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Week Twenty—Six: Duke, Actually

I had planned another book for this week’s review, but I got sick instead. The symptoms were similar enough to Omicron symptoms that I did get tested; results aren’t back till Sunday but a rapid test today was negative, so I’m going to stay isolated till Sunday, but I’m pretty sure that it’s just a bad cold, or a sinus infection, both of which get rest and fluids. And book reviews. I’ve convinced myself that if I get this up today, I’ll feel better.

So, Duke, Actually. I am a fan of a slow-burn romance, as long as there is some steamy pay-off at the end. I love the torture, the longing glances. I cut my teeth on American soap operas in the 70s, where yearning was the stock in trade.

And this book…wow, the yearning.

USA Today bestselling author Jenny Holiday follows A Princess for Christmas with another delightful contemporary Christmas romance between a playboy baron and a woman who has said goodbye to love.

Maximillian von Hansburg, Baron of Laudon and heir to the Duke of Aquilla, is trapped. Under pressure from his domineering father, he must marry a suitable bride before he inherits a title that feels like a prison sentence. In New York to meet a prospective wife, he ditches his responsibilities and appears on Dani Martinez’s doorstep. He’s been intrigued by the no-nonsense professor since he met her at the Eldovian royal wedding and is determined to befriend her.

Newly single Dani is done with love—she even has a list entitled “Things I Will Never Again Do for a Man”—which is why she hits it off with notorious rake Max. He’s trying to escape relationships, and she’s resolved to avoid them at all costs. All they want from each other is friendship and a distraction from their messy lives.

As their bond begins to deepen, so does their attraction, until they end up in bed together. Falling in love was never part of the plan—Max’s family doesn’t see Dani as a perfect match, even as his heart tells him she’s the one, and Dani isn’t sure she can make it in Max’s world. Can they find the courage to live they life they desire, even if it means risking everything?

I believe that this is a sequel of sorts to A Princess for Christmas, which I did not read. I don’t think that I missed a lot by not reading it…it seems to concern the relationship between two characters who are secondary in this book, and whom I found, frankly, more than a little annoying. However, the leads in this book did meet off screen, in that book, so I can’t properly describe their meeting.

In this book, Max and Dani are going to be participants in a wedding, and Max uses that as an excuse to get to know Dani better. Dani, recently separated, asks Max to accompany her to a work event that her soon-to-be-ex will be at with his way-too-young new girlfriend. The event goes well, and Max and Dani part friends.

Over the next few months, they remain friends, texting each other, and then talking on the phone. Neither of them claims to want a relationship, although Max realizes before Dani that this has become something more than simple friendship. And once he realizes it, well…his bumbling of the whole thing is quite endearing.

This is my favorite kind of romance, the kind where things take a while to resolve, the kind where you are screaming at the characters that they are meant for each other, and can they just get on with it already? The kind where ultimately both characters knows that they are in love but each thinks that there is NO WAY that their feelings are going to be returned. There is pining, oh yes, and eventually, there is quite a bit of steam. Quite a bit.

I think that the only thing that I found fault with is the aforementioned secondary characters, who were grating, and the fact that the book may have been a smidge too long. But I was having so much fun, that I barely noticed that. Solid, solid effort. I‘ll remember Dani and Max with great fondness.

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