Recommended Read, Review, The Duke Project

Review: I’ve Got My Duke to Keep Me Warm by Kelly Bowen (2014)

The Lords of Worth, Book 1

Heat Factor: Steamy

Character Chemistry: Zippy and believable

Plot Development: Revenge FTW!

Overall: LOVED IT


I’ve Got My Duke to Keep Me Warm is a case of don’t judge a book by the cover. I almost didn’t read it because it looked too cheesy for words. I mean, look at that cover. It looks like Mrs. Claus is going to a Christmas Ball. Combined with the extremely cheesy title, the cover of this book made me think of those insipid Christmas specials. Like, maybe they were going to get stuck in a house together during a storm and learn the meaning of love and Christmas all at the same time.

How wrong I was.

First off all, Gisele is not some simpering miss wandering around in snowstorms dressed like little red riding hood. Rather, she is a bad-ass who faked her own death by blowing up a boat. Now, she hangs out with resurrection men and tavern owners and her trusty gay former valet sidekick to help other women escape from abusive situations.

Second, Jamie is not a duke and never will be. He is the barely illegitimate son of a Duke, who has been drinking his life away since the Battle of Waterloo, as a way to manage his serious survivor’s guilt.

Finally, all of the action takes place in May.

So much for false advertising. Just allow me to say:

This. Book. Is. Awesome.

The basic plot revolves around Gisele learning that her terrible terrible husband is planning on remarrying. She determines that she has to do something to prevent the wedding, because another young woman shouldn’t go through what she did. She hires Jamie to help her out. After she gets him sobered up, it turns out he is super hot and perfect for helping her out, because he believes in protecting women and not owning them.

They head to London, where, with the help of the most excellent Dowager Duchess of Worth, they decide that the best way to stop the wedding and destroy Gisele’s evil husband is to gaslight him into thinking that Gisele is not actually dead, so that he’ll be declared mentally incompetent. Excitement ensues.

Before I break down how well this book works as a romance novel, let’s take a moment to appreciate the Dowager Duchess of Worth. She is a saucy old lady, and saucy old ladies always make excellent additions to any story (see, for example, Julia Quinn’s excellent Lady Danbury, or Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess of Grantham). However, she is more than just saucy. She is crazy like a fox. This particular Dowager Duchess purposely acts nutty so that people dismiss her, which means that she can do whatever she wants. Like rehabilitate criminals by giving them jobs. She manifests her crazy by collecting chickens. Her receiving room is all chickens all the time, including a throw pillow of a hen with a line of throw pillows of fuzzy chicks. (I looked all over the internet to see if this set of pillows exists, and could not find it. Crafty people of the world, please fix this!) She also carries a chicken around with her everywhere, which leads to this excellent little vignette, which occurs at a ball:

“The truth of the matter is, I’ve decided I no longer care for diamonds. Too garish. At my age, something more subtle is more appropriate.”

The chicken under her arm squawked loudly, drawing the attention of a number of people standing around them.

(!!!!)

The characters of Gisele and Jamie, our romantic leads, both have a good mix of being tortured and moving past the trauma in their pasts. But it’s not all doom and gloom! Gisele and Jamie laugh and tease each other, and there are some great funny moments in the book. Bowen does an excellent job of balancing the tone, so that the book neither descends into Grim Dark nor treats serious topics such as war or abuse with levity.

Their relationship develops in a believable manner. Gisele tests Jamie several times to see how trustworthy he is before bringing him on as part of her revenge squad, so there is plenty of space for them to establish a shared set of priorities. They don’t hatch their final plan to destroy her terrible husband until about halfway through the book, which allows the pace to be slower, and not just about the revenge plot.

In addition, the multiple sex scenes are thoughtful and really advance the character’s relationship and burgeoning trust, with a bonus helping of hotness. The scene where Gisele gives Jamie a blow job – which occurs before the scene where they have “traditional” intercourse – is particularly excellent.

The only quibble I had is that sometimes the characters seemed too good. Like they are completely and perfectly altruistic at all times. The biggest character flaw for both Gisele and Jamie is an overdeveloped sense of responsibility, which means that they carry unnecessary burdens of guilt with them.

A content warning for the squeamish: This book does contain one extremely graphic scene of a battle. If you’re not cool with blood, gore, and dying horses, maybe skip that bit.

A content warning for those triggered by abuse: While what Gisele went through was not described in detail – and I 100% appreciate the lack of torture porn here – there are enough hints given throughout the text that it was extremely ugly, and was both physical and psychological; there is definitely enough information given that Gisele’s first marriage can be easily imagined by the reader.

TLDR: I am totally buying the sequel, because my public library doesn’t have it.


Buy Now: Amazon

 

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