A Duke by Default (Reluctant Royals #2) by Alyssa Cole

A Duke by Default book coverAlthough I’ve read Alyssa Cole before, I found out about this book because it was selected by a local library for a summer romance book club. I actually didn’t make it to the book club meeting because I didn’t manage to finish the book in time (me=busy) so I don’t know what everyone else thought of it. But I can tell you what I thought of it—it was great. Now, I love Scotland, although my taste leans more toward Glasgow, but Edinburgh will do.

American Portia Hobbs is a hot mess. At least that’s what her family would have you (and her) believe. I actually could really relate to her hotmessedness (I’m declaring that a word). She loves to learn and has flitted around the academic world and real world while soaking up experiences, none of which have given her a career as she approaches thirty. Her most recent thing is that she is going to be an apprentice to a master swordmaker in Scotland.

Tavish McKenzie is the swordmaker in question. He’s a bit on the gruff side and when she first gets there, he doesn’t like her because she’s rich and he assumes she’s pompous and all the other things that go along with being rich. Also, as it happens, he’s very attracted to her, and he blames her for this and avoids her.

This gets her apprenticeship off to a rocky start. It’s hard to learn to make a sword from someone who refuses to spend time with you. And unfortunately, this really kicks Portia’s self-doubt into high gear. This is despite the fact that she already has done a lot for the armory in terms of social media and other less metallic tasks. So when her expert skills dig up a ducal title for Tavish, things get interesting. She might know nothing about the peerage in Britain, but she does know something about behaving around rich people. It’s a start.

I really like Portia and her lack of self-confidence because it gives her a lot of room to grow (and lets me really relate to her). And Tavish is a good hero, too, because his growth from a grumpy self-described wanker to a caring person is totally believable (mostly because he was caring in the beginning and just had to learn to express himself a little better). One of my favorite quotes from the book is near the beginning, when Tavish’s younger brother says,

He’s always been like this, you know. I’m pretty sure my first words were ‘Mum, Tav is a right wanker, aye?’ And her reply was, ‘Yes, son. Su hermano is the one true wanker, the wanker to rule them all.’

The book has a lot of diversity in it, too, with Portia being black, Tavish’s mom Chilean, Tavish’s stepfather (the one he considers to be his true father) also black (if I recall, I think he was from somewhere in the Caribbean). This trend continues in the secondary characters, who aren’t as lily white as you might picture Scotland being (the book is being realistic).

Anyway, I really liked it and highly recommend it.