A Lady for a Duke Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
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Audible Audiobook, Unabridged
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A lush, sweeping queer historical romance from the bestselling author of Boyfriend Material—perfect for fans of Netflix’s Bridgerton, Evie Dunmore, and Lisa Kleypas!
When Viola Carroll was presumed dead at Waterloo she took the opportunity to live, at last, as herself. But freedom does not come without a price, and Viola paid for hers with the loss of her wealth, her title, and her closest companion, Justin de Vere, the Duke of Gracewood.
Only when their families reconnect, years after the war, does Viola learn how deep that loss truly was. Shattered without her, Gracewood has retreated so far into grief that Viola barely recognizes her old friend in the lonely, brooding man he has become.
As Viola strives to bring Gracewood back to himself, fresh desires give new names to old feelings. Feelings that would have been impossible once and may be impossible still, but which Viola cannot deny. Even if they cost her everything, all over again.
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|Listening Length||15 hours and 26 minutes|
|Audible.ca Release Date||May 24 2022|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #13,968 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#13 in Transgender Fiction
#197 in Historical Romance (Audible Books & Originals)
#1,144 in Regency Historical Romance
Top reviews from Canada
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well, this book really came for my feelings. from the first chapter, it's impossible to put down. Viola and Gracewood are jumping from the page. Their hurt, their doubts, their grief, and there is very little to do but follow them on this journey to get back to each other.
❝ What faculty did she possess, what gift, what magic that could conjure laughter from nothing. From dust and air. From places full of tears. ❞
Gracewood doesn't know that Viola is his lifelong friend who he thought died in the war. He's struggling with his mental health when they meet again. And I loved to see him not know her identity but still being so drawn to her.
❝ So many questions had lost their teeth in the heat of his eyes. So many fears had broken their backs upon the softness of this smile. ❞
Viola is a delight, she's the light that brings him back to life. They just fit together so well. and even after the truth comes out, there is still a lot for them to deal with. From their different social status, to the fact that they could never have biological children together, to the time that has passed where he thought her dead.
❝ Suffering isn't something we earn, Gracewook. It's something we bear. ❞
Alexis Hall always had this highly readable quality to his books but this one is my favorite so far. It's one of a kind.
I knew only a little bit about the storyline going in, from the blurb (not much from that, though) and from a friend who had just finished reading it (a bit more from that source) - I knew that there was a trans character, and a character who had an injury from war. That was about all I knew, plus that all of Alexis Hall's books are in the LGBTQ romance sub-genre. There was so much more to it, in nearly 500 pages and 15.5 hours audio running time!!
Without giving the entire plot away, I can only really say, that yes, there is a trans character, as mentioned in the blurb the character is one that is re-born to a new, true life after the Battle of Waterloo, when she can finally be her true self (he dies and she is reborn to who she is supposed to be), only her best friend is not just very injured after the war, but with the loss of his best friend on top of the war itself, is mentally damaged as well - today would be known as PTSD but back in regency times it wasn't given a name.
When an opportunity for Viola's sister-in-law to visit Gracewood comes up, to help with his sister and take her for her first season on the Ton and introduce her to society, Viola goes along because she has discovered her old friend isn't coping well. Viola intends to go along just to check in on her old friend and as her new self, see if she can pull him out of hiding from the world, and then carry on with her new life. Of course, nothing ever goes as planned, and this is why there are so many pages to this book, as the friends rediscover each other in a new capacity.
I enjoyed the nod to Shakespeare's The 12th Night (gender swap, name Viola, etc.).
Audio notes - This was a narrator that I wasn't familiar with, but did a bang-up job! Kay Eluvian, I will be looking for other books in her catalogue of productions as I definitely enjoyed listening to her voice. Well done!
This is a beautifully written, beautifully handled story of everyone learning who they are in the world (not just the main characters, but several side characters as well), back in a time when so many things were just not accepted. There are so many highs and so many lows, and your heartstrings will be pulled a great many times, in the best possible way. Whether you have read any of Alexis Hall's books before or not, this is a great one to begin with, as it's a complete standalone and just so. darn. fantastic!
Be prepared with those tissues and for a lot of huge gender issues to be the main theme (if you're not open to that and not OK with that, please give this one a miss - it's such a huge part of my every day world that I'm totally onboard with it, and wish the entire world was but realize that they are not). I recommend this book to everybody that is onboard with it and knows that love is love, and loves to read about true love that can stand the test of friendship and time.
I received an advance listener copy (ALC) from NetGalley, Forever and Hachette Audio, and this is my honest feedback - thank you so, so much!
Top reviews from other countries
As a cis woman I can't speak to the authenticity of Viola's thoughts and feelings, but Alexis Hall wrote her with a great deal of respect and compassion. There's a lot to love in this novel.
It wasn't an easy choice to make, but when Viola was presumed dead at Waterloo she took the opportunity to live as her true self even though it meant parting ways with her oldest and dearest friend, the Duke of Gracewood. Two years later and now a companion to her sister-in-law, she's met with the news that Gracewood has locked himself away in his Northumberland manor, traumatised by war and grief-stricken, and she may be the only person who can bring him to his senses... even if that means he finally meets the woman he never knew she was.
As someone who loves the friends-to-lovers trope, I knew I had to read this book as soon as I heard the premise. Mutual pining and angst? Yes please. Viola and Gracewood's history, being one of the only people who brought any joy to the other's life, has to be relearned as they begin to realise they both know each other better than anyone and yet also never truly knew one another at all. There's so much here that Hall explores, from the freedoms Viola gives up to live as her true self, and how giving up those freedoms is still more bearable than living a lie, to war wounds both physical and mental in an era before we understood PTSD.
The novel's weakness lies more in the pacing and plotting. It's almost 500 pages long and, unfortunately, it feels it. It's still an incredibly easy read that I got through in a couple of days, but a lot of the conversations Viola and Gracewood had were essentially the same conversation again and again which meant I felt as though it easily could have been cut down and been a stronger novel for it.
That aside, this is still a historical romance I'd recommend widely—particularly to anyone looking for more queer historical romances.
“I love you with the unfading flame of my friendship. With every drop of ardour in my blood. I love you with my soul, as some reserve their faith for absent gods. I love you as I believe in what is right and hope for what is good. I love you with everything I am and ever was— and if you will only let me, with every day that comes, and every self that I could ever be.”
Viola and Gracewood have been friends for so long. Their friendship runs deep. They've been through so much. So, when their friendship is ended it hurts them both in different ways. Viola, given the chance, even how much it hurt her had to take her life into her hands and live as authentically as she could. Gracewood who is tortured by memories of war and losing his best friend loses himself and struggles with addiction.
This story is both insta and slow burn. Viola and Gracewood are drawn to each other in such a way that there is pining and angst and love and fear. It merges the past and the present and an unknown future that is thrilling and terrifying for the characters. It is so achingly beautiful what exists between Viola and Gracewood and also the fears which are very palpable as well as the love between them and how they explore that.
“What a marvel it was. What freedom. To be a woman unabashedly in love beneath a multitude of stars.”
This is my second Alexis Hall book (my first being Something Fabulous) and he writes stories in such a way that is free and unapologetic in a way that feels unique to him. In my experience anyways, that's how it feels. Throughout reading this book I have also been grieving my dog of over a decade. My best little buddy. And I have been miserable and pessimistic and bitter and this book made me FEEL. It is beautiful but it also made me laugh too because the dry humour is wonderful.
“May I hit him with another vase?”
Speaking of, the secondary characters are as important to this story as our main characters. Lady Marleigh who is insufferable and yet I loved her. Her and Badger's relationship was wonderful and unapologetic. Then there's Miranda who is delightful and hilarious in such an unassuming way. Lady Lilimere is ruthless and I love her. And my fave of all time is Little Bartholomew. Honestly I would have happily read about him in every chapter. Also the repairing of Gracewood's and Miranda's relationship was also so lovely.
The book deals with a second chance at love that is also a first chance. It deals with things like our MC Viola being a Trans Woman and Gracewood dealing with PTSD when there were no names for these things really that adds a layer to the tenderness of their experiences. There is Gracewood's addiction and there is also reputation in the way there is in these regency era books and that plays a part in many things.
This is a love story that is so tender and beautiful and so so palpable. The epilogue was wonderful and beautiful. I've used beautiful a lot, I know, but I can't think how else to explain how this story is so precious in its entirety.
I would have liked to see more of Viola and her brother's relationship. But beyond that I just adored this story.
And going off the author's note at the end I'm assuming there is more books to come with secondary characters, or at least one, and I can't wait.
This is a very light and fun story in the true historical romance tradition. Historical romance always follows a very strict set of rules, but at least 2 of these rules must be broken. In this story the first is that the heroine is a trans woman - in a genre that has seen pretty much everything, this is, as far as I am aware, pretty novel. It is nicely handled. It adds tension but is never played for laughs. It is an integral part of the story but not the main event. This is, at its heart, a simple love story, and a thing of great beauty in its way. The second broken rule is even bolder - a change in the pacing and the romance progresses much slower than would be usually expected, it is a slow burn and this does work well for the story. There are a good few interesting side characters that I certainly hope might be featured in future books. The writing style is witty, bright and funny, with some rude jokes in Latin, which I always appreciate.
As for this particular story, well the trademark AH humour is back in full force, I cried real tears for Gracewood's PTSD and Viola's misery, and of course this story is joining several of the author's previous works on my Creme-de-la-Creme bookshelf here on Goodreads. That epilogue? Marvellous, superb, utterly splendid and I'm already looking forward to the possible spin-offs.
And then the author unravels that knot of pain and doubt and hope and makes the reader feel all sorts of big ugly feelings about life and the value of people in the process.
Each of Hall’s books is absurdly good. I always loved Glitterland the best for the pain and the rapier thrusts of wit. I think he’s edged it with this one. Just glorious.
The only false note was the heroine’s last action. No spoilers but in that dress?