Liz’s Review of:
How to Dance With a Duke by Manda Collins
Historical romance released by St. Martin’s Press January 31, 2012
What’s a wallflower to do when she’s suddenly in need of a husband? Use all the pluck and moxie she can muster to get what she wants…
She’s in need of a partner
Miss Cecily Hurston would much rather explore the antiquities of Egypt than the uncharted territory of marriage. But the rules of her father’s exclusive academic society forbid her entrance unless she weds one of its members. To clear her ailing father’s name of a scandalous rumor, Cecily needs to gain admission into the Egyptian Club—and is willing to marry any old dullard to do it.
And he has all the right moves
Lucas Dalton, Duke of Winterson, is anything but dull. He’s a dashing and decorated war hero determined to help Cecily—even if that means looking the other way when she claims the dance card of Amelia Snow, this season’s most sought-after beauty. But Lucas has a reason for wanting Cecily to join the Egyptian Club: His brother went missing during one of Lord Hurston’s expeditions to Egypt. An alliance with the explorer’s bluestocking daughter could bring Lucas closer to the truth about what happened…or it could lead him to a more dangerous love than either he or Cecily could have imagined….
Cecily Hurston is an innocent, bookish young woman who acts without thinking things through in many aspects of her life. When she decides to marry a man simply based on his acceptance into the society, she doesn’t really understand what being married would mean for her. Enter Lucas Dalton, who offers to help her sort through the would-be prospects of eligible men to select an appropriate one, all the while determining to help her see the error of such a future. What neither of them expect is that their working together for both separate and dual purposes would ensconce them in scandal, life threatening danger, and…finally…love.
Lucas wants to know what happened to his brother; Cecily wants to know why her father is ill. For both of them, the answer lies in the fated expedition in which her father returned near death and Lucas’ brother did not return. As they search for answers together, deciding two heads are better than one, the book takes suspenseful turns amid an attempt on Cecily’s life as they draw closer to the truth. Things heat up between the two during an unsuccessful attempt to find her father’s journals, and Lucas’ charming and chivalrous behavior won my heart.
I enjoy a romance with a rogue that turns into a hero and Lucas was just such a man in spades. And I also like a romance where the hero is the one with his heart on his sleeve and the heroine is the one running away. Cecily doesn’t have a confident bone in her body when it comes to love or her worth as a woman, and has a broken heart to boot. Lucas keeps telling himself that finding out what happened to his brother is paramount to everything else, but Cecily has wormed her way steadily into his heart and mind and it’s exciting to read his transformation from bachelor to a man willing to step out on a limb for love. As they uncover the truth of her father and his brother, their relationship both blooms and wilts at varying times as misunderstandings abound on both sides. It was both sweet and upsetting to watch them struggle with their feelings, and the ending was surprising in more ways than one.
Duke contains a generous cast of characters, from the uppity Amelia to Cecily’s conspiring cousins. One of my favorite scenes in the book came early on during the ball, when she swiped Amelia’s dance card. On the back she found Amelia’s flirting cheat sheet. Cecily’s internal monologue as she tried to flirt her way into a marriage proposal and thus into the coveted club was hilarious and made me like her character right away. After all, who doesn’t appreciate when the ugly duckling realizes there really may be a swan underneath after all? Normally, I don’t go for historical novels, but in the interest of expanding my reading horizons, I was curious to read Duke. I am very glad I took a chance on reading this book and stepping outside of my comfort zone and I look forward to reading Manda’s future writings.
I enjoyed the book, and it is one I would recommend to people who enjoy period romantic suspense novels.
You can read an excerpt of the book here