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Duke Undone #1

The Duke Undone

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An artist stumbles upon a naked duke and an unlikely love story begins in this captivating Victorian historical romance.

When Royal Academy painting student Lucy Coover trips over a naked man passed out in an East End alley, she does the decent thing. She covers him up and fetches help. Trouble is, she can't banish his muscular form from her dreams as easily. She finds herself compelled to put every detail down on canvas. What she doesn't know is that she's painting the infamous Duke of Weston, and that her life will never be the same.

A second son, Anthony Philby thought he could flee his brutal family legacy and become his own man. Forced back to London by his brother's death, he inherits a fortune... with strings attached. One scandal will sink his bid for independence. It's in his best interest to burn Lucy Coover's shocking painting and pretend he never met the bewitching young artist. Instead, he finds himself offering a devil's bargain. He'll save her aunt's dressmaking shop from ruin, if she'll seek out his missing sister, Effie.

As they work together, an unexpected passion ignites between them. But the hunt for Effie leads to unexpected danger, and soon they find themselves risking everything... for a love that might destroy them both.

363 pages, Paperback

First published April 6, 2021

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About the author

Joanna Lowell

8 books236 followers
Joanna Lowell lives among the fig trees in North Carolina, where she teaches in the English department at Wake Forest University. When she’s not writing historical romance, she writes collections and novels as Joanna Ruocco. Those books include Dan, Another Governess / The Least Blacksmith, The Week, and Field Glass, co-authored with Joanna Howard.

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5 stars
670 (18%)
4 stars
1,423 (39%)
3 stars
1,151 (31%)
2 stars
311 (8%)
1 star
67 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 568 reviews
Profile Image for Topastro.
450 reviews
April 22, 2021
I'm completely on the fence about my rating. On one hand this was a fresh and funny take on historical romance and there is no denying that Joanna Lowell's writing was spectacular at certain points but overall I was left unsatisfied.

Lucy, a talented artist and student at the Royal Academy stumbles over a passed out man in an alley. She is inspired to paint this man and churns out a masterpiece, but she discovers her handsome muse is no farmhand or pauper but a Duke. Anthony, the Duke of Weston, is waiting out the days of his conservatorship. At 30 he will be able to gain his freedom and funds to look for his missing sister. While trying to avoid any scandal, he uses alcohol to manage his PTSD from war and the grief from the death's of his mother, father, & brother. Searching for his sister Effie and drinking himself into unconsciousness is what leads to Lucy finding him sprawled out in all his naked glory. Anthony comes to know of his portrait and finds Lucy, they strike up a friendship despite their difference in station and life. Anthony promises to help Lucy keep her neighborhood from being condemned and Lucy will help Anthony find his sister.

Lucy, the artist heroine was bold and vivacious; she was easy to love and I was cheering her on from page 1. Lucy was the standout and star of the book. I wanted to love Anthony so badly but he was disappointing as a hero, he did too little to late and somehow won Lucy's affection by doing the bare minimum for 95% of the story. Anthony was passive to a fault, he never choose or championed Lucy. There was also a lot of convoluted side plots and secondary characters that got much attention, it seemed every character was overly written only to have one brief appearance. The over characterization of minor characters overshadowed any character development for the Hero. I mainly felt depressed at the injustices Effie & Lucy face, Lucy constantly got the short end of the stick while the villain just got a mild talking to. I just couldn't help but think "GIRL! YOU! DESERVE! BETTER!"

I do have to applaud Mary Jane Wells' narration, the story was elevated by her suburb reading and I didn't totally regret using my audible credit on this.
Profile Image for Becky (romantic_pursuing_feels).
663 reviews316 followers
August 8, 2021
Overall: 3.5 rounded to ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Plot/Storyline: 📖📖📖📖📖
Feels: 🦋🦋🦋
Emotional Depth: 💔💔💔💔💔
Sexual Tension: ⚡⚡⚡
Romance: 💞💞
Sensuality: 💋💋💋
Sex Scene Length: 🍑🍑🍑
Steam Scale (Number of Sex Scenes): 🔥🔥🔥
Humor: Yes! Even though I found this a heavy book, I also found it hilarious, especially in the beginning.

(These are all personal preference, except the steam scale which follows our chart in The Ton and the Tartans facebook group.)

Basic plot
Two souls are brought together when Lucy, art student, comes across a naked and passed out Duke, Anthony, and she cannot get his image out of her mind. She paints him, and his impressive ‘quirk of proportion’ with his nether regions (in the best way).

Give this a try if you want:
- Lots of historical facts/events woven throughout the story
- Mid steam – a 3 steam on our scale (details under spoiler warning at end of review)
- You’re okay with some heavy issues being presented – alcoholism, ptsd, abuse of people suffering from mental illness
- Victorian time period – story takes place in 1882
- Class difference trope – hero is a Duke and heroine is well below that (from a working class family)
- A touch of enemies to lovers in the beginning
- Soldier hero, artist heroine

What I thought
I am really, REALLY struggling with this one. I loved it. I hated it. I was disappointed. I was breathless. I loved the characters. I wanted to throw some characters in the garbage.

First of all, the writing was completely unique to me. I will admit I found it a bit...chaotic? Sometimes? I’m sure this is purely just me not being able to focus like I should, but I found myself sometimes being overwhelmed or confused about what exactly was happening. But also was drawn in to the world Lowell has created. This definitely is a reflection of me, and not the author.

I adored the humor in the first part of the book. It was really lovely. But I found that soon the heavier themes moved in, and they were really gripping. I didn’t feel the romance quite so much in this book as the complete personality development and depth of characters individual lives. I was really rooting for them, separately. And yes, even together, but every time they were together, I was somewhat let down.

Anthony – well he struggles. And it’s completely understandable as his story unravels what is driving his behavior. But...I was let down by him so so many times. At by the end, I still wasn’t convinced he was a hero worthy of Lucy. I think, if we would have seen a bit further into the future with their relationship, or if specific things were addressed on page (like the alcoholism?) or even a really good epilogue, I may have felt better about leaving them convinced of an HEA.

Lucy was pretty awesome the whole way through. She’s just so strong and I just loved her. Especially how much she cared for those around her and her effort in helping Anthony, even when faced with her own problems.

I’m just not left feeling complete by the end. Would I try another by her? I think I would. I’m hoping Lucy and Anthony show up and I can have some closure that they are really making it.

So overall, I’m just left feeling conflicted. But the book definitely gripped my emotions in a few parts – though those weren’t necessarily romance related (which always makes me sad). I can’t say I felt super strong tension in this book, which is what I lived for. But it made up for that with the plot and characters that really stood on their own as unique personalities.

Content warnings:

Locations of kisses/intimate scenes
Profile Image for Mara.
1,464 reviews3,558 followers
January 26, 2021
3.5 stars - This was my first outing with this author, and I think it is quite an impressive start! The writing was particularly lovely, so I would definitely recommend this as a good choice for readers who value prose quality. I very much enjoyed all of the individual elements of the story (the main characters were well drawn, the set up/tropes were intriguing & well executed, and I believed in all of the motivations)... however, I did feel like the individual elements didn't quite come together as strongly as I wanted them to. There was something ever so slightly off, but this may also be colored by the fact that this was slightly more angsty than my typical preferences. Still, I would definitely read more from this author & I would recommend it

CW: addiction, depictions of cruelty towards those with mental illnesses
Profile Image for C.W..
130 reviews7 followers
August 6, 2022
4.5 🌟 This book came across my perusals in Audible. The premise sounded interesting and far from ordinary, and I wasn’t disappointed. Having Mary Jane Wells narrate was perfection. Her performance added much to the story (especially heroine’s personality). The time period wasn’t always clear and I would have liked more details there, but that’s being particular. It wasn’t an obstruction to my enjoyment of the book.
The characters and storyline worked perfectly with the greatness of Mary Jane Wells in what came to be an exceptionally entertaining book with memorable characters. I look forward to what this author has in store for future reads.
Profile Image for Cece.
238 reviews50 followers
April 9, 2021
The Duke Undone is exquisitely written, much darker in tone than its hot pink and floral cover would suggest, and reads like a combination of Evie Dunmore, Laura Kinsale, and popular fiction from the Victorian era. This mix worked well for me until the book’s fourth quarter, when its historical and psychological realism became too disparate from the melodrama. However, I was impressed by the quality of the prose, the affecting portrait of alcohol dependency, and the satisfying cross-class romance.

When working class art student Lucy Coover serendipitously crosses paths with an unconscious naked man, she can’t help but take a good long look. Yes, he’s beautiful, but more importantly, her prestigious art school has only recently begun accepting female students and continues to bar them from life drawing, which is a particular area of interest for her as an aspiring portraitist. Afterwards, unable to get the drunken man’s image out of her mind, she creates a painting that replicates his nude form, and in a time of financial desperation, arranges a discreet private sale of it to a lady of means. Unbeknownst to her, her subject isn’t an itinerant farmer or street tough, but the brand new Duke of Weston, Anthony Philby. When he learns of the painting from the wealthy woman’s husband, he’s understandably horrified and quickly locates Lucy to confront her. She apologizes and hands over all of the painting’s secondary material, although their magnetic connection isn’t over. When her tenement building is unfairly targeted for demolition by corrupt city officials, Lucy turns to Anthony for help and he agrees, if she assists him in searching for his missing sister, who disappeared from Lucy’s neighborhood.

Before I get into it, I want to point out the ways that The Duke Undone might not work for someone. Although I think the brightly colored, silhouette-style illustrated cover is a shockingly poor choice for the contents of this story, it’s clearly meant to invoke Evie Dunmore’s books, which is helpful. Joanna Lowell’s prose style is similar; her writing is just as dense, literary, and packed with well-researched detail as Dunmore’s. However, if you’re a stickler for historical authenticity, it’s worth noting that the high-ranking hero struggles under the unusually (perhaps implausibly) strict contents of his father’s will for most of the novel and that includes a legal trusteeship that prohibits him from public scandal or drunkenness and keeps him from full financial control of his own property.

Like Dunmore’s A Rogue of One's Own, the hero here is also a veteran. Much of his individual trauma derives from his active combat experiences in the Battle of Maiwand during the Second Anglo-Afghan War. In The Duke Undone, Britain’s atrocious colonialist agenda is consistently characterized as immoral, disingenuous, and elitist, which it was. But it’s also used as part of the foundation for the white hero’s pain and there’s comparatively little attention paid to the pain of native Afghans. Since we’re working with a staggering low bar for depictions of colonialism in today’s historical romance, I guess I was relieved that this book avoided the overt appropriation/fetishization in A Rogue of One's Own or the capitalist enthusiasm for colonial industrialization in The Heiress Gets a Duke, but…if something is the best version of a bad thing, does that make it good? In my mind, the answer is no. If you prefer to avoid colonialism in historical romance when it isn’t interrogated fully, I’d skip this one.

I’ve also seen that a reviewer struggled with the premise’s non-consent. The heroine replicates a fully nude vision of the insensate hero and sells it for profit, which is definitely a violation. For me, that was partly nullified by the conversation the pair have afterwards, in which the hero specifically confronts her about his lack of consent and she apologies remorsefully. I felt that Lucy’s transgression was problematized within the context of the story without sacrificing historicity, but I also understand if readers find that insufficient.

With those caveats, I’d recommend The Duke Undone. I was mostly swept away by this book from beginning to end (more on that in a minute) and it often reminded me of one of my favorite historical romance authors, Laura Kinsale. Like a Laura Kinsale novel, the characterization here is thoughtful and precise, the pace is slower, and it’s an opposites attract love story wherein appearances are always deceiving. While Lucy seems inconsequential and flatly long suffering at first blush, she’s actually much more industrious, focused, and self-assured than her male counterpoint. Simultaneously, Anthony is privileged, powerful, and wealthy on the outside but sees himself as powerless and self-destructively buries his current frustration and past trauma in alcohol dependence.

And, like so many of my favorite romances, these imperfect people fit together perfectly. Lucy’s forthright communication and uncompromising attitude leaves him little refuge to wallow in self-pity and emotional inaction. Anthony’s enthusiastic appreciation for her art and boyish sense of adventure pull her out of creative self-doubt and personal stagnancy. Their love story has real obstacles, as he continues to drink his way through his troubles and she considers betraying their bargain when a better offer presents itself. However, their excellent, heartfelt communication and the author’s talents at sincere, heartrending relationship development keep this couple afloat through stormy seas.

Unfortunately, those stormy seas come very close to capsizing the whole operation and loom overlarge in the novel’s last quarter. Aside from Evie Dunmore and Laura Kinsale, the book’s third clear influence is Victorian popular fiction. With that inspiration, the melodramatic elements that provided clever contrast for the first 75% of the story begin to clash jarringly in the end. It isn’t that that these gothic or sentimental elements are unsuccessful – far from it, they’re done well. And it isn’t that gothic or sentimental bits are unwelcome in genre romance more generally – I think Kerrigan Byrne adapts them quite masterfully, especially in her earlier work. The problem is that this author has invoked such amazingly lifelike emotion and vivid historical realism, and that’s impossible to reconcile with an over-the-top villain, saccharine family reunions, and dramatic escapes from nefarious captors. As a pastiche of nineteenth century literature, The Duke Undone wonders too far from its own unique strengths and there’s an aspect of “too much-ness” that overtakes the conclusive section.

It sounds like I didn’t like this and that’s not the case. I actually kind of loved it, but perhaps that’s made its flaws a bit more obvious. It got very, very close to being a new favorite and then one ingredient drowned out the flavor of the whole dish. Or, I was enjoying an auteur art house film and it turned into a Marvel movie 20 minutes from the end. Regardless, I’m 100% signed on for the next book in this series and excited to see what this author does next.
Profile Image for Ami.
5,752 reviews501 followers
April 2, 2021
2.5 stars


The Duke Undone is my first Joanna Lowell’s. It starts off strong … but then few heavy issues make the book rather unbalanced for me to enjoy. And I have very difficult time to like the main hero. In the end, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I would’ve liked.

The main issue for me is Anthony’s problem with alcohol. The first chapter (or the Prologue) has Lucy stumbles into Anthony’s naked DRUNK body. This alcoholism happens several times in the book – in which Lucy finds Anthony drunk, or that Anthony prefers to drink his problem away with whiskey or gin.

And that’s what bothers me, I think. Anthony seems to be in denial about his alcohol problem. He either claims that “Before George died, I didn’t drink” (George is Anthony’s older brother) or that he is not a drunkard, his brother or his mother were. Heck, even Lucy confronts him on that a couple of times.

The thing is, Lucy is a daughter of an alcoholic. She sees what alcohol did to her father. Would it be easy for her to forgive Anthony? To accept him on his reasons? And is it that easy for Anthony to stop drinking because he rather drunk with Lucy rather than drunk with alcohol? I mean, in contemporary romance, Anthony might need to seek help or go to AA or other things. But because this is historical, easy for him to dead stop because of his determination? Really?

I just can’t pass this issue and wonder whether the raison d’être of Lucy and Anthony’s relationship is never there to begin with. I don’t think they are connected in mind and hearts. And let’s face it, Anthony doesn’t do a lot of help either for Lucy’s request to save her home. It feels like Lucy does most of the heavy lifting, including finding Anthony’s sister.

Oh, and talk about Anthony’s sister! Man, that is a whole another issue for me. The injustice of it all – the treatment towards women accused of “that” problem. I know it’s the problem of the yesteryear, but still, all I felt about it was anger.

As a character, Lucy is okay, I guess. I liked the idea of her being as student painter – and the whole historical context of women not being allowed to paint life model was a knowledge for me. I’m so happy of living in contemporary times, by the way. But, Lucy is more forgiving towards Anthony that I think she should.

So yes, I didn’t enjoy this book. Of course, your miles may vary. On another note, the next book seems to feature the spoiled girl, Lavinia, and I have ZERO interest to read about her.

A Guest Review for The Blogger Girls

The ARC is provided by the publisher via Netgalley for an exchange of fair and honest review. No high rating is required for any ARC received.
Profile Image for HR-ML.
1,056 reviews37 followers
May 6, 2022
England October 1881, onward.

Anthony, a duke, did not get on w/ his late sire, + his late
mom died in an asylum. His sister went missing. Anthony
had dyslexia & PTSD. He drank too much & had difficulty
w/ decision-making. You'd think he would have learned
command & confidence & decisiveness while serving in
the Army?

Per his late sire's will, Anthony accounted to Yardley, who
oversaw the hero's properties and behaviors IE did the H
drink alcohol? create scandal(s)? Anthony was nearly 30.
Surely he would've had an independent solicitor review
this will? Since when did an underling boss around a duke?

Lucy, an artist & seamstress lived w/ her equally talented
'genius' seamstress aunty. These ladies and their friends
faced eviction in the recently condemned large house all
these merchants shared.

Lucy sold the nude painting she made of the H when she
discovered his unknown self, bosky & outside, in an alley.
On another day, h + sober H met. His had justified anger.
Later she asked Anthony to help prevent the eviction.

Anthony at times did not seem present & did not use
his duke power. I kept waiting for him to assert himself,
especially w/ the Y-man. Could Lucy depend on the H?

The MCs seemed good together. The author knew how to
write a story. I wished she'd written a tighter story & left
out too much self-reflection by the MCs.
Profile Image for Merry .
524 reviews43 followers
August 24, 2021
This is a difficult book to review. Looking at the cover you would think it was a light romp or mystery. Its not... It's a strange story of a second son who becomes a Duke after his brother dies living a life of true debauchery. Lucy is the main character and is wonderfully written. She has everything from talent, wisdom and hard work to being a quirky beauty. Anthony is the Duke, he is smart with a learning disability and an alcoholic. Parts of the story I really enjoyed. Other parts left me thinking that is too good to be true. The plot is about duplicity and control. The secondary characters do not add as much to the story other than the villain. It is not your standard romance so I rate it 3.5* and would enjoy reading more by this author.
Profile Image for Morgan & Many Books.
126 reviews49 followers
November 1, 2021
Five Hundred- Twenty Five Thousand, Six Hundred STAAAAARS

Did you see what I did there? The Rent reference? No. Well. I tried.

I think it is necessary to start out by saying that my opinion of this book may have been highly influenced by the fact that this has to be Mary Jane Wells' best narrative work. Like it was perfect. The regional Irish and Northern English accents, the men, the women. Everyone was impeccably brought to life. All moments were infused with the right amount of humor or gravity that warranted the moment... But then, Joanna Lowell wrote it and this book ticked every single one of my HR-reading experience boxes. Every. Single. One. Several new ones were created after this, on account of how much I loved this book. And, boy, did I loooooveeeeeed this book.

First and foremost, the setting for me was hard to beat. My education started in art history and I have an abiding love particularly for the late 19th century art scene in Europe, as a result. So naturally I was very excited by Lucy's storyline but I also felt it was well situated within the other plotlines. It's an odd overall plot though, this semi-disenfranchised duke and progressive up-and-coming woman artist falling in love after a bleak chance encounter? And yet. It worked. Lucy was fiery and wild and lovable. Anthony was, genuinely, a very broken person who finds purpose and joy not for Lucy but himself.

Lucy and Anthony were this completely unrealistic but suited couple, and thus entirely believable. Something about the writing of each MC also made them incredibly lovable, and very alive in my mind. I was especially invested in Anthony's journey and sympathetic to his troubles and coping mechanisms (or lack thereof). I liked that he really didn't get his shit together until the very end.

The steam was just right for the couple. This, I am experiencing with less and less frequency. Maybe it is because I'm getting jaded and pickier. Or it is because the HR genre is becoming an increasingly saturated space. Either way, I loved that there was no overwrought emphasis on whether their semi-affair was right or wrong, fraught with responsibility, or any of that flimflam. It just happens, in tune with how Lucy and Anthony simply… happen. Hats off to Lowell for making the removal of 800 layers that are 1880s clothing sex as hell though. Oof. And when he slides off the bed for some cunnilingus time? *Chef's Kiss*

The emotional and sexual developement was excellently paced for me, and nicely timed amidst the rest of what is going on in the book--which is alot.

There is a familiar style and tone that reminded me of Tessa Dare but with an attention to period detail that I often find missing from HR-comedy. And I wouldn't say, at all, this is comedy but there is a lovely humor that runs through the narrative that was needed. This is largely because Lowell was obviously concerned with tackling the seedier, bleaker aspects of late-Victorian London: housing crises, corruption, an inreasingly insular aristocracy, social and class boundaries are eroding, art and culture is in a state of upheaval. Much of this is explored here, but the realities of Shoreditch living to the Duke's alcoholism to the commitment and treatment of the mentally ill (or not ill at all) would have been too much, too dark, if there wasn't humor. That is my opinion at least. I definitely understand the criticism of this book. Particularly that the tone and the setting could come off as an odd combination. If you are a reader that doesn't like dark & light jumbled up together then, yeah...this isn't for you. Oddly enough, I tend to fall into that category but here it tickled me to no end.

Add in vibrant secondary characters. That nothing felt surplus to requirement. The writing was sharp (in my ear, remember, though I'm keen to own a paper copy now). The emotion was tumultuous but well built with a clear peak. Yeah, this book was sublime for me. I know in my heart of HR hearts this goes on the 'almost-top-ten' list. Probably will migrate to the top-ten.

It's not going to be everyone's cup of tea--evidenced by the relatively low ratings--but it also might be just the right cup of tea for those of you that don't mind some rebellion against genre expectation and a weirdly struck tone. I'm keen for what comes next in her 1880s universe (Lavinia's story, if I am correct), because if this story is any indication Lowell is keen to explore the female experience and romance from a variety of non-traditional HR contexts. Sort of Mimi Matthews but with on-the-page sex. I dig that.
Profile Image for eyes.2c.
2,314 reviews44 followers
July 15, 2021
Fascinating premise. Loved the whole female artist looking to be taken seriously by the Academy. Both leading characters are interesting but there’s almost too many tropes happening. They kept tripping over each other as did I.
Profile Image for Eros Bittersweet.
53 reviews11 followers
Shelved as 'my-dnfs'
August 13, 2021
Notes from my DNF at around 60%.

This book sets up a very dense, historically involved sequence of events whose ambitions I loved. I kind of enjoyed how creepy the opening scene was, and the way the lack of consent was later called-out by the hero. Heroine discovers Hero sprawled out naked in an alley and reeking of alcohol, and is entranced by his nude form. She's an art student who's prevented from real lifedrawing classes by prohibitions on women students attending them, so she's only ever worked from plaster casts and clothed models. So she memorizes his appearance, then paints a portrait of him which she sells to a customer as a representation of Endymion.

Hero discovers his likeness has been used for a nude portrait purchased by his business partner's wife, when the business partner accuses him of having an affair with her. One things leads to another: the heroine is tracked down at her art academy, having used just her literal last name to sign the portrait rather than a pseudonym (lol). She's persuaded to turn over her preparatory drawings as well. Subsequently, she blackmails the hero is into supporting her housing preservation campaign, as her block is slated for demolition for housing improvements by corrupt politicians. Meanwhile, the heroine is counter-blackmailed by the hero's estate manager to try to entrap the hero into being caught drinking, thus violating the terms of his father's estate trust. This is so the estate manager can prolong the trust, preventing him from managing his own fortune. And the hero is seriously traumatized by both his family's troubled past and his time fighting a colonial war in Afghanistan. His trauma doesn't seem calculated to garner sympathy, but to give him real roadblocks to functional adult life he must overcome. All that was great. I mean aside from presenting the trauma of the oppressor without any of the trauma of the oppressed, which, hmm, but that's not my personal issue with the book's scope. It's thoughtful, clever and dense. But this book managed to annoy me in so many distinct ways apart from its plot that I found myself too disengaged to continue.

Firstly, the writing style. The writing is absolutely packed with backstory. In the first scene where we meet the hero, he's being held at gunpoint. He gives us mental infodumps on his butler's eavesdropping habits, his time in Afghanistan in a prison, his kinky brother's sex scandal and subsequent death, his missing sister, the terms of his estate trust, and his alcoholism, all while a man is yelling at him about his supposed affair with his wife and brandishing a weapon at him, while we're confused about what they are to each other because it's mostly a lot of contextless yelling and infodumps. This is really a lot? It just feels like we're never present in the moment because we're being pulled back to the past every three seconds for another infodump. And dialogue is like that too. There's a line of dialogue, the hero or heroine digresses into their thoughts and memories about that line, for a page to half a page; another line of dialogue, repeat process. It makes the scenes plod and the dialogue dissolve into non-sequiturs because it's so hard to remember what was the thing that was actually said to which they're now responding.

The next thing that bothered me was the way making art was depicted. And I get it - not everyone who writes about a certain discipline has to be a complete expert in that area, because IMHO that would be unnecessarily gatekeeping. A text doesn't have to be highly informed about art to have art as a plot. But the way it's portrayed here - it often doesn't make any rational sense? For example, we might think Lucy has a photographic memory because she looks at the hero for a few minutes, memorizes his appearance, and then makes some sketches from memory, and then, also from memory, spends multiple months on a very realistic painting of him which is apparently technically impressive. But in later work, she's continually getting other paintings wrong with the subjects right in front of her - she'll say things like "his face had the surface of cheese" and white it out and start over. So either she has an amazingly photographic memory, or she doesn't, but it can't be both. And art is a technical process in which habitual knowledge minimizes the scope of errors you're likely to make? It's unlikely that a face starts looking like cheese accidentally; it's more likely that thanks to mistakes with fine details, you haven't achieved a good likeness.

And this was on top of some really annoyingly inaccurate depictions of what fine art school is like. I've taken lifedrawing classes. There's no way people are milling around chitchatting while a model sits, as they do in the opening scene, where there's a clothed woman sitting for a bust portrait and everyone's making small talk about the visiting Duke. It is hard to retain a pose, and out of respect for the model, you work flat-out during their time posing. Often they're only going to sit for 10-30 min, and that's the time you have, so if you're not done, too bad. Finally, if you're paying to go to an art institution, sure you might get casual crits from your friends, like Lucy gets from her art school BFF. But they are not your most important or insightful critic, because you're paying good money to have informed criticism from your instructors that'll take you a lot further. These students do not receive instruction for the first 60% of the book, and that's just not how it is.

Finally there's a lot of "the heroine is not like other girls" nonsense going on that just made me roll my eyes. In that art school scene where everyone's gabbing about The Duke, the heroine is too focused on her work to pay attention to the silly, flirtatious students who dare to be interested in him who are presented as highly annoying, the heroine virtuous for being serious, focused on her work, and Not Like Them. Later, the heroine meets a rival for the hero's affections. This woman is one of those silly vapid women we're supposed to hate. We know this because she's introduced to us by complaining about the tedium of going to Paris for dress fittings, then whining about not getting her choice of vacation destinations. The heroine ends up telling the rival that her dress is dyed with arsenic, and staining it with ammonia to prove it to her. There is a friend relationship that's positive, and Lucy helps one of her art school rivals catch a cab in another scene, so I guess not all other women are bad and dumb; just flirtatious and/or rich ones.

And honestly, if I'd connected with either of the characters at all, I would have been able to get past these things. But I found myself so completely bored during the 55%-ish sex scene that I didn't bother to finish it. Each time hero and heroine interacted, I felt like the kiss they were having or the disrobing that was happening wasn't something that would ever naturally or logically occur - it felt forced.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Littlebookworm.
212 reviews67 followers
July 10, 2021
When Lucy Coover, aspiring artist, stumbles upon a naked man in an alley, she finds she cannot banish the image of him from her mind and commits his form to paper. Anthony, Duke of Weston, is none too pleased when he stumbles upon a scandalous likeness, most especially as right now it is imperative his reputation is spotless. As such he is immediately intent on destroying the painting and reprimanding the artist, yet he could not have anticipated meeting Lucy; their paths soon colliding in passionate and dangerous ways.

Having recently read the first two books of the League of Extraordinary Women series by Evie Dunmore, I was interested in coming across this book, also set in the Victorian Era, and certainly there are common themes of romance of course, but also of strong, independent women in a man's world. Lucy makes for a feisty central heroine, determined to carve a career as an artist for herself no matter what. At the same time as creating strong female characters like Lucy and her friend Kate, Joanna Lowell also highlights the perils for women in this time, focusing in particular on the unjust commitment of women to asylums by men in power, (a theme also explored by Evie Dunmore in the 2nd of her series).

In fact, The Duke Undone, doesn't shy away from exploring a number of darker themes, including alcoholism, emotional abuse, PTSD, suicide, as well as issues of poverty and poor housing in the era, and I was impressed by the range here, in a genre that can often be considered light and frothy. That said, perhaps Lowell was a trifle too ambitious in just how much she tried to include here, and it did sometimes lend a bit of an uneven tone to the book, which could for instance steer abruptly into the melodramatic. I didn't necessarily mind that parts of the book had a somewhat gothic feel, I just thought the sudden shifts in gear could be a bit jarring, and I have to say that I hadn't been expecting the book to feature quite such a dastardly villain.

At times I thought that Lowell gave too much time to side characters and sub-plots, and whilst I appreciated the attempts to flesh out the central characters' emotional complexity, there was perhaps a little too much internal monologue and time spent on psychoanalyzing behaviour. The latter pertained particularly to Anthony, though I can understand why Lowell may have felt the need to do so, as Anthony has a drinking problem, stemming from troubled family dynamics, especially with his late father, and also relating to his military experiences, as well as current predicament relating to the codicils in his late father's will and his missing sister.

The central romance itself was engaging, the lead characters having genuine chemistry, with spark and wit in their encounters, but also a deeper emotional connection and resonance as well.

Overall, I enjoyed this book, even if it was somewhat darker than I was expecting. My main criticism would be the somewhat over-convoluted side plots and meandering writing style, but otherwise this was not at all a bad beginning to an intended series. 3.5 stars
Profile Image for *The Angry Reader*.
1,351 reviews293 followers
April 18, 2021
43% - which is twice as far as I thought I’d make it.

Someone in a reading group compared this author to Duran - and I leapt before I looked. Foolish. Also, why didn’t I just grab a Duran I hadn’t read?

The prologue bothered me. A situation that wasn’t funny was made light. And I assumed that would set the tune for the book. But it turned out this thing was tuneless. Was it supposed to be funny? Dark? Steamy? Intense? I’m not sure, and I’m tired of trying to figure it out.
Profile Image for PlotTrysts.
525 reviews146 followers
April 15, 2021
The Duke Undone matches up a young duke with a student of painting. Anthony is dealing with a lot of past trauma, including his mother's institutionalization and suicide, his own court martial, and a father who never approved of him while alive and is now posthumously controlling the dukedom through a codicil to the will. Lucy has her own issues to deal with: her education at the Royal Academy is hampered because the women students are not given the same access to classes as the men, and because she comes from a lower class than most of the other students. Under most circumstances, Lucy and Anthony would never meet... except for one early morning, Lucy comes across a completely unclothed man, dead drunk in the alley shortcut she uses to go to school. Since she has never been able to attend a "life class" where she could have drawn a nude model, she does what any ambitious artist would do: takes advantage of the situation to make several sketches and studies. Months later, Anthony discovers that he has been made the subject of a nude painting that he must do his best to suppress or risk losing his inheritance.

Full of period details on politics, society, world events, and art history, The Duke Undone is a lush romance. It is reminiscent of many Victorian novels, dealing with the characters' less-than-ideal behavior with compassion but without excuses. Lucy and Anthony's love story is hard-fought, and as the best romances do, there are moments when the reader can't imagine how they'll ever reach a happily ever after... but of course, they do!

7-Word Summaries:

Meg: Unlikely alcoholic heir becomes artist’s naked muse.⁠

Laine: All great artists must draw a penis.⁠

This objective review is based on a complimentary advanced reader copy of the novel.
Profile Image for Elodie’s Reading Corner.
2,399 reviews109 followers
March 25, 2021
The Duke Undone
Joanna Lowell
Release Date 04/06/2021
Publisher Berkley


An artist stumbles upon a naked duke and an unlikely love story begins in this captivating Victorian historical romance.
When Royal Academy painting student Lucy Coover trips over a naked man passed out in an East End alley, she does the decent thing. She covers him up and fetches help. Trouble is, she can't banish his muscular form from her dreams as easily. Compelled to capture every detail, she creates a stunning portrait but is forced to sell it when the rent comes due. What could be worse than surrendering the very picture of your desire? Meeting the man himself. 

Anthony Philby, Duke of Weston, is nobody's muse. Upon discovering the scandalous likeness, he springs into action. His infamous family has been torn apart by shame and secrets, and he can't afford more gossip. Even a whisper may jeopardize his inheritance and his chance at independence. His plan is simple: burn the painting, confront the artist. Or rather, it's simple until he meets Lucy and decides to offer the bewitching young artist a devil's bargain.  He'll help save her foreclosed home, if she'll help repair his family’s brutal legacy.

An irresistible passion ignites between them, but when danger strikes, Lucy and Anthony must risk everything... for a love that might destroy them both.

𝗠𝘆 𝗿𝗲𝘃𝗶𝗲𝘄

Will she count enough to one day come first ...

I did not know this author before reading the blurb, and with its graphic cover I expected more of a historical rom-com, and while it has some humorous moment, this was not what I had anticipated.
A good read, still it is, entertaining with heroes I rooted for or wanted to throw my shoes at, and a lot of shoes I have!

I instantly loved Lucy, she is no virago nor doormat, perfectly conscious of her place in the society’s she lives in, and the few to no freedom she can afford. With no wealth nor rank, she is as well as non existant in the eyes of the crowd. The only power she could be granted would be if she were able to break through her art world, it would may be give her the opportunity to be heard.
Yet it is a very far away dream when instead of painting she frets about loosing her roof and her only remaining relative mean to survive.
So when she thinks she has a way out, even it is blackmail, I understand her line of thought.
After all, she found her supposed ticket out naked dead drunk in the slum of the city. Not exactly an angel nor a knight in a shiny armor, except if you count a birthday suit as a battle cloth.
Yet as the daughter of a man who drunk himself to death, she should have know to stay away from any cohort sharing the same pastime. Especially when over and over again he does ... nothing.
Oh he is good at making excuses, there is always something which came or happened to explain he is still at starting point.

Anthony is a man of many flaws, some tragic other self-inflicted, dyslexia, PTSD, alcoholism and procrastination.
I hated how he was gullible and idle, an easy prey with a target on its back. A willing pawn in others’ scheme, when it was as plain as the nose on one’s face.
He jumped straight into every trap sets for him, never really lifting a finger to change his fate, following the flow when others really struggle.
Even Lucy who is no hell riser found more in a few days than him in months, because she simply dedicated her time to it instead of waiting the tide to come to her.
Like her, how many time I would have liked to shake some senses in him, to shout at him to stop letting others pull the strings of the poppet he has become. Because each one of his rebellious acts leads him deeper in the snare set for him. He stayed blind to the fault of the wolves in wait of his fall for too long.
For an ex soldier, he is quite shiftless and apathetic, when as a lord he was willing to raise his fists at the slightest insult. A strange combination, that mixes poorly and result in a man choosing badly his battles.
He is lucky tables were turned by his encounter with Lucy, she rubbed his nose in the filth, to peel the blinders he was wearing and did not fight much. I would have likes him to stop lamenting on himself and stop his pity party a bit earlier in the story, to realize others were suffering from his lack of actions and laziness.

I loved Lucy’s aunt and Kate, her friend, she is quite the hell-raiser, yet she is also a woman very aware of her time thus she chooses her fights with care but never shies away.

4 stars

𝗦𝘁𝗲𝗮𝗺 𝗹𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗹 onscreen lovemaking scenes

I have been granted an advance copy by the publisher Berkley, here is my true and unbiased opinion.

Profile Image for lisa.
2,068 reviews303 followers
May 4, 2021
CW/TW: Alcoholism, gaslighting

The illustrated cover was definitely misdirecting because the story was dark as hell. The only reason why this didn't get a higher rating is because I didn't feel a connection to the main characters.
Profile Image for i_hype_romance.
897 reviews32 followers
December 26, 2022
Anthony Philby, the Duke of Weston, is undone. He is undone by the horrors of war he witnessed. He is undone by the unrealistic expectations heaped on his broad shoulders by his father. He is undone by the pressure to deny every vital part of himself.

But most of all, he is undone by L. Coover.

All Anthony needs to do is hang on by his fingernails. He has Humphreys to help him escape detection, and a secret stash that numbs the pain and anger and memories. But Lucy Coover sneaks under his defenses. She has no regard for his rank. She thinks him a wastrel.

The Duke of Weston is unexpected. He is unexpectedly earnest. Unexpectedly tempting. Unexpectedly wry and unexpectedly vulnerable. Most of all, he is unexpected because Lucy senses that the beauty of his form is only an echo of the beauty of his soul. When she came across his perfectly hewn naked body on the cobblestoned street of Shoreditch, she was entranced. As a female artist she has never had the opportunity to study the nude form – and she wants to accurately portray it. It is an opportunity, And even after she makes sure he is breathing, and covers him with a strategically placed shaw, she cannot forget the impression she made.

Lucy takes a scandalous commission and paints his beauty from memory. Lucy’s scandalous painting could ruin everything Anthony has worked for if it is discovered. He is determined to snatch up every drawing in her possession.

The fireworks between them are undeniable from the very beginning. She makes him laugh and hope for more. He gives her the sense of self she didn’t know she needed. This is an exquisite character driven historical romance that is not afraid to explore the dark depths of the soul, or expose the corrupt underbelly of polite society.

If you love the authors Evie Dunmore, Elizabeth Everett, Joanna Bourne or Laura Kinsale, you will love this book!
Profile Image for Erin.
472 reviews35 followers
January 27, 2021
Pretty sure I'm on record as disliking historical romances. Most of the time writers simply transpose modern attitudes and progressive morals onto their characters. As someone who likes Victorian fiction, the disconnect between attitude and era is jarring.

That said, I'm glad I made an exception to read this book. Perhaps it's because I know so little about the Royal Academy and the author clearly knows a LOT, though she never bogs down the plot with historical background. (Also she knows a lot about the Afghan War, Victorian housing reform, and asylums. I'm impressed.) Also, Lucy Coover's lower class would enable her to have some freedoms that middle- and upper-class ladies of the era certainly did not enjoy. And the duke of the story being bound by some awful codicils that prevent him controlling his own life and inheritance make him less all-powerful than his high status would imply. It makes these characters' ability to ignore the rigid social order of their day more believable.

I loved the characters, too. How refreshing to find truly flawed people, not just people who in job interviews would say "I suppose my biggest weakness is I care too much." People who don't automatically trust one another (and for good reason), but who ultimately enable each other to reach their goals. (Not a spoiler - this IS a romance with a mandatory Happily Ever After. Though at the story's crisis point I really wasn't sure how the author would pull the HEA off!)

Top notch all around. For anyone who already likes historical fiction and wants to try out a well-written romance (I'd place The Duke Undone at "sensual" in Susanna Carr's heat level index), this is a perfect place to start.

Received a review copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Jane.
2,000 reviews30 followers
March 1, 2021
There is a trend in historical romance to plop thoroughly modern characters into the past, throw in some real societal issues of the times, and call it a go. The Duke Undone follows this model – very badly. I prefer historically accurate historical romance, in which strong women act within the confines of their times, but sometimes the modern protagonists work well enough. That is not the case in The Duke Undone.

I received a digital advance reader copy from Netgalley. I promise to read and review any galley I request and receive, which is the only reason I finished The Duke Undone. It is a mess. The hero and heroine are inconsistent, unlikable, unbelievable, and out of place. I’m sorry to say the heroine really is a woman of low moral standards (for the time) and I found the idea that a duke would marry her laughable. The big reveal toward the end was a surprise but also very awkwardly done. If I had to hear the hero proclaim one more time some version of “before George died, I didn’t drink”. …” But I digress.

Nothing about this book worked for me. It was draggy and repetitive. Too much sex and nudity for the time period. No actual feeling between the hero and heroine. The author apparently did a whole lot of historical research only to throw it away on characters transported from our time. Her editor should have sent this back for a rewrite.

I will not be reading the sequels. Thank you to Netgalley for the ARC.
Profile Image for Sophia.
Author 5 books325 followers
March 31, 2021
In a romance meet-up for the ages, an artist paints a nude based on an unconscious man in an alley and that painting leads him to her art studio. Awkwardness, anger, and a mutual deal is struck. Can a dissipated man fighting the nightmares of his past and an artist in need of financial assistance find their way to love? I was excited to get back my historical romance mojo with this new to me author and start of series.

Lucy Coover lives and breathes her art, but in Victorian Era London, she doesn’t have a chance at seeing a real male body. So, imagine her excitement to come across a fine specimen of the male form passed out cold in an East End alley. She does the right thing, but can’t get the image out of her mind so she does the unthinkable and paints him and then sells the painting pretending to be a man. The money will help her family keep a roof over their heads a little longer and the experience will help her art so she can succeed at it for a career. What could be the harm?
Meanwhile Anthony Phillby, the new duke, from a notorious family and rather rakish on his own part can’t afford a scandal right now based on the demands of his father’s will. He needs his inheritance to set straight what his older brother and father ruined so has to make it until age thirty which is coming up soon without a scandal- and he is being watched. He desperately needs to find his sister who has disappeared. Years in the army, years in a highly dysfunctional family, his mother’s suicide and wars abroad wear on him and leave him dependent on alcohol. If he can keep this infernal nude painting that is obviously him from getting talked about and stop the artist from wrecking more havoc in his life…
Apparently, they can come to a mutual understanding. He’ll financially assist Lucy and help with the housing situation for the poor. Lucy will help him search for Effie. The search for Effie turns out more dangerous than imagined as do the troubles swirling around his new ascension to the dukedom so they draw closer together and forge an unexpected connection that goes beyond attraction.

The Duke Undone was something of a surprise to someone like me who had read mostly old school historical romance. Some of the newer authors are really taking off the rose-tinted glasses when it comes to this genre and giving their characters and situations some serious flaws. The story has a gritty quality and it raises the steam level right from the start. Anthony isn’t just a rake in name only nor was his brother and other family. Anthony’s crutch in dealing with it all is drink and unfortunately, Lucy is well aware of what alcoholism will do to a man and those around him since she grew up with an alcoholic father. This is one of the conflicts between them. The book explores so much- in fact, it might have taken on too much so that it was hard to focus on it all.

The book talks of poor housing issues, women and their struggle with the Royal Academy of Art, alcoholism, insane asylums (shudder), PTSD and war, family issues, suicide, class differences, and more.
The author definitely knows her way with a pen. Her descriptions of setting, filling in backdrop and characters was all with depth and emotion. I agonized a little over the romance conflict between this pair who truly struggled separately and together. It is romance so I knew there would be a resolution, but I had no idea how it would come about because Anthony was such a mess and Lucy had her own struggles that didn’t play well together.

There is a villain who will do what it takes to make them fail and, at first, they don’t even realize the danger. Lucy drove me nuts at times. Not because of what she thought and felt, but her action choices weren’t always the best. She did increase the tension in both the romance and suspense part of the conflict as a result. But, I actually didn’t mind, for once, because I felt it balanced out against Anthony’s flaws.

All in all, this was a wonderful start. I saw that there will be a series for some of the side characters and I’m glad. They were as fascinating as the main pair and I’d like to see them get their stories. So, this spicy, tempestuous Historical Romance got a little darker and grittier, but there was depth and complexity. I would definitely recommend it to those who like this style for the genre.

I rec’d an eARC of this book from Berkley Romance to read in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Hannah B..
691 reviews864 followers
March 6, 2022
✨My Corpse!✨

What a wild Victorian ride with a gothic flare for theatrics. I loved the premise of this novel, as it screamed “draw me like one of your French girls” in big, bold letters. It wasn’t overly light-hearted and the characters weren’t always perfect. There’s also a very well crafted sickly sweet villain. Deliciously terrible.

Anthony was a total Byronic hero with many flaws and much swoon. He struggled with PTSD and alcoholism, and it took a lot for him to earn the trust and heart of Lucy. For me, it was peaks and valleys with him. He had a lot of inner demons to wrestle with and I appreciated the candor, but he let them start to impact Lucy one two many times and it got frustrating.

At times I was like holy shit he’s sex on a stick, deep fried and covered in chocolate and then others I was like good gawd man get. it. TOGETHER. When will you learn that your actions have ᶜᵒⁿˢᵉᵠᵘᵉⁿᶜᵉˢ! Your fantasies will never be ᵩᵤₑₙ𝒸ₕₑ𝒹 if you don’t put the damn bottle down! Fricken frick! ᴬᵃᴴʰʰᴴ

In the heart of the drama, some places dragged because frivolous details and conversations were introduced, none of which mattered. There were scenes that were written well and had my heartbeat skittering across the page until it stalled against quicksand paragraphs. I glazed over a lot of those dense parts by the end.

Towards the finale, there was a whole random chapter before Public Enemy #1 was handled once and for all. I kept thinking why are we here? Shouldn’t Anthony be beating down his front door rather than making idle conversation? It just didn’t fit with his past behavior. There were a few other parts around this time that just struck me as odd. I wanted more chutzpah. More pomp and circumstance. Goddamnit I wanted somebody to get slapped around.

What does a girl have to do to see a slimy man in a romance novel get the chair, full WWE style? I love that their journey is taking bad guys to court but I’d appreciate a little more flare. Especially in this book. The gaslighting by Public Enemy #1 was disgusting and physically made me sick to my stomach. He was a great blood-boiling villain, he just got off too easily. Also just the whole premise of asylums and the treatment of women made me incredibly incensed (as it was supposed to, this isn’t a critique). That doctor needed to be flattened by a falling piano post haste.

It also struck me as unique neither character cared about Lucy’s virtue. Maybe since it’s 1881 purity wasn’t as big of a deal, still seems odd though? But I’m so used to one character having extreme reservations about sex. Sometimes the decision is made easier if the heroine isn’t a virgin when the story begins, but I don’t think that’s what was up here? Either way it was interesting and I didn’t mind it. Maybe I’m just not as familiar reading in this later time period?

It was honestly also wild how they had sex and then just didn’t talk about it and then had sex again and didn’t talk about it. Like the sex was capital S Steamy but both times the passion just kinda dropped off a cliff by the next chapter. It just didn’t seem like that big of deal to either of them?

The ending was cute and I was satisfied with their story, I just got a little battered along the way: think Spongebob and Patrick trying to get through the perfume department unscathed. I honestly am surprised that this is a series. I’m not very much into the heroine of the next book and think this works as a standalone. I needed to work through some of my issues in this review, but overall it was a satisfying read if you’re on a historical romance binge. The novel had a great premise that delivered, but at times seemed a bit like Pandora’s box. You were promised one thing and got a whole lotta other stuff—some good, some irritating, and some completely its own.

⭐️⭐️⭐️.5/5 🌶🌶🌶.5/5*

*The scenes were steamy, honestly 4🌶/5 but sometimes the passion and chemistry elsewhere in the book was lacking. My saucy scale factors in overall sexual tension and compatibility of the characters, not just the specific sex scenes or lack thereof.
Profile Image for Natasha is a Book Junkie.
681 reviews7,425 followers
November 12, 2020
I won't lie, this is one of those books I picked entirely because of its gorgeous cover, having never heard of this author before, and it was SUCH a wonderful surprise. The perfect blend of romance, intrigue, and humour, this is the story of Lucy Coover, an art student at the British Royal Academy, who after stumbling upon a naked man passed out drunk in an alley, is compelled to immortalise his perfect form on canvas. Little does she know that she is painting the one and only Duke of Weston, a man whose family legacy has cornered him into a situation of powerlessness and dependency. Desperate to avoid scandal by gaining possession of the scandalous painting, he makes a deal with Lucy. But as they begin to work towards their respective goals, their lives become more and more intertwined, ultimately revealing an enemy that threatens them both. The writing is FLAWLESS, the characters are intriguing and complex from the start, and I found myself hopelessly glued to the pages. The only problem is that this book comes out in April 2021. But I promise to mention it again closer to that date.
Profile Image for Katelynne.
777 reviews12 followers
December 30, 2020
Wrote a blog post about my top ten books I read this year and published it today, and this one should have made the list. I need to sleep on it before going into my full, gushing review, which will be on https://bitchbookshelf.com. My thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for giving me a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Laura.
677 reviews53 followers
April 10, 2021
I absolutely love historical romances and they are usually about the stuffy older brother Duke who is rigid and knows all the rules.

But what about the younger brother who unfortunately suffers from, possibly, dyslexia and has been called an idiot his whole life because of it. The one that has had to overcome in other ways but has been horribly taken advantage of because he can't read like others can or process the same. He falls back on his good looks and acts like a fool to distract. Don't we all.

This book was so fun! An independent artist attending the Royal Academy happens upon a corpse in an alley as she is walking home. But finds it is actually just a very drunk man. A beautifully proportioned naked man, and at the time she wasn't allowed to paint male nudes. Soooo... she goes for help but when she returns he's gone and she decides to paint him not knowing who he is.

The fun part is when he goes to find her after she sells this painting. She is so delightfully curious. But he is stuck under his dead fathers thumb in a codicil being treated as a child so he drowns himself in oblivion. There's mysteries behind his mothers, fathers and brother's deaths and his sister's disappearance. It is all blamed on their temperament and that is used to control him. Ugh condescension will forever be my least favorite form of attack. It's so revolting and it's always used to humiliate and set people in their place.

Also, as always I find fascinating and appalling the list of reasons women can be admitted into an asylum - I mean novel reading and imaginary female trouble.... we would all be in an asylum.

And the surgeries they did, stuff of nightmares! Luckily they didn't talk about what they did (that's not this kind of book) just that they did. 

👏 Definitely cheered for Lucy and Anthony!

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Steam: 🔥🔥🔥

Thank you @netgalley and @berkleypub for the e-ARC for my honest and voluntary review.
Profile Image for Maria Rose.
2,454 reviews242 followers
August 28, 2021
This story had an interesting premise and lots of historical detail. The characters were quite unique compared to other historical romancess that I've read, with the heroine being a painter and the hero an alcoholic (even if he doesn't want to admit it).
Profile Image for Robin.
809 reviews181 followers
April 11, 2021
Thank you so much to Berkely Romance and Netgalley for providing an e-arc copy in exchange for an honest review.

First of all, if I'm to rate this purely on enjoyment, it would be an easy 4 stars. I really like the plot, the different class trope, the banter & chemistry between the characters, the friendships. But I have some mild hesitation in giving this a full 4 star rating because I felt like a certain aspect wasn't... handled the best. S0 -

1. The stakes felt real. This is one of those rare cases where despite knowing the HEA was imminent, I still felt a sense of unease about how the characters could possibly reach one. Not only were the odds stacked against them, but Anthony's own personal happy ending felt so out of reach. This was definitely not a case of self-imposed barriers, these stakes were real and they were high.

2. The friendships were fantastic. I don't believe Kate is planned to have her own book, but I desperately want one. Her dedication and friendship with Lucy was absolutely wonderful. I loved how fiercely the two of them supported and accepted each other.

3. This had so many important discussions surrounding the rights women, mental health, learning disabilities, and addiction. It really didn't shy away from the darker side of Victorian London. I often find that historicals romanticize the era a little too much, and this definitely did not fall into that category. It criticized England's wars & colonization, it criticized the treatment of the lower class, and it criticized the way that women were treated - specifically in the way they were deemed "mad" for having opinions and desires.

4. However - despite loving all of that. I'm not entirely comfortable with the way Anthony's alcoholism was addressed and handled. It is a massive portion of the book and the wrap up left me feeling slightly uncomfortable. Anthony is clearly an alcoholic. He relies on drink to get him through the day, to temper his emotions, and he even describes the things around him through it (he often describes the color of things in relation to alcohol). But in the end it felt a little like "love cured all".. While it's passingly acknowledged that it's something he's working through, it wasn't as explicit as I would have liked. Especially considering the massive misgivings Lucy had about being involved with an alcoholic as her father was one. It was almost like Anthony did one good thing and it was all swept under the rug. I just wish given it's prevalence throughout the rest of the story, that it had been addressed further in the HEA.

Overall, I really enjoyed this story. I was nervous about how long this book was, but I was fully invested from start to finish. I definitely plan to pick up the next books in this series and think Joanna Lowell will become a new staple in historical romances.
Profile Image for Kelsey (Bookishly Nerdy).
32 reviews115 followers
April 14, 2021
I was lucky to be gifted an eARC of this book to review. This is a great rom-com story, with crazy shenanigans and the steamy tension one looks for in a historical romance. I have not read anything by this author before, but the synopsis of this story sounded amazing and I knew I had to give it a try.

This follows a duke and a lower class lady who are connected because of a painting she created of him. Due to the nature surrounding the painting, they strike up a bargain to help each other out without something they are struggling with. It is truly your perfect hate to love regency England romance, and I loved it.

The thing that took me most by surprise is the status difference between our main characters. In most romances I’ve read, they are close in status so I am always certain of the outcome. Because there is such a difference in this book, it had me guessing the whole time. I was truly worried over what was going to happen between our main couple. I haven’t been this stressed reading a book in a while.

I will say that this is not very historically accurate. I found modern words and ideas used throughout the novel, which took me out of the experience a little bit. If I had known that before going in, I think this would have gotten full stars. But because I was taken out of the story, I couldn’t.

Otherwise, all the normal things that one would expect from a historical romance were there, and I loved every second of it. This was so much fun, and the tension between our characters was written so well! I will definitely be trying more books from this author in the future!
Profile Image for Janice.
215 reviews36 followers
April 5, 2022
There’s a little bit of everything in this book and I thought it blended together beautifully. There is a lot of focus on art, horrible villain, politics, corruption, secrets, feminism, the importance of consent, and the ongoing hot and heavy romance. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this is a book in a series and I look forward to the next book. There’s a character named Kate that I think would make a great main character for a future book in this series!
Profile Image for Brandy.
247 reviews26 followers
March 7, 2021
Struggling art student, Lucy Coover, trips over an unconscious naked man in an alley. When she is unable to wake him, she covers him up as best as possible and heads on her way. However, she cannot get him out of her mind, and since women cannot attend the life classes at the Royal Academy she decides to take this opportunity and paint his image. When rent comes due, Lucy sells the painting in order to make the payment. Unfortunately for Lucy, the naked man is none other than the Duke of Weston, and his inheritance is contingent upon his reputation remaining spotless until his 30th birthday. As soon as he gets his hands on the painting and destroys it, he decides to find the artist to ensure their silence. When the two meet the attraction is instant, but of course they would never be an acceptable match. However, they both have problems that the other can help with and so a bargain is struck.
What an enjoyable read! The Duke Undone is perfect for fans of “Bringing Down the Duke”. The characters were well developed, and for fans of steam there is some, though it doesn’t take over the story line. With regards to the plot, if you’re not a fan of romance because of predictable endings then this isn’t for you. However, what I enjoyed about “The Duke Undone” was that I didn’t know exactly how they would get to their happy ever after. My only issue with the book was that almost too much was included, alcoholism, housing issues, class differences, the petition at the art school – some of these seemed to fall through the cracks or just get wrapped up quickly at the end. I would absolutely read a sequel if there is one.
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