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Trusting One's Heart is Always the Right Choice - an Editorial Review of "Portrait of the Duke"

Updated: Jun 4

Portrait of the Duke book cover

Book Blurb:

Welcome to Suddenly a Duke—the new Regency romance world from USA Today bestselling author Alexa Aston.

Eight titled peers who never expected to become dukes do just that—and are attracted to females whom Polite Society does not believe worthy of the title duchess, due to their desires to be more than typical ladies of the ton.

But these sudden dukes choose to forge their own paths with the remarkable women who are already doing just that—and the resulting love proves that trusting one’s heart is always the right choice.

A fun-loving man who has become a staid duke . . .

An independent lady who wishes to pursue her artistic bent . . .

A long-ago meeting which left a lasting impression on them both . . .

Daniel Judson, the Duke of Westfield, changed from a carefree young rogue into a sober duke once faced with a mountain of responsibilities after he assumed his grandfather’s title. After seeing both his sisters wed, Daniel knows it is finally time for him to take a wife in order to provide the necessary ducal heir.

Lady Margaret Townsend’s come-out was delayed by the ill health and subsequent deaths of her parents. Now an ancient four and twenty, she makes her debut into Polite Society—not to find a husband—but to secure important social connections within the ton in order to acquire commissions to paint their portraits, a dream she has long held.

Sparks surfaced during their initial encounter ten years ago. Their second introduction at the inaugural ball of the Season leaves Daniel certain he has found his duchess, while Margaret is confused by the never-known feelings stirring within her.

Will the duke convince this lady she can have both marriage and her art—or will her stubbornness to follow a chosen path have her miss out on love?

Find the answer in Alexa Aston’s Portrait of the Duke, Book 1 in Suddenly a Duke.

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Author Bio:

Alexa Aston author photo

USA Today and Amazon Top 100 bestselling author Alexa Aston lives with her husband in a Dallas suburb, where she eats her fair share of dark chocolate and plots out stories while she walks every morning. She’s a binge fiend who enjoys travel, sports, and time with her family, especially her two adorable grands.

Alexa's historical romances bring to life loveable rogues who turn out to be quite honorable, while her contemporary romances are light and flirty and sometimes contain a bit of suspense.

Coming in 2024? Her Regency romance series, The Strongs of Shadowcrest, along with her small-town contemporary romance series, Lost Creek.

Editorial Review:

Lady Margaret Townsend watched her older sister flirt with one of the gentlemen who had called upon them this afternoon. It was Dolley’s first Season, and from everything Margaret could tell, Dolley’s come-out was a spectacular one. At least according to the gossip columns, which Margaret voraciously read when no one was looking. They referred to Lady Dolley Townsend as a diamond of the first water and the most impressive debutante of this Season.

Margaret couldn’t stand Dolley.

The novel begins with a captivating entrance that immediately pulls us into the social dynamics of the Regency era and the protagonist's struggles. It also sets the tone for a historical romance, as we have come to know and love them. We are taken back to 1801, London, during a debutante Season, where young, eligible women will show themselves to be courted by eligible men.

We learn quickly about our main character, her role in all of this, and how she feels about it. Alexa Aston really shines in character development, especially when it comes to Lady Margaret Townsend. Margaret is the main character, who is shown to be a strong, self-reliant woman who is pursuing her love of painting. She is inquisitive, headstrong, and all at the young age of 14 when our story begins.

We also meet Daniel Judson, Duke of Westfield, who is enhanced by his notable metamorphosis from a carefree lad to a serious duke. From main characters to side characters and everything in between, this is definitely a story that is made stronger due to the people in it.

The butler left, and Daniel sighed aloud. He loved his grandmother dearly, much more than he had his parents. No love had existed between Daniel and them. The two had been totally self-centered, ignoring their three children and living lives of indulgence. The three Judson children had rarely seen their parents. Once, he and his sisters had a discussion, wondering what color their mother’s eyes were. None of them could recall their color – and it had taken eight months before they had actually been in her company to see for themselves what shade they actually were.

Here we have a strong example of how characters, even those we know of only from the other characters’ point of view, help shape the story. We understand more of who Daniel is due to his experiences and upbringing. This shines through even more with his interactions with his grandmother and the relationship they have.

The story keeps a solid flow, connecting earlier occurrences—like the protagonists' first encounter in their youth—to their reunion in London during the season. This backstory ensures a cogent plot by adding depth to the present happenings. The timelines never get confusing, and I never felt lost or confused about what was happening, while also remaining in the historical context.

Regency romances frequently feature surprising dukes and strong female characters, but "Portrait of the Duke" stands out because it emphasizes artistic endeavors and individual freedom. This was one of my favorite parts of the story. What sets it apart from other titles in the genre is the meticulous attention to the period's artistic tradition.

She had even overheard talk last night in the retiring room of how once an heir and spare were provided women also broke their marriage vows and took lovers within the ton. The thought had shocked her. Part of her did not even wish to paint people of such low morals yet the members of Polite Society were the ones who possessed the wealth and inclination to have their portraits made. Margaret had yet to ask Dolley if she had begun mentioning anything to others regarding Margaret’s artistic bent.

Apart from the story itself, the book has a neat layout and seems to have been carefully edited, which improves readability. Because there are no irritating typos in the text, readers can fully immerse themselves in the Regency setting that Aston has created.

Each plot point weaves delicately into the next, carrying us through the story as if we are there ourselves, a fly on the wall, perhaps, in the ballrooms and retiring rooms of the period.

Aston's language is expressive and flowing; she skillfully captures the spirit of the Regency era and crafts a gripping story that strikes a balance between romance and personal goals. Her talent for evoking rich settings and nuanced emotions is noteworthy and takes this story to the next level.

From the characters' first reunion until the resolution of their romantic and personal problems, the story arc is masterfully written. The plot moves along at a good clip, keeping the reader interested while skillfully escalating the suspense and romance.

She also experienced a slight… giddiness. Thinking of the Duke of Westfield made her feel so. He seemed interested in her, but she had quelled it. At least, she hoped she had, by announcing to him her intent never to wed. Of course, a man such as Westfield would look upon that as a challenge. She did not think he wished to wed her, in particular, but she did know he would do his best to steal a kiss from her. She anticipated that moment and hoped to learn from it.

Entering the dining room, she saw her sister and brother-in-law already present and greeted them as a footman seated her. Dolley made no mention of an alternate plan for Margeret this evening, and she supposed the note had not arrived after all. Perhaps Westfield had a change of heart and merely toyed with her. Or the dowager duchess refused to be involved in his scheme.

With a well-earned happily ever after that seems both deserved and predictable given the characters' development and the challenges they conquer, and the finale is incredibly rewarding. The novel's themes of love and aspiration are furthered by this ending.

Overall, "Portrait of the Duke" is a worthy contribution to the Regency romance genre, providing readers with a delightful mix of historical realism, romance, and a celebration of women's artistic ability and independence. A recommended read for aficionados of the Regency romance genre, Alexa Aston's narrative is both motivating and fascinating.




“Portrait of the Duke” by Alexa Aston receives five stars and the “Highly Recommended” award of excellence from The Historical Fiction Company


HFC Highly Recommended Award of Excellence



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