Recent Favorites: Stacy Reid’s A Matter of Temptation and Emily Rath’s His Grace, the Duke
Stacy Reid’s A Matter of Temptation
This book was my first Stacy Reid and it was an experience! I really appreciated the dynamic between Mina and Simon and certain aspects felt very fresh to me. I loved, for instance, that Mina is the initiator in their relationship early on, especially for the physical side of things, and I really liked that they felt evenly matched in terms of their experience in prior relationships. She was a virgin heroine, but he had only had a handful of sexual partners himself. Furthermore, Mina had a failed elopement as a teen, so she was more schooled in matters of the heart than Simon and had more experience following her passions. Simon had some experience in the bedroom, but it is very clear that he was not an expert—at one point he reads a few books to brush up on sex tips!—and he really wasn’t someone who felt passionately about sex before meeting Mina. That was a really interesting element to me because I haven’t seen that very often in heroes. The typical aristocrat hero is A) a rake, B) stuffy and repressed, or C) a more “normal” guy (i.e. he has enjoyed prior relationships, some of them casual, but he is more well-adjusted about it--I feel like a lot of Tessa Dare heroes are like this). The rake hero might be emotionally cold or stunted, but he tends to at least enjoy his fleeting encounters in the bedroom (even if recently casual relationships have lost a bit of their luster to him). Simon was none of these archetypes, however; he wasn’t a rake, because he didn’t prioritize sexual encounters, and he is not repressed, because he doesn’t really desire them. And he certainly isn’t your normal/well-adjusted type, because he is a hyper-logical, genius, child-prodigy, earl-politician. In short, I really liked how unique Simon’s character was! If you like the idea of a nerdy hero in a historical, I feel like Simon is as close as you are going to get to that contemporary archetype on the page.
I also really enjoyed the set-up of this story. Mina’s brother challenges Simon to a duel, but Mina is the better fencer, so she goes in his stead. Simon has only ever intended to teach the foolish young lord a lesson, but he is surprised to find himself bested in their duel. However, when his young challenger turns away after victory, he realizes that he has not been beaten by a man, but a woman. He asks her to be his secretary and, after some wrangling, she accepts. Their employee-employer dynamic was quite adorable, especially since, in the Victorian period, this arrangement would have been quite unconventional and it is clear from their first encounter that Simon and Mina aren’t just going to keep it professional. It felt like the workplace set-up was really just their way of getting to know each other on terms that felt safe and they have a real courtship due to all the time that they spend together. It was also very refreshing how open they were with each other about their feelings; they didn’t do a lot of repressive grappling over how they felt. Simon, in particular, makes it clear that he doesn’t want to ever give Mina up. The push and pull of their relationship felt like a real couple trying to figure it out and make it work.
Overall, I really recommend A Matter of Temptation to historical readers, particularly those craving a “nerdy” hero and a couple who have a steamy connection but also an intellectual one!
Emily Rath’s His Grace, the Duke
OMG, this series. His Grace, the Duke is the final book in the Second Sons duology and it finishes the story that Beautiful Things started in the perfect way. The development between all of the characters and their relationships, how they become a thriving quartet, is just gorgeous to witness. (And honestly very impressive from a writing perspective? Managing all of those relationships must be very challenging?) The reverse harem set-up is SO satisfying as a Regency reader, because, at this point, I am so familiar with all of the types of heroes out there and so it is very compelling to have them all in one book. You have aristocratic James, who is the repressive, duty-bound hero, who wants to let the heroine and the other heroes into his bedroom and heart, but who struggles to do so. You have Renley, the ship captain adventurer, your Captain Wentworth, and who I would argue is your well-adjusted, charming Tessa Dare-esque hero—Rosalie calls him her refuge and you understand why. And then you have Burke, who is the renegade, iconoclast hero; he is neither an accomplished professional nor the aristocrat. He is the man who plays by his own rules, pursues his desires, and who everyone loves for it. I know all of these hero archetypes from reading historicals (and Jane Austen!) but having them all together on page, all in love with the heroine and each other? UM ITS DELECTABLE, folks.
In His Grace, the Duke, a lot happens to secure the happy ending for our central quartet—both external and emotional. Yes, Rosalie ends up a duchess, but I won’t tell you how! Additionally, the two epilogues that Rath provides are both so good and live rent free in my mind. The first epilogue provides a bit more relationship development between the three men in this ménage and IT IS GOOD TO SEE. The second epilogue shows the quartet’s future and it is SO SWEET. I loved every second.
The last thing I’ll say by way of recommendation is that this series is really an epic. Rath really builds a world around these characters. If you enjoy just falling into a book and floating in it, getting to revel in its richness and buoyancy, this one is for you! If you love historicals, I can guarantee that you won’t regret reading.