Review: Duke, Actually by Jenny Holiday (2021)

Sequel to A Princess for Christmas

Heat Factor: This is a slow burn with a bit of boning at the end; if you’ve read other Jenny Holiday books, this one is on the tame side. 

Character Chemistry: Dani and Max are adorable, separately and together. 

Plot: Dani and Max become best friends. Then they fall in love, but can’t admit it—not to themselves, and definitely not to each other.

Overall: It’s cute.

I, like Dani, watch Love Actually every year at Christmas. In fact, the first time I saw it was with Erin. In subsequent years, I watched it with my mom, or my sister, or my husband. (He insists that we keep up the tradition, and I am not about to argue.) I don’t care that parts of this movie are extremely cringeworthy. It makes me happy. So I appreciated Dani’s defense of the film. And also the scene in the airport. If my membership to Romancelandia is revoked because of this: so be it. 

But don’t worry, haters! Duke, Actually isn’t much like Love, Actually at all. The story focuses quite closely on Dani and Max as they become friends (mostly via text) and support each other through achieving their New Year’s resolutions and slowly but surely fall in love. There is very little in terms of plot, though of course both Dani and Max have some baggage to jettison. Rather, the stumbling block to their being together is about character. Max is a playboy (kind of) who will never settle down. Dani is just coming off a nasty divorce and is post-love—but more importantly, has vowed not to modify her life to fit a man’s. (Note: I often find this trope irksome, but Holiday handles it well here, as Dani slowly processes her hurt and moves toward being open to love once again.) 

What works with Duke, Actually is that Dani and Max are so stinking charming and easy to like, even when they’re being prickly. I enjoyed spending time with them. I liked watching them fall in love. And I appreciated the way they supported each other in dealing with their shitty relations. 

You may see where this is going. While I liked a lot about this book, it was missing that little ineffable something that really makes a book hit home. Maybe my expectations were too high, because I’ve loved so many of Holiday’s books. But this one fell a little flat (in that I neither laughed out loud or cried real tears or really connected emotionally to what was going on), and I’m not sure why. An enjoyable read? Absolutely. Is it going to be one that sticks with me and that I think about next year? Probably not. 

I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.

Buy Now: Amazon | Bookshop

Looking for something similar?

Imaginary Benevolent Monarchies

Holiday Specials (and Jenny Holiday Specials)

I swoon for epistolary romances

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