautifully and I think I may have fallen a bit more in love with him then. What sets How the Duke Was Won apart from other historical romances is its discussion of other topics such as slavery and child labor, all handled with a lot of tact in my opinion.

How The Duke Was Won might be Lenora Bell's debut book, but it's clear that she's an incredibly talented author. I'm looking forward to reading more from her and this series in particular.

Have you read romance novels with social issues/context?
Let me know in the comments below!