No Other Duke Will Do
In this third installment in Ms. Burrowes’ Windham Brides series, Julian St. David, Duke of Haverford, has zero interest in taking a wife. Past choices and financial woes have forced his hand, however, and the time is nigh for matrimony, even though he refuses to admit it. He begrudgingly agrees to attend a lavish house party his sister is throwing in order to find him a bride, determined to keep to his secret agenda to stay single. When he strikes up a friendship with Elizabeth Windham – who has no desire or need for a husband – he’s confident he’ll survive this party unscathed as the pair of them decide to keep each other company, she to avoid potential husbands, he to avoid potential wives. Of course that plan goes slightly awry as the two find themselves blurring those lines between friendship and more.
I first encountered Ms. Burrowes’ books in a Walmart in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. I was stranded due a family medical emergency and my mother and I were both reaching the end of our reading pile (heaven forbid, y’all) so a sojourn to find English language books was required. My mother refuses to read books electronically, so while I had a Kindle to see me through, she needed paper. After combing through far too many books where some dude kills a lot of other dudes in military escapades, we found a copy of Ms. Burrowes’ The Heir and decided to give it a go. We both, in turn, devoured it and have become avowed fans ever since.
What I didn’t realize at the time, however, was that her books really can’t be read as standalones. We were lucky to pick up the first in a series, and then I read that series in order. Before reading No Other Duke Will Do for AAR, I hadn’t had a chance to start this series from scratch, but at about ten pages in, I realized I would have to, so I scampered to my library and collected the previous two books. Ms. Burrowes’ works are woven together in ways that make jumping in after she starts a frustrating experience. I talked to someone the other day, in fact, who DNFd this book because it was their first Burrowes and they could not keep track of everyone. I encouraged them to start at the beginning of the series and give it a second chance.
So all that being said, let’s assume you are caught up on the Windham brides and are anxious to hear about Elizabeth. Good news – her tale is charming and different, just like she is.
Elizabeth Windham’s true passion in life is lending libraries (truly, she’s a girl after my own heart). She doesn’t need to marry and doesn’t particularly want to – who needs annoying husbands who would curtail literary passions when one has books, after all? – but is a social creature open to friendships. When she meets Julian, she’s amenable to the idea of posing as a potential betrothed to throw his sister of his trail, for he has a massive library and is pleasant to spend time with.
Julian, as mentioned above, has zero interest in becoming leg-shackled, but he humors his sister over the house party because she happens to also be single. While she stacks the party with so many bachelorettes one could assume Chris Harrison is involved, Julian secretly returns the favor and invites quite a few eligible bachelors hoping his sister will find true love. The arrangement with Elizabeth is perfect because it keeps his sister, whom he adores, happy and keeps his future safe.
There is a lot to enjoy about this book. Ms. Burrowes has a deft hand at creating grounded and realistic couples who get to know each other slowly. The balance between a slow burn romance and simply plotting more slowly than instalove can be difficult to achieve, but she manages it. She takes her time convincing you of the solidity of the happily ever after, which is both lovely and occasionally frustrating. It’s particularly frustrating when one of the characters isn’t my favorite.
I found Julian stubborn and whiny and had a hard time spending time with him. He has lovely moments and I can see why Elizabeth is drawn to him, but if Elizabeth and I were friends and she asked me what I thought of her beau, I’d have to be tactful. “He’s clearly so good for you,” I’d assure her, while skirting the question of whether or not I liked him.
Overall, I’d wholeheartedly recommend No Other Duke Will Do for fans of the series, but caution newcomers from jumping in here. I didn’t love Julian, but that doesn’t mean he’s not lovable – although brace yourself for a bunch of woe-is-me whining. All in all, the book offers a warm and charming happily ever after.