Thank you to Berkley Romance for the gifted copy of The Duke Undone
I’ve been reading a ton of historical romance this year – with Bridgerton popularizing the genre, it’s been super fun exploring new authors and stories set in the past. Naturally, when I got the opportunity to read The Duke Undone, I jumped on it. It’s pretty uncommon for a meet cute to involve the hero passed out, naked and drunk, so boy was I intrigued.
An artist stumbles upon a naked duke and an unlikely love story begins in this captivating Victorian historical romance.
When Royal Academy painting student Lucy Coover trips over a naked man passed out in an East End alley, she does the decent thing. She covers him up and fetches help. Trouble is, she can’t banish his muscular form from her dreams as easily. She finds herself compelled to put every detail down on canvas. What she doesn’tknow is that she’s painting the infamous Duke of Weston, and that her life will never be the same.
A second son, Anthony Philby thought he could flee his brutal family legacy and become his own man. Forced back to London by his brother’s death, he inherits a fortune… with strings attached. One scandal will sink his bid for independence. It’s in his best interest to burn Lucy Coover’s shocking painting and pretend he never met the bewitching young artist. Instead, he finds himself offering a devil’s bargain. He’ll save her aunt’s dressmaking shop from ruin, if she’ll seek out his missing sister, Effie.
As they work together, an unexpected passion ignites between them. But the hunt for Effie leads to unexpected danger, and soon they find themselves risking everything… for a love that might destroy them both.
From a storytelling point of view, I really enjoyed the plot and pacing for the first two thirds of The Duke Undone. The story was super unique and I loved the meet-cute and the early chemistry between Lucy and the Duke. I also really enjoyed the housing crisis subplot – it was fascinating and created a lot of intrigue in the story. Unfortunately, the last third of the book was a little off to me. It felt a bit rushed, plot wise. I think the book would have benefited from a bit more time to wrap up the story in a more complete way. Particularly, the ending to the housing subplot felt rushed/forced.
Lucy was a confident artist who was willing to seize any opportunity that was thrown her way – including an impromptu anatomy lesson by way of a passed out, naked, drunk Duke in a back alley. Enter: Anthony, a reluctant Duke whose life is being controlled by the people appointed by his father. Right off the bat, they had excellent chemistry together – though I found as the book progressed their relationship was a little inconsistent. They had their cute moments, but they also felt a little too different to end up together at times.
Overall, The Duke Undone was a fun and fresh new Victorian era romance – a unique meet cute, a headstrong heroine, and a ton of art. I would love to see an adaptation of this (cough, cough, Netflix). If you enjoy historical romance or you’re looking to try the genre out, this might be the book for you. 3/5