I only recently bought Alyssa Cole’s A Duke By Default so I missed out on months of basking in this glorious and delightful novel (because my local library never got around to purchasing it on my request). But I have read this book and it is everything I’d hoped it’d be.
Now, I’m a diehard Alyssa Cole fan. I seriously stan her because she’s a wonderful writer, a fellow Caribbean islander, and she always manages to get me super invested in her characters. She’s another writer that could write a grocery list and have me pleading to read it because it’d be art on scratch paper.
So it can’t be a surprise that I genuinely loved the second book in her Reluctant Royals series, A Duke by Default.
Set some time after A Princess In Theory, Cole’s delightful series starter that satisfied the need for Black Royalty and romance post-Black Panther and that T’challa/Nakia kiss, A Duke By Default picks up with Portia Hobbs, best friend to Princess Ledi and self-described “hot mess” as she moves to Scotland for the internship of a lifetime. Portia is trying to be better and do better, and the internship she gets at Tavish McKenzie’s Bodotria Armory is her way of starting over and trying to find a purpose that works for her.
There’s only one problem: Tavish McKenzie, a man that doesn’t seem interested in change or in cooperating with Portia. The armory is the only thing of note that he has from the bio-father that apparently abandoned him/his mom and he’s got so many complicated feelings about the place that he doesn’t know where to start with Portia who is definitely a hands-on kind of intern with a ton of ideas.
Tavish took a while to grow on me, honestly. I clicked with Portia immediately because I saw myself in her (from the “not realizing she has ADHD until shit gets bad” to the “possibly using alcohol as a crutch” parts) so I’m gonna be honest, I kind of took Tavish not immediately falling for Portia… personally.
Not personally enough to DNF a book by one of my favorite romance writers, but personally enough that I had to keep stopping to scream into my pillow in frustration.
But y’all… Like Portia grew on him, Tav grew on me. Fast. I started to understand him and then I was rooting for him and y’all… I got the appeal. I can’t tell y’all the exact moment that I decided I was going to ship the Portia/Tav ship with the passion of a thousand suns, but once I started, I got invested. I love that once I started seeing the shipping light, I couldn’t stop being invested in their getting a happy ending.
There are a few tense moments, especially at the end of the novel when Tav’s distant cousin does something super douchey to Portia (more on that in the content warnings as it’s a HUGE but important spoiler) and Tav doesn’t give her the benefit of the doubt or any understanding initially, but it’s a solid and sweet romance that further sucks you into the wonderful world of Reluctant Royals that Cole has set up.
Alyssa Cole writes amazing royalty romances and I really loved every minute of reading A Duke By Default. Seriously, if you’re a fan of sexy royal romances, bawesome Black heroines, and super steamy sex scenes between characters with smoking hot chemistry… you need to get into this series.
Content Warnings/Notes: alcohol mentions/addiction, divorce pre-book, Portia is drugged without her consent (in Ch 27 you see the aftermath and it was super hard to get through for me)
Are There Sex Scenes/Sexual Content?: Heck yeah
What I Liked Most About It: the ADHD representation was amazing and I felt seen in Portia in a way that I wasn’t expecting, the role social media and the internet play in the “surprise duke” subplot specifically (but it’s across the whole book), Portia at the Renaissance Fair in that dress, Tav’s dad lowkey fantasizing about meeting the Queen and giving her what for when it comes to the monarchy, peerage, and colonialism, JOHAN, the Doctor Who references, calling out shitty politics and giving bigots the runaround
What I Could’ve Done Without: I get that Tav is a gruff Scottsman and that’s part of his appeal, but he was just so mean to Portia at the beginning and it made my heart hurt
Where Y’all Can Buy It: HarperCollins
Author’s Website/Social Media: Alyssa Cole @ Twitter | Website
Rating: Highly Recommended