Desert Isle Keeper
Dare to Love a Duke
I tend to have pretty tepid feelings towards secret clubs in romances, whether they’re historical or contemporary. There’s something about the idea of all these sex clubs, gaming hells and what have you operating in secret and yet always making gobs of money and never seeming to require much – if any – work to run them that bores me. But I have to say, Dare to Love a Duke is going to be an exception to that rule. We get to see the hard work and manpower (or womanpower in this case) that keeps the Orchid Club running while it’s under constant threat of discovery, and yet this is still a dead sexy book.-
Lucia has worked her way up from living in the streets to managing the Orchid Club, a secret sex club that allows members from all incomes and backgrounds. She’s no stranger to hard work and struggle, and her priority is keeping the business running smoothly to keep the staff paid, and so that she can use her own income to start a home for educating and housing other unfortunate young girls. As such, she isn’t one to take time for herself or dally with patrons. Until Tom…
Thomas Powell has been visiting the Orchid Club for a year, but not to partake in any of its varied and lascivious activities. No, he’s there only for Lucia. He’s been smitten by Lucia’s professional and almost regal demeanor in how she keeps the business running, and visits weekly to flirt with the enigmatic woman in hopes she might one day be his. When his father dies and he becomes Duke of Northfield, Tom realizes his visits will need to come to an end, as he’s going to need to buckle down and get serious about taking on the weight of his father’s title and legacy. But first, he wants one night with Lucia. They share what is meant to be a single night of passion without strings, but when it is revealed that Tom’s late father was actually the owner of the Orchid Club, and that the ownership has now passed to Tom, they find themselves entangled outside of the bedroom as well.
It’s hard to decide which character I was more enamored with, Tom or Lucia. Or maybe it was Lucia’s staff at the Orchid. Tom is head over heels for Lucia from the beginning and knows he wants to be with her in spite of his title and status. He’s torn between doing what his family wants, what society expects, and protecting the club because of his feelings for Lucia. I really loved how he couldn’t seem to stay away from Lucia, and their rendezvous were sexy, but also charming and heartwarming. I don’t know if I’ve ever called a romance novel homey before, but something about the time the pair spends together was comforting in a homey way. He’s at peace with Lucia, and hidden in the staff areas of the Orchid he can shed societal expectations and just be with her, and I loved that. So often in historical romance the character of higher social standing lifts the other character up to their level with lavish gifts, or stays in a fancy home. In Dare to Love a Duke we get to see Tom experiencing something of Lucia’s way of life, and learning how difficult it is to be an unmarried woman without money than he had ever understood
Which brings me to Lucia. Part of what I enjoy so much about Eva Leigh’s work is her heroines, who are experienced, fully rounded people. Lucia emerged from extreme poverty and did what she needed to get by, including working as a sex worker some time, though it isn’t dwelt on. Her past has shaped her into someone strong, but caring. She has two people who live at the Orchid with her who are lovely, and are like her family. She wants the entire staff to continue to draw pay because she knows how much a little extra money can mean in dire straits. And she is always trying to help those less fortunate than herself, without coming off like a phony paragon of virtue rather than a real person.
Dare to Love a Duke is one of those great stories where you can root for both characters and genuinely want them together, because they deserve to be happy. It’s also incredibly sexy. The novel does take place in a sex club and there are brief mentions of the activities that take place there, but the steaminess is all Tom and Lucia and the sparks they set off together.
Ever since I read Temptations of a Wallflower, Eva Leigh has been at the top of my list of authors to watch, and I’m so glad I read this book. It’s perfectly romantic, sexy, charming, and kept me turning pages late in the night. I also liked the small nods to more inclusion, such as a prominent lesbian couple and mentions of other same-sex relations, rather than pretending a sex club would never see such a thing. Since it releases on Christmas Eve and some might be wondering, there is a tiny bit of holiday celebrating to be found in the epilogue, but don’t go in expecting a Christmas romance.
I jumped into this book without reading the first two in the London Underground series, but I’ll be remedying that right away!