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4.8 out of 5
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  • So much smiling and delight

    4 stars — This one will be hard to review. There were so many parts that had me smiling away and feeling delighted. There were other parts that got to my heart and had me hurting with Viola and Gracewood. And there were yet other parts where things felt…confusing. But that could have been just me. In the end, I think of all of those it was the delight and the heart that stood out the most. One of the things that didn’t work for me as well, is that a lot of the characters had the same stuttery way of talking. Obviously some more than others, but I was surprised to see it present in so many of the characters. It made sense for Viola, as she was often unsure of herself and what she wanted to say. I really loved reading the book club section at the back. a) because it was hilarious at times. And b) because it really made me think about the way in which I enjoy historical romance, and how it fit with this book…and how there are others who are more sticklers for “realistic”. Obviously, I don’t want it to be wildly unrealistic, but I’m okay with a modern touch to explore interesting ideas in another time. I kind of loved that while Viola being trans was wholeheartedly a big part of the story, it wasn’t as big in the ways I was expecting. I didn’t have to see her deal with struggle and hate based on that, from the outside world. If we saw her struggles, it was internal, or in her relationship with Gracewood. At times it felt almost too easy, but you know what? I don’t even care. It was kind of nice to just have that love story…where there are missteps and foibles along the way, but it’s all predicated on love. I will admit that, while I wholeheartedly want to learn and grow and do the right things, I am 100% the kind of person that is eminently curious about what life is like for someone experiencing gender identity issues. I would constantly be stopping myself from asking inappropriate questions. I would stop myself, but there would be a part of me that truly just wanted to know. I’m working on it. Even reading this book I couldn’t help but have questions in my mind, but it was still enough for me to learn without the story feeling like a lesson for the poor cis girl. You know, like learning just from observation. I appreciated that Gracewood has his own set of challenges to overcome, and if I’m being honest, it felt like his journey was larger than Viola’s. I loved seeing the author explore PTSD back then, when there was no such understanding. And it wasn’t just the war that had scarred Gracewood, it was his childhood as well. I found that I both loved and was frustrated by our MCs. They could both be so stubborn and stuck on things, but they would do so much for each other. I spent the first large chunk of the book on tenterhooks waiting for the shoe to drop. I have no idea how I feel about all that, but I guess it worked out in the end. 😛 There were some interesting side characters. On occasion I wanted more from them…more resolution between Justin and Miranda especially. I know there is the possibility of future books from some of these side characters, but I still think I would have liked a bit more in *this* book. All in all, I was very entertained. There was just something preventing it from being higher rated for me…and of course I can’t quite pin it down.

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  • Another Alexis Hall Winner

    Alexis Hall does it again: I laughed, I cried, I cheered. Viola is a brave, vulnerable heroine whose story revolves around hope and choices instead of misery, and Gracewood is a hero who actually deserves her.

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    1 person found this review helpful

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  • A Unique and Thoughtful Romance

    Alexis Hall produces the most unique and thought provoking relationships in his novels, and he’s just completely elevated the bar with A Lady for a Duke. Way more than simply a beautiful friends-to-lovers romance, Mr. Hall delivers a profound look at gender roles, and explores how physical perception affects the relationship between these two characters. Reuniting several years after the Battle of Waterloo, Viola and Justin are two very different people. Justin returns home, emotionally and physically scarred, to assume his family duty as Duke of Gracewood. And Viola is presented with an opportunity to discover herself. As a result, we as the reader uncover many of the details of Viola’s story gradually. But as Alexis Hall states in the afterward, he doesn’t mean for Viola’s transgender status to be the main focus of the story. Since it’s left up to us, I entertained various versions of Viola’s experience as she dragged herself from the battlefield, and all the steps she must have taken to become who she is at the start of A Lady for a Duke; putting her past behind her, and crafting an existence for herself in nineteenth century England. I love when authors leave us this bit of freedom! Suffering from debilitating battle wounds and PTSD, Justin is openly scorned as a coward and a failure by his peers. Sequestered in his family home, Justin has reached rock bottom when Viola re-enters his life. Knowing her as only a friendly, kind-hearted stranger, he gradually opens up to Viola. They forge a powerful connection, and Justin’s walls finally crumble. It is during this stunning scene, through the sincerity of their exchange, that Justin finally recognizes his old friend. Justin’s journey in understanding Viola, is just as important as Viola’s understanding of herself. My hat is off to Alexis Hall with his handling of the physical romance scenes. It’s incredibly moving to witness the depth of Justin’s care for Viola, processing his own reactions to Viola’s body, and the sensations of what they can do together. Plus, Viola’s dysphoria is incorporated into the story in a simply masterful and sensitive manner. With Viola’s current position as a lady’s companion, the issue of class distinction is always at the forefront, and makes her union with the Duke of Gracewood (as anything more than just his mistress) impossible. Alexis Hall also weaves in some entrancing family drama, several marvelous scenes of the ton behaving badly, and fills the pages with the clever banter which is the hallmark of Alexis Hall’s writing. Any of the issues facing Viola and Justin would make a great novel, but placing them in nineteenth century England adds a unique twist. I hope we’ll see much more from this world, and that some of the supporting characters from A Lady for a Duke might get their own novels. Or possibly, we could at least get Viola’s story. I think that would be fascinating indeed!

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  • Excellent fun

    A lovely humanist beautiful and exciting romance if slightly fantastical in some parts.

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