Dancing in the Duke’s Arms – A Regency Romance Anthology by Grace Burrowes, Shana Galen, Miranda Neville and Carolyn Jewel

dancing in the dukes arms

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Why Do Dukes Fall in Love?

Every summer the cream of society gathers at the Dukeries, named for the ducal estates concentrated in one small corner of Nottinghamshire. While the entertainments include parties, balls, and a famous boat race, the ducal hosts and their guests find heartbreak, love and happy endings.

Four heartwarming stories from four bestselling historical romance authors.

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Publisher and Release Date: cJewel Books, 26th June 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Regency England, Nottinghamshire
Genre: Historical Romance (Anthology)
Heat Rating: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Caz

As is common with anthologies, some stories in Dancing in the Duke’s Arms work better than others. My favourite of this set is Miranda Neville’s, The Duchess of Scandal in which an estranged couple find themselves back under the same roof due to a scheduling error. The very proper Duke of Linton proposed marriage to a young lady twelve years his junior, secure in the knowledge that no woman in her situation could possibly turn down such an offer. For the three weeks of their honeymoon, they were blissfully happy, but following their return to London, the rot sets in. Linton takes his responsibilities to his estates and in parliament very seriously, and his days are so full that he unintentionally neglects his eighteen year-old bride, and Althea’s only real company is her twin brother Nicholas. She ends up spending more time with her brother and his rather fast set and getting herself a name as a bit of a flirt. Annoyed at the gossip, and the fact that his wife always seems to be surrounded by crowds of young men, Linton seethes with annoyance and frustration, his admonitions and criticisms of her behaviour becoming more frequent. Things go from bad to worse and after six months, the Lintons agree to live separate lives.

I always like a good second-chance romance, and this, although only novella length, is a good one. The gentle reminders of what their life could have been like are poignant and well-written, as is the gradual reawakening of the couple’s feelings for each other. The greatest danger with the shorter format is that the romance will feel rushed, but it didn’t feel that way here and I thought it was a really lovely read. 4.5 stars

Grace Burrowes’ contribution, May I Have This Duke? does feel somewhat rushed, but I loved it because it was so damn funny and had me laughing on several occasions. The Duke of Hardcastle is put out when the governess to his six-year old nephew suddenly announces her intention of leaving his employ. Miss Ellen MacHugh needs to return to her family in the north of England, and is adamant that nothing will change her mind. He has no idea, of course, that she’s in love with him and doesn’t want to be around when he takes a wife, which is something he can’t put off for much longer.

Hardcastle is engaged to attend the Duke of Sedgemere’s house-party in the Dukeries (and yes, it’s a real place! The county of Nottinghamshire actually contains a large number of ducal estates, and was given the nickname in the nineteenth century), and as his nephew will be accompanying him, so will Ellen, and at the end of the party she will depart for her home.

Even though Hardcastle needs a wife, he doesn’t relish the prospect of being tricked into a compromising situation by a Machiavellian debutante and forced into marriage; and he also doesn’t like the idea of Ellen being pursued by the young bucks at the party. He suggests they provide cover for each other; by acting smitten with one another, she will preserve him from the scheming young ladies and he can protect her from the unwanted attentions of the men.

I admit that things do progress quite quickly and the ending is a bit too perfect, but I didn’t mind that, because the verbal exchanges between Ellen and Hardcastle are so often hilarious. Grace Burrowes has a very distinctive writing style which can seem quite formal – the characters often address each other by their full names, for example, or express themselves in a roundabout way – but here, that formality just adds to the humour and tenderness of Ellen and Hardcastle’s delightfully flirtatious banter. 4 stars

Carolyn Jewel’s An Unsuitable Duchess is the story of the very reserved and stern Duke of Stoke Teversault and the young woman whose sunny, outgoing nature and delight in the world around her shows her to be his complete opposite. The duke has been in love with Georgina for years, but missed his chance with her when she accepted a proposal from another man. Married quickly, she was happy with her husband, but he died a year after their marriage, and she has only just come out of mourning. Stoke is as attracted to her as he ever was, and she can’t forget his kindness to her after her husband died, yet she feels he disapproves of her and doesn’t really like her. It’s obvious that his dislike is nothing of the sort, and that he’s worried about both feeling and showing too much around her, yet he’s drawn to her vivacity and her amazing zest for life.

Georgina – or George, as her friends have nicknamed her – has no inkling of the true nature of Stoke’s feelings for her, but has no problem in identifying hers for him – she is astonished to discover that she desires him, this seemingly calculating, forbidding man who is not at all handsome by conventional standards and who disapproves of her for no reason she can discern.

Georgina is a lot of fun who knows she will never be a model of ladylike behaviour. She loved her husband and obviously had an enjoyable sex-life – she knows what’s what and can own up to what she wants. Stoke is the strong, silent type who doesn’t really know how to act towards the woman he loves and desires to distraction. They’re a mismatched pair, but the attraction between them is impossible to ignore, even though George realises that Stoke will probably break her heart. 3.5 stars

The least successful story of the four is Shana Galen’s Waiting for a Duke Like You, in which the gorgeous piece of male perfection that is Nathan, the Duke of Wyndover literally stumbles across a damsel in distress and has to save her from those who wish to do her harm. Shana Galen has written a number of action-packed romances but translating that to novella format hasn’t worked here, because both elements – the romance and the princess-in-peril plot – are too rushed and require too great a suspension of disbelief.

Princess Vivienne of Glynaven saw her family massacred and barely escaped her home with her life. She has travelled to England to seek the assistance of the king, but a group of assassins are on her tail and it won’t be long before they find her. Knowing that the Prince Regent is due to attend the ball at the Duke of Sedgemere’s house-party, she makes her way to his estate, only to collapse due to cold and hunger. She is found by Nathan, who met her briefly in Glenaven eight years previously and fell in love with her. He has never stopped loving her, but Vivienne never took much notice of him, having a dislike for men who are prettier than she is.

Um… yeah. That was such a daft reason for not liking someone that I just couldn’t buy it. On top of that, the romance never really gets off the ground and the entire thing is just too rushed for my taste. 3 stars

I enjoyed reading Dancing in the Duke’s Arms, even though the quality of the stories varies. But the great thing about an anthology like this is that if you don’t like one story, you can always jump to the next.

Ultimately, it’s worth buying for the Miranda Neville story alone, and the Grace Burrowes one is a nice bonus. The other two didn’t work quite so well for me, but this is still a fun collection and one that’s worth considering as a holiday read as each story can be read in an hour or so while you’re soaking up some sun!

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