Duke of Renown (Dukes of Distinction, #1)

Alexa Aston
Narrator: Brian J. Gill

Grieving the loss of her husband, son, and unborn child, Phoebe, Countess Borwick, escapes to Cornwall where she finds an unconscious man suffering from a gunshot. Soldier Andrew is forced to return to England to take up the title and responsibilities of the Duke of Windham. Sadly, Andrew’s reckless half-brother who wants the title for himself, shoots Andrew in order to take his place. Andrew wakes in Phoebe’s care, assumes her to be a middle-class widow and is entertained by her assumption that he’s a criminal. He falls in love, but Phoebe disappears before he can propose, separating them for months until he meets her again in London. Though her heart is elsewhere, Phoebe seeks a husband so she can have more children, leaving Andrew to vie with her suitors.

Readers of Regency romance will enjoy this story for its traditional setting combined with twists and turns that keep the plot interesting. Phoebe comes off as rather too stodgy and annoyingly proper at times, but Andrew’s charm shines through all the more for that. The hidden identity aspect heightens angst, as does the villainous half-brother, though his plotline is rather predictable. The downside to the turns of this story is the fact that the pacing seems disjointed at times and the long separation between the main characters detracts from the romance of their story, especially given their lackluster public reunion. The narrative also bogs down in minutiae of daily life which can lessen the reader’s attentiveness. Many readers will enjoy the drama and emotion of this story and the beauty of Andrew and Phoebe finding each other again.

The narrator’s performance will engross readers, drawing them into the story generally. However, his voice tends to sound a bit clinical during scenes intended to be romantic, causing them to feel flat.

Niki Price