A Lady for a Duke by Alexis Hall stands out for its nuanced storytelling, and one of the most well-rounded trans characters I’ve read, showing both bravery and vulnerability in her journey. Instead of making Viola’s identity the central conflict, Hall creates a world where her friends and family accept her without question, allowing the romance to shine through.

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A Lady for a Duke by Alexis Hall

A Lady for a Duke by Alexis Hall

Standalone
May 24, 2022

Read this if you want:

  • Childhood friends
  • Trans representation
  • Slow burn romance

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When Viola Carroll was injured at Waterloo, she gave up everything in her life in order to start living her true, authentic self: her title, her estate – even her lifelong friendship with Justin, the Duke of Gracewood. But when Gracewood is unexpectedly brought back into her life two years later, Viola knows she can’t sit idly by while her former friend suffers both physically and mentally. Under the guise of a stranger, Viola helps both Gracewood and his younger sister find their place in society. But all that close proximity isn’t good for keeping secrets, and soon Gracewood discovers that his best friend, the person he’s been mourning since Waterloo, isn’t gone after all. But as Gracewood and Viola’s rekindled friendship evolves into something more, Viola will have to decide if she has the strength to live her true life all while loving herself and the best friend she thought she’d lost.

A Lady for a Duke was such a refreshing historical romance. I’ve adored Alexis Hall’s contemporary romances, but this is definitely my favorite novel of his yet. Between the characters and the situations they go through (and how those situations are handled), there is a lot to love in this novel.

I adored both the main and supporting characters in this story. Viola had to give up everything she knew in order to be her authentic self; Hall doesn’t just blatantly have Viola say how hard living her new life has been, but instead shows the reader through Viola’s actions and interactions with both friends from her old life as well as her new. Having read several romances featuring trans characters, I can easily say that Viola comes across as the most three dimensional trans woman that I have read in fiction. She knew who she was, and showed such bravery for it (even if she wasn’t aware just how brave she was). As a reader, there was never any doubt that Viola was the heroine of her own story.

Going into this romance, I assumed Viola and her journey as a trans woman would be my main focal point of the story. However, Hall does such a wonderful job at making Viola’s femininity so natural that Viola’s only real hang up was herself. I absolutely loved that for her, even if that level of self-authenticity is hard to find even today, not to mention in 1817.

As wonderful as it was to see Viola being her true self, I think my favorite character ended up being the Duke of Gracewood. Gracewood went through so much both before and during this story and his evolution was definitely a highlight for me. The duke went from believing his best friend was dead for two years, to finally finding someone he could confide in, to getting to fall in love and find his happily ever after with that best friend. I expected Viola to have the biggest character arc in this story, but it was a happy surprise to find that Gracewood truly had some of the biggest changes and revelations throughout.

A Lady for a Duke could have easily used Viola for the main conflict in the story, so I applaud Hall for not going there. In fact, I was rather surprised at how little Viola actually had to do with the main conflict; Hall included a trans character in a story where being trans wasn’t an issue and didn’t contribute to any negative actions in the plot. It was refreshing to see such a character just be accepted without question or reservation, especially by her childhood friend and love of her life.

Whether you enjoy historical romances or prefer more contemporary ones, A Lady for a Duke was a breath of fresh air for LGBTQ+ romance. I loved these characters and the overall plot, but I especially loved how Viola’s gender was as naturally accepted as orientation is in M/F romances. Hall’s nuanced language was as brilliant as ever, and A Lady for a Duke will likely end up being one of my top historical romance reads of the year.

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