"Daring A Duke," Claudia Dain

Pros: Wonderful humor, and the scope of the book includes a lot more interactions between characters other than the hero/heroine.
Cons: Some of the comments and events might be difficult to put in context for readers who haven’t read the other books in the series.
Rating: 5 out of 5

Review book courtesy of Penguin Group

 

Sophia Dalby is up to her matchmaking tricks again! This time, she’s helping her friend the Duke of Edenham court the lovely young Jane Elliot, who has just arrived from New York. Jane, however, has other ideas. What does she need with a duke? Especially one who is handsome, witty, and completely unintimidated by her brothers? It’s a battle of wits and persistence in front of the cream of London society, and Sophia’s not the only one engaged in setting up a romance…


 

Claudia Dain has done it again; I laughed my way through Daring a Duke‘s wit and humor and loved watching the matchmaking machinations of a London Season. Although this is the fifth book in the Courtesan Chronicles (following “The Courtesan’s Daughter”, “The Courtesan’s Secret”, The Courtesan’s Wager, and How To Dazzle A Duke) it is actually my favorite of the series. Instead of the action focusing mainly around the couple, we get to see a lot more of the romantic intriguing between the secondary characters which for me gave it a lot more depth, because it feels as if Sophia Dalby’s world has expanded in several directions. We also find out a whole lot more about who Sophia was before she rose to prominence in London Society. I definitely got the feeling that Ms. Dain was setting up some very interesting story threads for later books.

With that being said, if you haven’t read any of the previous books in the series, I would highly recommend doing so. It’s not completely essential for understanding this book, but there are some witty asides that reference the previous novels and the previous books also help put what we learn about Sophia in this book in a lot more perspective. Most of the wit, however, needs no explanation and is a joy to watch and listen to. What can I say? I’m a sucker for a well-worded backhanded insult, and Ms. Dain makes the art look effortless.

I was impressed by the way that Ms. Dain was able to keep the plot of this book feeling fresh and new. This is the third book in a row that has had a duke as the hero, but Edenham and Jane’s interactions are like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Ms. Dain plays up the stereotypes of British and Americans without turning them into caricatures, and so what we wind up seeing is an outspoken woman who is willing to tell the duke nearly anything. Instead of driving him away as she thinks she wants to do, she simply intrigues him further. There was a retort Jane had about the size of his manhood, along the lines of if it was considered large in England, he should move to New York where his dimensions would be considered normal. I nearly laughed till I cried. Jane is quite possibly the most blunt and independent heroine I’ve ever read, and I loved every page of her.

Because of the range of secondary characters, and the way that they interact with Edenham, Jane, and each other, I felt as if I was watching a real Society event, because it felt as if my scope wasn’t limited to just one or two factions of the hero and heroine. It’s an interesting break from the whole book revolving around the couple, and it did a great job of whetting my appetite for (hopefully!) more books to follow, because I have so many questions now about how some of the loose ends are going to work out. But most of all, I am starting to get a clearer picture of who Sophia Dalby is and why she is doing what she does.

I was so happy to get my Sophia Dalby fix for a little while, and it turned out to be even better than I expected. The wit, warmth, and humor are all there in addition to a lot of fascinating interactions between secondary characters and lots of background about Sophia herself. As soon as I had finished the book, I wanted more and there are so many possible directions for the series that I simply can’t wait for the next one. Much like everyone in the series, I’m positively entranced by the lovely Sophia Dalby.

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