Desert Isle Keeper
A Scandalous Kind of Duke
I’ve slowly been inching away from historical romance novels in recent years, but authors like Mia Vincy keep me coming back. Although the rich-duke-falls-for-poor-spinster story has been told many times, in Vincy’s hands it feels fresh and exciting as A Scandalous Kind of Duke unfolds.
Leopold Halton, the Duke of Dammerton, and Juno Bell have been friends for years. They have also been in love for years. When she was seventeen, Juno told Leo she loved him in a sunny meadow, while Leo told her he had a duty to his family he couldn’t ignore. When he was twenty-one Leo came to see Juno in Vienna, ready to propose and damn the consequences, only to have Juno speak first and announce she had moved on. Eight years after Vienna, Leo is divorced and Juno is an artist, but they still make time to see each other and nurture their friendship of a decade. But despite their history, it remains just that – a friendship.
Until Leo sees a scandalous painting by Juno.
While Leo later ascribes all that unfolds as due to this painting of a scantily clad mermaid and sailor gazing at each other with longing, I don’t think he’s quite accurate. There are dozens of small choices Leo and Juno make in the early chapters which take them closer to having an affair. As the book opens, it’s clear that they are sitting atop a mountain of tinder just waiting for a match, and all the little moments – flirting, visiting each other when they don’t have to, a shared glance, a glimpse of a secret painting – are leading them down that path. Even Leo’s decision to remarry to a “suitable” girl just adds fuel to the fire.
And what a fire it is! Ms. Vincy does an incredible job building the chemistry between Leo and Juno, until the reader feels as though they’ve also been waiting a decade for them to get together. I absolutely loved the dynamic between Leo and Juno – the author gets the balance of longing and friendship and love just right.
One of the other things I loved about the relationship between Leo and Juno is the growth you can see over the course of the book. They’ve each grown and changed a lot over the decade they’ve known each other, and there are some things about their relationship which still call back to their youthful immaturity. For example, Leo was so focused on saving his pride years ago that he never told Juno his own feelings about her. While that was reasonable behavior when he was twenty-one and hurting, by the time the book opens, Leo is old enough to be honest with Juno even if it means he can’t save face. The beautiful thing is that he does recognize this, and when the moment comes for him to be fully honest with Juno, Leo is brave and doesn’t let it pass him by. And Juno, in turn, reflects on her own life and evaluates how much of her life as an artist can be modified by the demands of being a duchess – whereas before she rejected the idea of a title and responsibilities out of hand.
In my years of reading and reviewing, one thing has always stood out for me about DIK books – how much I love the characters. Romance novels are inherently character-oriented as they focus so much on building a relationship, and so generally, when I find myself waxing poetic about the characters in a book I know I’ve found a DIK. Those are the stories I come back to for a reread, and they’re the ones which feel fresh even if they have the same plot as a thousand books before them. With A Scandalous Kind of Duke Mia Vincy has created another winner, and I would encourage anyone new to or familiar with her work to get their hands on this book.