Book Review: The Broken Duke (1797 Club) by Jess Michaels

The Broken Duke is third book in the 1797 Club series by Jess Michaels. I have not read any of the other books in this series, and while I think those that have read the other books will have a better knowledge of the characters and important events from the past, I think that newcomers will be able to enjoy the story without feeling the lack. 

Adelaide Longford is London’s most overlooked bluestocking wallflower and that is fine by her. Being ignored gives her the perfect opportunity to sneak out and secretly take on the persona of the most celebrated actress of the day, Lydia Ford. The thrill of walking the boards and hearing the applause of those who watch her is the most exciting experience of her life. That is until Graham Everly, Duke of Northfield comes into her life. He is broken after the humiliating loss of his longtime fiance to his supposed best friend and they enter into a lusty affair which sets her body on fire. Graham has no idea why he’s so attracted to both the bespectacled, prickly Adelaide and the passionate Lydia, but soon he is caught in a dance with them both and torn between which future he wants to pursue. When Graham finds out Adelaide’s secret identity will he be able to accept both parts of her? And will he be able to save her from a lurking danger that neither of them could have ever foreseen?

The Broken Duke is a historical romance with more layers than I was expecting. Both Adelaide and Graham have suffered from family abuse, and society's judgement and their own self judgement. I like the way they verbally spare with each other, being themselves even as they try to hide themselves. The interaction between the couple, and the important secondary characters, really made them come alive and made me care about them. I also like that the dangers of being a woman in the era (and to no small degree today) is so much a part of the story and that Graham becomes even more aware of it. So often the gender issues of the day are drought up in historical romance, but once the couple find their path that issue is lost in the background. Here, it is on the minds of characters throughout the book, and it looks like that is true through the series in general, judging by the characters and what they have been through.  I was also glad to see real problems, real friendships, and actual solutions to problems rather than just letting things fade away once the happy couple finds their happy ever after. I also love that while there is plenty of steam and lust, there is also emotion and quality characters that are working to be better, not just to find someone to make them happy. 

The Broken Duke is an engaging and entertaining read. I think fans of Michaels, and those that love a layered historical romance in general, will enjoy and appreciate the read. I am tempted to go back and read the previous books, and I very much want to read the next book in the series. Those that are abuse survivors might find some of the book hard to read.

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