What is it about?
Award-winning author Alyssa Cole’s Reluctant Royals series continues with a woman on a quest to be the heroine of her own story and the duke in shining armor she rescues along the way…
New York City socialite and perpetual hot mess Portia Hobbs is tired of disappointing her family, friends, and—most importantly—herself. An apprenticeship with a struggling swordmaker in Scotland is a chance to use her expertise and discover what she’s capable of. Turns out she excels at aggravating her gruff silver fox boss…when she’s not having inappropriate fantasies about his sexy Scottish burr.
Tavish McKenzie doesn’t need a rich, spoiled American telling him how to run his armory…even if she is infuriatingly good at it. Tav tries to rebuff his apprentice—and his attraction to her—but when Portia accidentally discovers that he’s the secret son of a duke, rough-around-the-edges Tav becomes her newest makeover project.
Forging metal into weapons and armor is one thing, but when desire burns out of control and the media spotlight gets too hot to bear, can a commoner turned duke and his posh apprentice find lasting love?
Two weeks ago, when I learned that I’d be part of this blog tour, I was so excited. Everything about A Duke By Default sounded amazing : a black heroine with ADHD? A commoner turned duke? Scotland? My, my. It’s as if this novel had been written for me, really. I posted elated tweets about it, messaged all my friends, wrote a prereview on Goodreads, and then,
I didn’t read it.
Oops. I spent the next two weeks randomly looking at the cover, clutching my ereader, before reading something else entirely. And watching Anne with a E. And writing lists of what I need to do before I’m back to school in a month. Oh, and I also made charts listing the qualifications I need to acquire next year (I’m coming back to uni while keeping my job as an Elementary teacher). Yay, me.
I wouldn’t say I stalled, because it’s normal behavior to me. I have ADHD and sometimes, it’s so hard to do what I’m supposed to do when my new projects engross me. I just… wait for it to be the very last moment, even though that’s something I want to do and I’m interested in. Sigh. Are you tired? Because I am.
Anyway. Yesterday (of course, YESTERDAY), I looked at the date and kind of freaked out. Leave it to me to wait for THE VERY LAST DAY, jesus. I opened my ereader, started reading, and never stopped for one moment until the end. A Duke by Default is that good. So don’t be like me, and read it now, you won’t be disappointed.
First : PORTIA. Oh my god, Portia. I adore her. I’ve spent four hours wanting to hug this amazing woman. See, Portia has always compared herself to others, especially her very organized and driven twin sister, Reggie. And she found herself lacking. Lacking purpose, perseverance, organization. Her parents don’t support her choices, and she’s blaming herself for not being who the world wants her to be. Calm. Reliable. Sensible. Her constant self-doubt was really hard to read, but oh so relatable. Like her, I’ve been diagnosed with ADHD as an adult, and you know what’s funny? I decided to take the test after having watched a video, too. This one (and a million more of hers, OF COURSE) :
It was a revelation, because like Portia, I’ve spent years asking myself what the fuck was wrong with me, if I really was just lazy, impulsive, and selfish. Why couldn’t I stay calm at school, when it seemed so easy to others? Why couldn’t I keep contact with my friends, when I very much loved them? Why was my office filled with piles of paper, when I had devised a whole new filing system? I just thought I was very bad at adulting, honestly, and why wouldn’t I, when people around me kept telling me that my problem was immaturity? The thing is, I’ve always been good at what interests me. When I was in high-school, I spent my senior year skipping class and reading philosophy books in a café instead. After dropping out of uni the first time, I started again three years after and studied correspondence courses. I was finally successful. I could work at night, hyperfocus on my computer, and feed my (quite) obsessional character. Finding what to do with my degree was another trial entirely, but after a while I finally discovered teaching and now, six years after, I’m forever grateful to have found this amazing job that constantly captivates me (and also : I can spend my days standing up, woot). It doesn’t mean that I’m perfect, of course. I still randomly obsess over new projects (lately I’ve been learning Swedish, because….. well, because), my house is still full of random cluster, and I have to put alarms to remember to call my mum. My ADHD will never disappear, but I’m kinda proud of this part of myself, now.
What I meant to say with all this personal rambling (sorry) (I forgot to mention that I did that a lot, oops) is : reading about Portia and following her while she realizes that she’s a fantastic person and not a mess was a wonderful experience. I’m forever grateful to Alyssa Cole for having created a character I could see myself in.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
I think about all the fellow readers out there who might have ADHD, and I can’t even express how happy it makes me feel, knowing that Portia exists.
What about the romance, then? Ahhh. It was the perfect slow-burn, without nonsensical obstacles but rather, understandable issues that prevent Tavis and Portia to be together. You see, Tavis, grumpy but with a heart of gold Tavis, is Portia’s boss. As much as he’s attracted to her (and trust me, he is), he doesn’t want to be this guy. Not to mention that after a few bad experiences (I can relate to that, too), Portia really doesn’t want to hook up with anyone. Add life-changing discoveries (Tavis is a duke, no less!), very realistic struggles due to social inequalities, and you’ll get why their relationship isn’t an easy one to start. They’ll get there, though. They’ll get there, and they’ll win your heart along the way. Sure, you might be annoyed by Tavis at first, but trust me : he’ll win you over. Our girl really has the best of tastes 😉
Filled with friendship and family, A Duke by Default is more than a romance : for me, it’s also a sort of coming of age, whose kind we don’t see enough : tell me, why should novels about teenagers the only ones that deal with getting our shit together? Why do we live in a society in which it’s not okay to ignore what we want to do when we’re 30? That’s bullshit! There’s no rush.
All in all, a great novel I’m very glad to have (finally) read. Please give it a chance.
Oh, and friends : ADHD symptoms aren’t character flaws, and like Portia, you’re probably full of talent. Don’t sell yourself short. You’re amazing ❤
What was he doing? With his apprentice? In the courtyard?
She was right to pull away from him.
“I’m sorry,” he said, yanking his hand back.
“You should be,” she said. “I have very sensitive skin.” Then she pressed up on her toes and kissed him.
The kiss was not what he’d imagined. Because, of course, he’d imagined kissing her, and in his mind she had been aggressive and take charge, pulling him down and wrapping her legs around him. But this kiss was hesitant, though she’d initiated it, soft and just a whisper of sensitive skin rubbing over sensitive skin, as if she was prepared to pull away and run off at any second.
Can’t be having that, can we?
Tav’s arms slipped around her waist and pulled her up flush against him.
About The Book
A Duke By Default
by Alyssa Cole
July 31, 2018
Purchase Your Copy Today!
About Alyssa Cole
ALYSSA COLE is a science editor, pop culture nerd, and romance junkie who lives in the Caribbean and occasionally returns to her fast-paced NYC life. In addition to writing, she founded and hosted the Jefferson Market Library Romance Book Club and taught Romance Writing for Beginners. She speaks on topics such as writing erotic romance, writing multicultural romance, and self-editing. She has contributed romance-related articles to publications including RT Book Reviews, Heroes and Heartbreakers, Romance at Random, and The Toast. She has also started a bi-monthly column in the Romance Writer’s Report, Romancing the Globe, in which she chats with romance writers from around the world. When she’s not busy writing, traveling, and learning French, she can be found watching anime with her husband or tending to her herd of animals.