Dana reviews The Duke in Denial (Scandals in Sussex, Book 1) by Alexandra Ainsworth (Ebook published by Sanguinity Press, May 19, 2014, 346 pages. Released on audiobook March 4, 2016, 9 hours length, narrated by Joel Leslie.) An audio copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.
This week is audiobook review week and having received a copy of The Duke in Denial from the narrator, this felt like the perfect time to review it.
Blurb: Sebastian Lewis never expected to become a duke. But with the sudden deaths of his cousin and uncle, Sebastian’s position changes. He is determined to fulfill his new responsibilities with grace, even if it means remarrying, and even if the attractions of women, so often lauded by poets, fail to interest him.
Captain William Carlisle, newly returned from India, is elated when he meets Sebastian. Nobody knows of his inclinations, but his harrowing experiences in battle have prompted him to reach for the type of companionship he longs for. He thinks Sebastian might feel an attraction as well, but to his dismay, he discovers that Sebastian is courting his sister Dorothea.
After a semi-arranged engagement and a disconcerting romantic tangle with William, Sebastian escapes London to look after his manor, only to face mysterious thefts, a headless ghost, and the arrival of his fiancée, her brother, and his family. Sebastian’s new estate sits on the south coast, England’s most vulnerable location, and Napoleon has set his sights on conquering the area. Amid this growing turmoil, Sebastian must sort out his feelings for his fiancée’s brother and keep his home safe . . . and determine if he has the courage to reach for his own happiness in the process.
This is a gay regency historical romance.
The narrator: I’ve listened to Joel Leslie’s narrations before, and was always impressed with the variety of accents he applies so that each of the characters has a unique voice. In The Duke in Denial the story takes place in English Society in the 1800’s. I was even more impressed as he created a different British accent for each character, some inflected with Scottish sounding tones. Again each character seemed to have his or her own unique tone and that has to be hard to do. I’d definitely listen to more audiobooks from him in the future. In fact, I look forward to it.
The story: Before I started reading m/m romance, I was a huge historical romance fan. It took me a little while to start reading historical m/m romance books though, because with the extreme illegality of same sex love in those times, a happy ending is a little bit more difficult to attain. Marriage between two men is impossible in that day and age. I have come to realize that the hurdles that these characters have are a sign of how strong their love is. There are prejudices now, and I think I was drawn to the genre because of the adversities two men have to overcome sometimes when finding love together. Whether it is religious stigma, homophobic family members, newly awakened feelings for members of the same sex. I was drawn to love overcoming barriers. The books that take place in far less accepting times, where jail and /or death could be the consequences have become new favorites because of the more dangerous barriers the characters must face and how their love perseveres.
The Duke in Denial is the story of a Duke who inherits the title when his cousin dies. He feels marrying the would-be bride of his cousin who is on the brink of scandal seems to be the best move. Sebastian really is a very noble character. He’s honest and chivalrous. I think he does feel he should be married because of society’s dictates, but he is thinking utmost of Dorothea when he proposes. He lost his son and his first wife, who he cared for but didn’t really love. Women don’t hold a whole lot of interest for him, but he has never really considered men to be a acceptable mate either.
William is a soldier who runs into Sebastian before realizing who he is, the Duke who might be proposing to his sister, Dorothea. He is attracted to Sebastian and vice versa, but nothing happens between them until much later. William has always know that he was attracted to men, unlike Sebastian and has discreet affairs and joined the Army as an excuse not to get married as well as doing his duty to his country. He is a good man too, but he is more aware and a bit jaded too.
It’s not just a love story though, there is a mystery that really intrigued me. The ancestral home that Sebastian inherits is next to a rude and pompous nobleman who makes it his business to find out other people’s secrets. The area is also experiencing strange events, such as headless horsemen, ghosts, theft and smuggling. William and Sebastian take it upon themselves to solve the mysteries plaguing the country town of Sussex. Surprises are in store for them both though.
I really enjoyed the plot twists that occurred in this story. Sebastian and William were good together, but I wish Sebastian might have been a little less wavering regarding his feelings for William. When it is important though, Sebastian admits his feelings, despite having an audience of his family members and fiancee. The acceptance he finds though was beautiful for such a time. Overall, the book was a great listen and I definitely recommend it. I can’t wait for the the next book in the series. Hopefully, it will come to audio as well.
9/10 Pots of Gold (90% Recommended) – Compares to 4.5/5 Stars
Alexandra Ainsworth loves reading and writing historical romances. She has a particular fondness for Jane Austen novels.