When Viola Caroll was presumed dead at Waterloo she took the opportunity to live, at last, as herself. But freedom does not come without a price, and Viola paid for hers with the loss of her wealth, her title, and her closest companion, Justin de Vere, the Duke of Gracewood. Only when their families reconnect, years after the war, does Viola learn how deep that loss truly was. Shattered without her, Gracewood has retreated so far into grief that Viola barely recognises her old friend in the lonely, brooding man he has become. As Viola strives to bring Gracewood back to himself, fresh desires give new names to old feelings. Feelings that would have been impossible once and may be impossible still, but which Viola cannot deny. Even if they cost her everything, all over again.
The term 'slow burn' doesn’t begin to capture the agonized pining of this romance, which is absolutely suffused with yearning. Hall poignantly depicts Viola’s tangled mix of relief and sadness ... Hall adds some levity with flirtatious banter between his main couple, moments when readers can see the dark cloud hovering over Gracewood become a little lighter. There’s also a robust and interesting cast of side characters, which could mean (fingers crossed) A Lady for a Duke is but the first book in a series.
A delicious Regency romance filled with brooding, longing, and hope ... The period banter is unparalleled as Hall pulls his characters out of the drawing room and into far closer quarters. He explores difficult subjects with a sharpness matched only by the tenderness underpinning the relationship between Viola and Gracewood. Fans of Lisa Kleypas and anyone looking for romance centering trans characters owe it to themselves to check this out.
Hall is a consistently beautiful writer, but this story, the first in a new series, may be his best yet. The plot elegantly balances period details and classic tropes to create a queer love story with a pitch-perfect blend of reality and hope. Though the steamy intimate scenes are electric, the story’s momentum comes not from Viola and Gracewood’s slow burn but from the genuine emotional connections among a full cast of charming characters. Despite the centering of Viola and Gracewood’s love story, this is a book that celebrates the many ways people love and are loved. The story is complex and long but never lags, and readers will be glued to the book through the satisfying epilogue. As a bonus, Hall also wrote the funny, insightful discussion questions at the back, allowing readers space to dwell a bit longer on the story ... A groundbreaking and excellent queer historical romance.