cover image Nothing like a Duke

Nothing like a Duke

Jane Ashford. Sourcebooks Casablanca, $7.99 mass market (320p) ISBN 978-1-4926-2165-2

The clever enthusiasm and diverse characterizations of Ashford’s Duke’s Sons series continue in this satisfying fourth installment (after Lord Sebastian’s Secret), which celebrates the wit and appeal of the Regency-era bluestocking. Lord Robert Gresham, the socialite son of Duke of Langford, attends a country party and adopts a stray pup in order to distract himself from his crush on the scholarly, unattainable Flora Jennings. When Flora unexpectedly joins the party, Robert courts her despite the petulant interference of their host, Lady Victoria Moreton. Flora’s unorthodox appeal shines through as Victoria presses her into socially embarrassing roles, including a witch in a tableau of fairies and Mrs. Malaprop in Sheridan’s play. When an uninvited guest presents a darker threat to Flora, Robert helps her without stepping on her desire to solve her own problems; Ashford shows their relationship as collegial and respectful while adding an adventure plot to the social one. Ashford’s knack for expressing modern-feeling relationship dynamics while never stepping out of period makes this story especially easy to enjoy. Agent: Jennifer Weltz, Jean V. Nagger Literary. (May)