In Duke, Actually by Jenny Holiday, Dani and Max’s friendship blooms amidst a royal wedding backdrop, evolving into love despite their best intentions. A heartwarming, festive romance!

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Duke Actually by Jenny Holiday

Duke, Actually by Jenny Holiday

November 16, 2021

Read this if you want:

  • Royal romance
  • Friends to lovers
  • Opposites attract

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Maximillian von Hansburg, Baron of Laudon and Dr. Daniela Martinez, tenure track 19-the Century Literature Professor are an unlikely pair. Max is under pressure to find a suitable wife (though he has no desire to marry) and Dani is “post-men”, swearing off love and relationships after having her heart broken by her ex-husband. Brought together as wedding attendants for the upcoming royal wedding, Max and Dani strike up an unexpectedly fast friendship- Max appreciates that Dani doesn’t seem to care he’s a future Duke and Dani appreciates Max’s earnest, honest and supportive approach to their friendship. Throughout a year-long, mostly long distance friendship rooted in New Year’s Resolutions, Dani and Max come to be the most important people in each other’s lives and their friendship starts to spark into attraction and desire. Obstacles stand in their way: Max’s parents would never approve of Dani as a future duchess and Dani isn’t so sure even her favorite person is worth uprooting her life and risking her heart again.

I absolutely adored A Princess for Christmas, Jenny Holiday’s 2020 Christmas novel, but I adore this one even more. While this can be read as a standalone, your introduction to Dani and Max in that first book does set the scene a bit for where we find our hero and heroine when this book opens. I absolutely adored both Max and Dani (I can see why Leo and Marie chose them as their best friends) and thought their chemistry just jumped off the page. I think that their relationship was so rooted in friendship and the emotional honesty they shared with each other throughout their long-distance friendship and that just made it so real and tangible; I was so ready for them to take the next step in their relationship when the time came. I loved the way that Max supported Dani, even when she couldn’t ask for it and that Dani served as a safe place for Max to land, something he didn’t have enough of growing up.

I thought that Max’s family and upbringing, while cloaked in riches and aristocracy, was one that is unfortunately all to relatable to more “common folk”. I loved watching him and Sebastian, his younger brother, reconnect and support each other while Max searched for his purpose, it really added an element to the story beyond the romance and the “will they, won’t they” storyline (which, don’t get me wrong, is plenty on its own, but I’m here for layers!)

I was also so glad we got to go back to Eldovia for the royal wedding; it’s probably my favorite fake kingdom, with the beautiful Alps, the cocoa festival and the idyllic scenery. Max’s cottage on his estate sounds picturesque- lots of swoony moments take place there, but those are spoilers, so you’ll just have to read and find out!

This is a fantastic option to pick up when you’re in the mood for a Christmas romance; yes, there are Love Actually references! I don’t believe in Dani’s December 11-Janury 6th Christmas celebration restraints personally (though I can respect them); it’s not too soon to rush out and grab this one today!

CW: Mentions of Child Abuse (physical, emotional), alcoholism, homophobia

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