Desert Isle Keeper
The Duke Who Didn't
The Duke Who Didn’t is Courtney Milan’s newest release, from a new series based in a small town in Kent. It’s the tale as old as time- boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy disappears for three years. Of course, it’s a little more complicated, seeing as the boy never told the girl he was a duke, and the girl rejected a kiss from the boy before he vanished.
Chloe Fong is a listmaking fiend; she makes a list of tasks every day and feels incredible satisfaction crossing them off. She’s lived in Wedgeford Downs all of her life, and has spent the last couple of years helping her father perfect his masterpiece, a sauce unlike any other. Unnamed Sauce will take England by storm, if the two of them can prepare everything they need in time to launch it at the village’s annual festival. There are only a few tasks remaining: filling several hundred jars, making bao to serve with the sauce, and naming the sauce that has been her father’s life’s work. So no pressure, then. The last thing Chloe needs is to be distracted, so naturally, Jeremy Yu chooses this precise moment to come back to Wedgeford.
Jeremy isn’t exactly the person he claims to be- he’s not Jeremy Yu, he’s Jeremy Wentworth, the Duke of Lansing, and he just happens to own pretty much all of Wedgeford. For years, he visited for the Wedgeford Trials, the yearly games that drew people from all over, but he had stopped coming. Jeremy is a goof, a silly guy, who finds the joke in everything and lightens any room. When he tried to kiss Chloe, she asked him if he could be serious, and he wasn’t sure if he could. So, he left, and spent three years trying, and failing, to become a serious person. Despite his failure, Jeremy returns to Wedgeford, in the hopes of convincing Chloe to marry him, regardless of his unrepentant silliness. His main obstacle lies in explaining himself, and the life she would take on as his duchess, but also in convincing the woman he loves that his proposal is genuine. Being the only half-Chinese duke in Britain is difficult enough, and Jeremy fears that the shunning they might face as a Chinese aristocratic couple might deter Chloe from accepting his proposal.
Jeremy is absolutely delicious- a protagonist with a sense of humor is a wonderful thing, and while usually it is the female lead who is the quirky, eccentric one, I loved Jeremy to pieces. Chloe is equally lovely, with her work ethic, ambition, and loyalty really making her stand out as a unique, interesting character. What’s really special about their romance is that they seem to really see each other, and know one another on a really deep level. Each does their best to meet the other’s needs, and they communicate surprisingly effectively despite not always being completely honest. Their relationship is satisfying and very sweet, exactly what I look for in a romance.
The book was also surprisingly funny, which was very enjoyable to read. It’s not exactly a plot-heavy story – it’s very much character-driven – but the two characters it so heavily leans on are very strong. There are only two things I would criticize. Firstly, that while the two principals are perfectly fleshed out, most of others barely make an impression. The only other character that really stuck with me was Chloe’s father, but his impact on the plot was fairly minimal, and the arc he had really felt under-developed. Maybe we’ll get more of Mr. Fong in further books. Lastly, that while the events of the book are centered around the Wedgeford Trials, they are only briefly explained and then don’t really have much of a footprint in the book after about the halfway point. Overall, The Duke Who Didn’t is a whimsical, fun read that any lover of historical romance and light-hearted love stories will devour in one sitting.