Book Review: A Duke Like No Other by Valerie Bowman

I received a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Nicole and Mark aren’t the usual couple. Shortly after marrying, the two split. In fact, they not only separated but lived in different countries for ten years–talk about estranged! After years as a soldier and spy, Mark’s ready for the challenge of Home Secretary of England. The only problem with the promotion, he needs his wife to return to the country of her birth and pretend to be the dutiful wife. Nicole left Mark after a bullheaded argument over his family. Since then, she’s made her home in France, spying for England and creating a new life as anything except General Mark Grimaldi’s wife. Secretly, she longs for a family that only Mark can give her and is willing to accept Mark’s conditions and return as his wife. But the emotions she feels are far from pretend despite both of their efforts to keep their relationship a simple business arrangement, and when a member of Mark’s family is murdered, he and Nicole band together to find the murderer, driving them even closer. Will their forced romance become the real thing once again?

Valerie Bowman’s new novel A Duke Like No Other is like no other romance I’ve read.  This is a novel of reminiscence. Nicole and Mark have been estranged for 10 years. A large portion of the novel revolves around the prior romance before the estrangement. During the telling of the current plot line, both Nicole and Mark remember their relationship before their falling out. I thought this was an interesting concept, but there were times it felt a bit forced and disjointed. Initially, I really liked the “fade to past” scenes, but as the novel progressed the sometimes lengthy passages showing this past caused the current plot to become lost. I found myself skipping through this reliving to get back to the story at hand. So while interrupting the current plot to show the couples’ past relationship was different than anything I had read prior to this work, there were times I didn’t like it. But overall, it didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the story.

Bowman does a fantastic job of creating lively, interesting characters. Nicole is spunky as you would expect the novel’s heroine to be. Mark is the handsome stoic hero who must find his own deficiencies as the plot culminates. And while this is common to most romance novels, Bowman always finds a way to make her characters different from the rest. I’ve read several novels in this series of spy characters and have found all both familiar and unique. Mark’s insistence on refusing his birthright and not wanting an heir is most definitely not a common trait in the novels. Bowman even sent us up for what can possibly be the next novel in the series, and I will be first in line to read the next one. (And you hardcore romancers won’t be disappointed in the steamier aspects Mark and Nicole’s story either.)

4.5 Stars

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