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The Elusive Lords #1

Dare to Be a Duchess

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He's a powerful duke. She's his uncle's ward. They have forever been at war, until one night, one masquerade, and one kiss...

Lara Ramsay is no stranger to scandal. As the orphaned daughter of a British colonel and his beloved Indian wife, whispers follow her everywhere. Not even the protection of the formidable Duke of Wolverton, a man she can't stand, keeps the gossips at bay.

The audacious Lara has driven Tristan Wentworth, The Duke of Wolverton, to distraction since the day his uncle took her in—and he's quite certain doing so is her favorite pastime. After catching her and his younger sister at a salacious masquerade, he's had enough scandal and issues a marriage ultimatum: find a husband within six months, or one will be chosen for her.

Unfortunately, no one in the ton appeals to her. Except, perhaps, the duke himself. The battle of wills has only just begun, and when Lara kisses him, their fate is sealed.

Sometimes even the most proper duke needs to break the rules to win the heart of the woman he loves...

312 pages, Kindle Edition

First published February 3, 2021

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Sapna Bhog

22 books233 followers

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5 stars
172 (30%)
4 stars
222 (39%)
3 stars
124 (21%)
2 stars
36 (6%)
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12 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 163 reviews
May 8, 2022

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While reading this book, I kept thinking that this is what THE PRINCESS STAKES could have been, if it hadn't been utterly gutted by the book's (I personally felt, incredibly unfair) cancellation by the romance community. When it comes to rep, I feel like authors of color are held to near impossible standards-- they have to be relatable, interesting, and inoffensive, all at the same time, but that is incredibly difficult to do, because relatability looks different for everyone, even within a specific community or ethnic group, and as for being inoffensive-- well, good luck with that. As ugly as our current reality can be, history is uglier still, and I think glossing over that and ignoring how much it really sucked to be anything but a white man with land and a title in history is, well, dangerous.

So that's just part of the reason why I was delighted to read DARE TO BE A DUCHESS, which also features a biracial heroine of Indian decent. She is privileged, but her life still kind of sucks in some ways. She has two loyal friends and the protection of a noble family, but most of the idiots in the ton tolerate her at best to her face and spend all their time gossiping about her and being scandalized by her when she's turned the other way. Her father was disinherited by her grandfather for marrying an Indian woman, and he refuses to recognize her, despite the fact that she is, and ought to be recognized, as a lady. The racism and fetishization she faces can be hard to read, but they do feel real, and even though Lara is not bogged down by them, they do color her world and frame some of the choices she makes. Because she knows that if she marries the wrong person, she'd just end up locked in a house somewhere while her husband frolicked around with white mistresses and partook freely of her money.

Despite this, things are still pretty great for Lara. She has two wonderful friends-- Cammy and Anne-- and the protection of Anne's family, especially her guardian, Robert. Anne's older brother, Wolf, also acts as a sort of reluctant protector, even though he's aloof and standoffish and snobby. When he goes to a very naughty masquerade party that Lara & co. have sneaked off to, though, he finds himself seeing her as a woman for the first time. AND THEN THEY KISS and my boy immediately becomes obsessed, and I think we can all agree that an obsessive hero who occasionally toes the line of Psychoville is a hero for the ages.

Wolf is honestly such a great hero, because he's brooding and a little bit dangerous (although not to the heroine, obvs), and his "SHE IS MINE" and "TOUCH HER AND I KILL YOU" mindset really spoke to my toxic heart. But like all arrogant alpha heroes, he makes mistakes. He pushes her away For Her Own Good(TM) and he hurts her, also For Her Own Good(TM). And this really fucks things up between them. Until my boy makes good on the grovel (which, indeed, he does). The way his cold and tortured nature is juxtaposed against Lara's goodness and flightiness is so well done, and there were several moments in this book that I almost teared up because ~that emotional connection, tho~.

It's like someone handed this author a list of my favorite tropes and was like, "Go forth!" Naughty masquerade parties, aloof and tortured hero, flighty and difficult heroine, SEXUAL TENSION, insidious murder plot, evil asshole villain man who is obsessed with the heroine, family drama, female friend squad, serious BROMANCE, and just basically everything you could wish for in a romance to make it interesting and angsty and not too fluffy. When I saw that the sequel for this book, which is about one of Wolf's friends, features Knife to the Throat as one of the tropes, I threw down that $3.99 like a big shot placing a bet at a high stakes poker game, because that's how I roll.

Definitely recommend this author to anyone who likes Amalie Howard.

4 to 4.5 stars
Profile Image for Jessica .
2,077 reviews13.3k followers
April 15, 2022
TW for racism

This was such good hate to love and best friend's brother romance! The heroine's best friend is trying to meet the man she likes at a scandalous ball, so the heroine attends with her. They run into her best friend's infuriating brother, though, and she decides to kiss him to distract him. Tristan doesn't know what to think of that kiss, but when he realizes it was a distraction, he's even more infuriated with Lara than before. He declares his sister and Lara must marry within the next six months or else he will find a husband for them. Tristan's uncle took Lara in, so Tristan offers a dowry to help Lara find a husband. Lara and Tristan continue to butt heads, but they also spend more time together and actually enjoy each other's company and conversation. As the two start to fall for each other, society and even Tristan's own mother do not accept Lara into high society because of her parentage. Tristan doesn't know whether to follow his heart of duty. I loved Lara and how determined she was to marry for love and not settle on a man she knew wouldn't respect her. I loved both Tristan and Lara's friendships with the other characters and how often we got to see them! I'm excited to continue on in this series!
Profile Image for Natasja | natasjalovesbooks.
165 reviews60 followers
February 4, 2021
1.5 stars
First of all, love love love that the heroine was part Indian! I've never seen that before in historical romance, and it's been sorely needed. But aside from the heroine's heritage, I've seen all of this a hundred times before.

Lara is the embodiment of the feisty woman cliché. Unafraid to speak out, passionate in both love and war (we know this because she throws stuff AND has multiple orgasms!), heedless of society's rules and disdainful of the ton, obviously has a healing touch (that we see once). She's an excellent (astride) rider, but of course she falls off her horse, because how else would the hero realize he'd probably cry if she broke her neck?

Wolf, well, you've met his character many times before. He's a manipulative asshole, obviously tall and handsome, but he cares for his friends and his little sister. But alas, he can't commit to his lady friend because he has ducal responsibilities! When do they not, I ask you. He's supposed to be smart, I think, but it doesn't really come through. It's Wolf's intention to see Lara married, so he gives her a dowry which is apparently sizeable enough to make her the belle of the ball (which, fine), but then at the same ball he gives her the cut direct, essentially ruining her in the eyes of the ton? In fairness, this isn't forgotten by the author and it does cause Lara trouble.

In the chapter immediately after, it says: "She was adorable when she was feisty like this" which just made Wolf irredeemable in my eyes. Also, he's called Wolf, for godssakes, and his friends are called Leo and Hawk! Major pet peeve of mine.

The writing is pretty much just telling, no showing. So many information dumps and characters plainly telling the reader how they feel. Also, I'm not usually a stickler for accuracy in historical romance, but I draw the line at the main character saying "whatever" and tossing her head not once but twice. In fact, there were numerous instances of a word or sentence taking me completely out of it. Lara referring to her father as "Dad", another woman saying "it really bugs me", someone saying "he literally withdrew into a shell" - really? He literally did that?

Also, Lara and her friends just roaming freely most of the time, Lara hatless with her hair down (in London!). It's just a little too much. And I'm sorry, but I just don't buy that Lara knows when she's most fertile in her menstrual cycle? These women barely knew about sex.

In all seriousness, I really wanted to love this book - it had such a promising start, but there were too many things that irked me. The language the characters use, how they often repeated the same statements using almost the same words, how the story felt slightly too long, and how Lara and Wolf behaved towards each other. I also just get annoyed with HRs adding a kidnapping at the very close of the book to create intense last-minute drama. So, yeah, not for me.

I received an ARC from Entangled Publishing through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Trisha (semi-hiatus).
243 reviews126 followers
April 7, 2021
Blog Review: https://trishadoeseverythingbutstudy2...

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

This is more 3.5 stars than 3.

I really really wanted to love this.

The main problem I had with this was the overload of sex thoughts. That's it mostly, these characters seem to think of nothing but sex most of the time. Why, I have no idea.

Its like, why isn't there more to their relationship than sex? where is the attraction, the emotion, the connection, why does it devolve into sex thoughts more quickly than love thoughts?

Like the characters claim they're in love but have you ever even had thoughts other than having sex with each other during the most of this? Like when they're far away from each other, they'll be pining after each other, and those were the moments I really loved, but whenever they'll be within 2 feet of each other, they'll just be thinking of having sex, and just no.

I've got nothing against sex thoughts, nothing against sex scenes, I just don't want to be regaled with them for most of a 500 page book. I would love to see more emotional attraction, more pining, yearning, all the other synonyms, but not only sex thoughts.

Then we had the problem of this trying to be too many things. If it's a romance book, please stick to the romance. Please don't try to incorporate too much side plots into it, when I just want the swoon. I came here for the swoon, and you're hellbent on giving me plot which I do not care for. Like why did Lara even want to keep her heritage a secret? What did it even achieve?

Speaking of heritage, one thing I loved about this was that our main character was partly Indian. Being an Indian myself, I just get really happy seeing Indian rep, especially in historical romance where it's usually never there. At least, in the historical romances I've had the fortune of coming across till now.

This was too long. This could have been two thirds of the length it was and there could have been zero losses except perhaps the seventh scene with them pining for the sex. I love pining, but I don't want pining to become sex thoughts the whole time.

I don't feel good giving an ARC a really bad review, so here are some good things about this book. There was an amazing start, an amazing end, and pretty good scenes sprinkled throughout the overload of sex thoughts and and I did love the pining scenes. The romance was really nice, and I loved the friendships with Anne and Cammy, and Hawk and Leo as well. I also had the feeling that there could be spinoff books about Hawk/Leo and Cammy, and if there is, I think I would still be up for reading those.

On the whole, it was a really nice book, a guilty pleasure that's completely binge-able, and has really good swoon-worthy bits now and then. I would recommend it for historical romance lovers, people who can handle/like smut, would not mind some unnecessary plot, and like good side-character relationships.
Profile Image for Becky (romantic_pursuing_feels).
731 reviews492 followers
February 15, 2021
Overall: 2.5 rounded to ⭐⭐⭐ 3 stars
Plot/Storyline: 📖📖📖 3 books
Romance: 💞💞 2 hearts
Feels: 🦋🦋 2 butterflies
Sensuality: 🔥🔥🔥 3 fires
Emotional Depth: 💔💔 2 broken hearts
Sexual Tension: ⚡⚡⚡ 3 lightnings
Sex Scene Length: 🍑🍑🍑 3 peaches
Number of Sex Scenes: 🍆🍆🍆 🍆 4 eggplants
(These all follow personal opinion 1-5, except the eggplants, which follows The Ton and the Tartans eggplant chart on facebook)

Lara is an orphan and is used to the people of the ton judging her unfairly. Her darker skin and raven hair she’s inherited from her Indian mother, but her blue eyes from her British colonial father. She’s been called a savage, a half breed and worse. Her guardian indulges her, but his nephew sure doesn’t. Tristan knows when she’s up to mischief and calls her out on her behavior. He gives her an ultimatum to marry within 6 months or he will find her a husband to call her to heel.

Give this book a try if you want:
- Masquerade fun! The beginning scene is the hero and heroine at a masquerade
- Best friend’s sibling trope – she is very good friends with Anne, who is Tristan’s sister
- Diverse main characters! The heroine is half Indian
- Enemies to lovers trope
- A bit of a jerk hero – there’s two instances in the book the hero makes some bad choices
- Moderately steamy – while I count only 2 sex scenes towards the end, there are lots and lots and lots of kisses.
- Post Regency/Late Georgian period in London (1823) with plenty of balls and parties
- You really enjoy/read a lot of contemporary work. This author’s writing style and some of the words used you can definitely tell she’s used to contemporary.

(Note: There is a small mention of the colonization of India being problematic. It’s not glamorized at all and it’s not a major plot point (or even minor) of the book.)

Sadly this book was not for me. There was something about the writing that just did not pull me in, and then it was compounded with a number of issues that are purely personal. For me, I didn’t feel the character depth of either character. I didn’t like Lara, I thought she rather acted like a spoiled brat and I sadly never grew to love her or get to know her better as the story continued. Wolf had his ups and downs, but about halfway he just went down, down, down to me. His behavior wasn’t logical. I didn’t see the emotional drive of his actions or meaning behind his changes of opinion in the book.

I was a bit confused about how all the social issues will work out. Lara is barely welcome anywhere, but she’s tolerating the whispers and gossips well. Then, basically her only protection snubs her in public. This would socially destroy her. But really

Tristan is the worst

I am all for books that have jerks. They are some of my favorite heroes. But I need to feel they regret their actions and I felt none of that here.

Later on, I read

Intimate scenes and kisses left much to be desired for me sadly. They just seemed to become mindless groping sex maniacs every time they touched. I needed more emotion behind it, personally. (Things like “At that moment she forgot who she was, who he was, and where they were standing.” But I want them to know exactly who they are kissing and what they are doing. I want them to want it so bad! I didn’t have the longing in these scenes)

Another side note, I thought it was weird Tristan’s sister helped plan for Lara to seduce her brother.

Some specific language that made me want to throw this book across the house:

“She so didn’t need this right now.”

“He rolled his eyes. “Why not add conceited and vain to the list as well?” “Whatever!” Lara dismissed him with a shrug and stomped away.”

“Lara sniffed. “Fine, whatever. Anything else you wish to dictate, your grace?”

“They are all a bunch of horrible, narcissistic fools,” she finished bitterly.”

and my personal favorite that has provided much entertainment

“I saw Wolf literally withdraw into a shell after his father’s demise” Literally? Is he a hermit crab? Lovely.

Specific locations of kisses/intimate scenes
Profile Image for Hannah B..
803 reviews1,078 followers
May 11, 2022
I was so hooked it maybe lulled a bit in the middle but I didn’t want to stop listening and I loved the writing

More to come 💖

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5/5 🌶🌶🌶/5
Profile Image for M.
81 reviews1 follower
June 2, 2021
4.5 stars

How does the book not have more good reviews?? I absolutely loved this book and I will forever be looking for Sapna Bhog's name on historical romance. The writing immediately pulls you and I was invested after only a few chapters. It's a guilty pleasure read, no doubt about that, but it is totally worth it.

I loved the fact this protagonist was half-Indian because we really don't see that in regency/victorian romances. I believe the new season of Bridgerton will have a British-Indian heroine which I absolutely love! This aspect of Lara's character was so interesting! I think my one complaint about this book is the lack of plot - the secret of Lara's heritage was really the only thing besides the romance between her and Wolf, and even that felt a little contrived. Still, this book is amazing despite that and I read it in an afternoon! Super fast and super enjoyable.

10/10 recommend.
Profile Image for Ruby Jo.
233 reviews78 followers
February 9, 2021
For more visit my blog Bookishly Ruby

My journey into historical romance continues with Dare To Be A Duchess by Sapna Bhog. I have to credit Sam @ Fictionally Sam for telling me about this book, and I happily fell off of my self imposed ARC ban wagon for it. I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I picked this book up, except for a great time. And I got that so I win. And so do you, because I’m here to share all my thoughts and feelings.

Lara is fantastic. She is the kind of character that thrives on mischief and I loved her for it. She loved challenging societal rules and norms, and I loved that she wasn’t doing it to be the center of attention. There was no malicious intent behind the way she acted, she was just tired of being seen as different. Being half Indian made her the target of gossip, rudeness, even bullying, and she just realized she was never going to be accepted, so why not act differently and be her own person? I how she wasn’t going to ever use her family heritage to win her place in society. Most young ladies in her position would have done it, but she didn’t and I respected that about her.

Oh Tristan. Tristan is very proper, he sticks to the rules, and he is very strict. He loved to have a very tight hold on his emotions. So he is constantly confused by his feelings for Lara. I wish he would have accepted his feelings earlier. I understand why he felt like Lara wasn’t the best choice for him, but at the same time I kept wishing he’d have the courage to accept society rules and even his mother’s pressure dictate what he wanted out of his life.

The book is pretty fast paced and I enjoyed that. I would have wanted to see them explore the emotional side of their relationship more, as opposed to having most of the focus on the physical aspect, but I still had fun seeing them grow as a couple.

I honestly enjoyed this story. I wish the author would write a book for Lara and Wolf’s friends, who absolutely hate each other, so…they must have something going on, especially knowing their families want them to marry each other. If that story comes out, I will definitely read it.
Profile Image for RachelReadsandSings.
1,227 reviews406 followers
April 17, 2022
If you are dying for a historical romance with Kate and Anthony vibes (specifically from the Bridgerton show, not the book), you NEED to read this book IMMEDIATELY. The Kanthony vibes include:
-A hate to love romance with great banter
-half Indian heroine
-hero is obsessed with the heroine’s scent
-hero and heroine love to ride/race horses together
-scorching sexual tension & chemistry
-forbidden romance with lots of angst

So yes, to say that I loved Tristan and Lara’s romance is putting it quite lightly. The writing sucked me in from page 1 and I can’t wait to read the next book in this series ASAP!!

**Thank you NetGalley and the publisher for providing an e-arc in exchange for an honest review**
Profile Image for Jill Long.
1,076 reviews4 followers
October 22, 2021
The best thing about this book is that the heroine is Indian. With that being said the rest of the book just didn't grab my interest. The historical accuracy was off especially in the dialogue.
Profile Image for Shae.
2,629 reviews301 followers
February 2, 2021
3.5 star rating

This own voices (for the Indian representation) was thoroughly entertaining while you read it. With that said, this book did fall a little flat for me.

I felt like the characters didn't give us more than a surface glace at themselves or what was going on. I think this book had a great premise, and I love the slightly taboo element to it.

I just wanted to know more about the characters than what we got. This book had plenty of room for our characters to have some amazing insights to offer without overwhelming the romance.

With that said, I did have a great time with this read. The stolen kisses, the sneaking around and such, did make for some really fun moments.
Profile Image for Julie - One Book More.
973 reviews163 followers
February 7, 2021
Dare to Be a Duchess is a wonderful historical romance that follows Lara and Wolf as they find love under the most unlikely circumstances. Lara and Wolf have known each other for years, but they never got along until an impromptu kiss at a masquerade ball. Suddenly, they see each other in a different light. Lara and Wolf can’t deny their attraction to each other, but with so many obstacles standing in their way, including her heritage, his familial obligations, the whispers and judgment of their peers, and several characters who wish them harm, can they ever find their happily-ever-after?

I really enjoyed this story. The characters and plot are fabulous, and it has some great messages. Lara, for example, is rebellious, compassionate, intelligent, and fiercely loyal. She makes her own rules and often defies the norms and expectations of the ton. Rejected over and over again because of her heritage, it’s a wonder Lara has maintained such an optimistic and hopeful outlook on life. I love her carefree spirit and her ability to rise above the catty, judgmental people who surround her. I also love that she stands up for herself and rejects the very people who disrespect her.

Wolf is a man of integrity. He has strong morals and tries to resist his feelings for Lara. She is his uncle’s ward and his sister’s best friend, which makes Lara off-limits. Though he knows he should find an “acceptable” partner, his feelings toward Lara are too strong. Wolf is no stranger to scandal, as his father was embroiled in many, but he has worked hard to reestablish the family name. However, as his feelings for Lara grow, he has to decide what is more important to him: appeasing his mother and the ton’s expectations or following his heart.

Wolf is a man used to being in control, and Lara drives him to distraction. I love that his ever-growing feelings toward Lara change Wolf. She softens him, challenges him, and intrigues him, and she makes him see the wonderful possibilities life has to offer when spending it with someone he cares about. Plus, their chemistry is off the charts!! They struggle to keep their eyes (and hands) off each other, which leads to some fantastic and romantic scenes.

The friendships in the story are also fantastic. Both Lara and Wolf have amazing and long-lasting friendships, and their friends are their staunchest allies. I love how loyal and honest their friends are and how willing they are to support each other during the good times and the bad. Their conversations are sometimes easy, often witty, and occasionally conspiratorial, and I loved that they had such depth. I also like that Wolf’s friends have some connections to Lara’s friends, and I’m curious to see how these relationships develop in future books.

There are also some strong messages about prejudice, acceptance, being true to yourself, and more. Because her mother was Indian and her father was British, Lara is harshly treated by racists in the ton. Her life is threatened on more than one occasion, and many people feel they can disrespect, snub, or take advantage of her. These people and situations sharply contrast the love and support she receives from her uncle and friends, who embrace Lara for the exceptional and unique person that she is.

An amazing love story full of passion, angst, confusion, danger, and more, Dare to Be a Duchess is perfect for fans of historical romance. I so enjoyed this story and can’t wait to read more of the series! Thanks so much to NetGalley, Entangled Publishing, and Sapna Bhog for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Liber_Lady.
421 reviews110 followers
May 7, 2021
3.5 stars
ARC provided by netgalley
Rep: Half Indian-Half British heroine, British Hero (Duke)
CW: Racism toward the heroine (Not from the hero)

This was a very refreshing read. As an Indian reader, it is very rare for me to see a person form Indian descent as a heroine of a Historical Romance. So big kudos for that. I loved the representation. I loved how colonization was dealt with. So definitely plus point for that.

What I liked:
- enemies to lovers
- Banter
- Chemistry was great
- Conflict was great
- Great friendships. Heroine and hero's friends are great. Their presence and role in the book are pretty substantial.

What I sort of disliked
- The POV jumps were sudden. I would be reading the heroine's POV and suddenly, the hero's POV began with no indication of the shift in POV. I didn't get used to that for the entire book
- The book was very predictable and with an abundance of balls and masquerades
- There was nothing extraordinary about anyone

It was a decent read. I enjoyed. I was hooked in some parts and pausing in others. But I will be rounding it to 4 stars for the great representation, solid friendships, and good groveling.

I do recommend it.
Profile Image for Aly is so frigging bored.
1,627 reviews274 followers
February 1, 2021
I have to start by saying that I didn't love the book, but I didn't hate it either... I just wasn't blown away.

I am a big fan of asshole heroes and I can usually explain away their mildly shitty behavior, but I had a really big problem with it this time. Wolf, the hero is, supposedly, a stick in the mud, virtuous dude, but he kisses the heroine in ch 3 or so and then he kind of insults her. They kiss again and again he acts like an idiot. They start spending time together and when he sees he's falling for her, he totally destroys her tenuous social standing and, to make everything better *insert heavy sarcasm*, he totally destroys her in private. After all this, the next day he decides he's in love with her and that he can't live without her and starts trying to apologize to her and make stuff better. This dude legit gave me whiplash!

The heroine, Lara, is pretty ok. She has a really hard time in the Ton because she's half Indian and the inbred assholes are mocking and not accepting her. She's different and she's not afraid to show it. She's skirting propriety and going with her 2 other friends to some parties that aren't that straight laced so to say... She's also a feminist with her 2 other friends, but that's been told not shown...

One of my pet peeves is stupid names and the author has named the hero Wolf and his 2 other friends Leo and Hawk and I totally hate it. Those are actually their nicknames, but they aren't called anything else for most of the book, so I rolled my eyes every time I saw it. Another of my pet peeves is the writing style that felt too contemporary and not in time with the period it was supposed to be in.

All in all, it wasn't bad, but I think I expected something else so i had a lower tolerance for it then usual.
Profile Image for ABookNook.
149 reviews138 followers
February 25, 2021
Beautifully crafted and sinfully sensual, this book stole my heart from the first page. I loved this book more than I can describe. I am always on the hunt for books with Indian heroines, but so many of them tend to disappoint. This was not the case with this book in the slightest. I loved Lara and her story as a half Indian woman in the ton.

This book is full of my favorite tropes: feisty heroine, grump hero whose world gets turned upside down by the heroine, enemies to lovers, publicly spurning the heroine then groveling, protective hero, I could go on.

The colonization of India and the hate against Indians from the white community during those times is a subject very dear to my heart as an Indian woman. So many books have characters that were a part of the East India Company and will make insensitive and hurtful comments about Indian people. While I understand that is accurate to the times, it hurts a lot. I was worried going into this book that we were going to see Lara facing constant tongue lashings from other characters and we were going to have to read that. But not including some of that treatment would be a disservice to the Indian narrative. Bhog did a wonderful job of balancing that. She included many instances of people degrading Lara to her face and behind her back to convey the reality of that time without it being overwhelming for the reader. Lara's experience was realistic and conveyed the POC community's struggles beautifully. Another thing I was worry about with books with diverse MCs is that their race and the discrimination they face become the MC's only personality trait. Again, Bhog did a wonderful job with Lara. Lara was a wonderfully done character, she embarrassed her Indian heritage fully and was more than just an Indian woman. She had passions, wit, desires, hobbies, and more. The book wasn't constantly pushing her Indian heritage into our face. When authors flesh their characters out like this while still making them diverse, it normalizes their presence in the publishing world. For achieving that balance, I commend Bhog.

Don't even get me started on Wolf and Lara's relationship. These two had sizzling chemistry from the very first chapter. While they began kissing and lusting for each other very quickly, the hurdles in their way and the progression of their feelings for each other were slow-burning and amazing to read. I loved watching Wolf grow emotionally and mentally as the book progressed. He started out as an arrogant, prideful, and stern asshole and ended the book as an emotionally mature, understanding, and respectful man. Reading his inner monologues as he thought about Lara made my heart sing. I loved how independent and strong Lara was without being obnoxious. So many times characters are sassy and witty to a fault, they'll make brash decisions and will defy people for the sake of rebelling. Lara was smart and adaptive. She didn't let her pride get in the way and always stood up for herself when she knew she deserved better.

I loved the side characters. If Leo and Cammy do not get their own book, and our rakish scoundrel Hawk doesn't get a happy ending, I am going to riot. The way Bhog was able to establish chemistry and relationships between side characters all while wonderfully developing Wolf and Lara's relationship is astounding.

Long story short, this is definitely a new favorite of mine. I implore anyone and everyone to read this. If I don't' get my hands on a physical copy of this book, I will cry.

- 5 stars -

Thank you to NetGalley, Entangled Publishing, and Sapna Bhog for an eARC for this amazing novel in exchange for my honest opinion.
Profile Image for ChasingLeslie.
354 reviews51 followers
August 22, 2021
Orphan Lara Ramsay lives as the ward of Robert Wentworth, uncle to Tristan Wentworth, Duke of Wolverton. Lara and Wolf have aggravated each other for years, until they share an unexpected kiss at a masquerade.

I'm a sucker for stories that begin with a masquerade! I like that the attraction is established early and the characters spend a good amount of the book in close proximity. These characters have baggage. Wolf has "daddy issues" and believes he has to find a proper match because of his father's scandals. Lara has issues of her own...As the mixed descent daughter of a British Colonel and Indian mother, Lara has experienced bigotry from the ton. Their story is full of push and pull, and there is definitely a moment when Wolf goes too far and says awful things.

I believe this author primarily writes contemporary romance, and it's evident in some of the modern dialog the characters used. Normally this doesn't register much for me, but this time there were a few phrases that I found distracting enough to remember. Overall, I really enjoyed the writing and characters. I liked the friendships that were established in the story as well, and will be watching to see if Leo and Camille get a book of their own!

Tropes: Enemies to Lovers, Best Friend's Brother, Masquerade

Eggplant rating: 3 (three scenes, plus additional kissing and fantasizing)

* I received an ARC and this is my honest review. #DareToBeADuchess #NetGalley
Profile Image for ☾Sabrina♡༄.
101 reviews12 followers
February 7, 2021
I received this advanced copy from Entangled Publishing. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

The book is set in 1823 and features a mixed-race Indian heroine, a first for me in all my years of reading historical romances. In fact when we first met her, Lara Ramsay was at a masquerade wearing an Indian saree, embracing her Indian heritage. Lara and her friends have been attending these social events that are outside of the usual boundaries because her best friend Anna was interested in a social recluse, and these events are her only hope for meeting him.

The hero is Anna’s protective elder brother, Duke of Wolverton—better known as Wolf. Tristan Wentworth (the duke) and Lara known each other since he was 22 and Lara was 15, when Lara became his uncle’s ward.

Being part Indian, she never fit in with the ton (even though she was secretly the unacknowledged granddaughter of the Duke of Calster). Ostracised with hurtful, derogatory remarks like filthy half breed, her connection to the Duke of Wolverton was the only thing that kept her within the social circle.

When he caught her at the masquerade, he issued an ultimatum for her to find someone from the ton to marry in the next 6 months, even adding to her dowry to help the case. But Lara was convinced that she needs to meet someone outside the ton to find someone that will overlook her skin colour.

While it was interesting to have a heroine of Indian heritage, I didn’t like much else about her. Or Wolf, for that matter. They were kissing each other at 10% of the book and kept kissing each other even though they “hated” each other (for no apparent reason). I just really can’t have lust-driven MCs kissing each other when they don’t even develop their friendship/relationship. Like, perhaps pry your lips apart and get to know each other.

They’ve had 10 years to know each other, but I didn’t feel their history. Everyone showers her with compliments, willing me to believe them but I don’t really because I’m only told these great things about her but I don’t see it myself. For example, that she was a wild cat that damned the rest of the world and often battled wits with him. That she was so brave and has such a strong heart. That she taught someone to laugh, to derive happiness from small things, and to care about people and animals. That she was sharp, keenly observant, could converse on a variety of subjects, and is not like the other girls. Yeah, this was not the impression I got from her. I didn’t think she was any of those things.

So Wolf began sending her missives and they started having clandestine meetings privately. We know where it goes from here. They need to come to terms with their feelings and overcome the judgment of the ton. But I cringed when she planned to “thoroughly seduce him” and her friends whooped in delight and helped to refine the plan - one of those friends was the sister! Ack.

I don’t mind a cliched story – if you read as much historical romance as I do, there’s no escaping the romance tropes and plots and hero/heroine combinations. I just want the book to make me swoon and fall in love and cry.

What I liked, though, was how much I got to rage at all the ton with their racist taunts. The satisfaction when she *drumroll* dared to be a duchess.
Profile Image for Janet.
3,708 reviews30 followers
February 8, 2021
He’s a powerful duke. She’s his uncle’s ward. They have forever been at war, until one night, one masquerade, and one kiss…
Lara Ramsay is no stranger to scandal. As the orphaned daughter of a British colonel and his beloved Indian wife, whispers follow her everywhere. The audacious Lara has driven Tristan Wentworth, The Duke of Wolverton, to distraction since the day his uncle took her in. After catching her and his younger sister at a salacious masquerade, he’s had enough scandal and issues a marriage ultimatum: find a husband within six months or one will be chosen for her.
This is the first book I’ve read by the author & it certainly won’t be the last. A well written, well paced story that held my interest all the way through. I loved the feisty Lara & the stoic upright Tristan. The chemistry between the pair sizzled & their verbal bantering was delightful. Enemies to lovers is my favourite trope & the author mage it very enjoyable. I also liked Lara & Tristan’s friends so I hope they have their HEAs. I’m glad Tristan eventually dealt with his mother – I’d have done it years before!
My honest review is for a special copy I voluntarily read
Profile Image for Farisa.
219 reviews5 followers
April 23, 2022
Authors need to stop writing heroes who are assholes just because they're horny for the heroine. The hero here loudly announces at a ball that he refuses to dance with a heroine because "a half blood" isn't going to make an appropriate duchess. I hate it so much. Hate it hate it hate it.

Also, this wonderful racist nugget FROM THE HERO: Standing taller, he crossed his arms in front of him. “I am a duke of one of the most powerful families in England. I have responsibilities, ones that you will never understand. You are my uncle’s ward, a girl with mixed blood running through your veins. Most people even call you the daughter of an Indian savage. Even with your ties to Calster, you are not fit to be my duchess.”
Profile Image for Tan✨.
365 reviews32 followers
November 20, 2022
3.5??? 3?????

I did enjoy this but I feel like the conflict was in part unnecessary and also too easily resolved. Idk how to explain it but I did feel that the author took it too far with Paxton. Something about it irked me.

Also Anna annoyed me terribly in the beginning with her selfish bs and it’s hilarious how they acted like WOLF was the one being unreasonable.

Not to say he didn’t do his fair share of unreasonable bs later on. His scathing comments and then the borderline blackmail when trying to get her to marry him???? Disappointed. Man doesn’t THINK before he speaks. I would’ve smacked him myself if he had rejected me like that, fully knowing what Lara faces already. And then DANCED WITH THE OTHER BITCH???? Please, I get that there’s only a handful of established female characters but 😟😟!???

Also how hard is it to recognise someone with her skin tone even if she’s wearing a mask…
And to think she also wore a damn sari to the masquerade lmFAO. So much for staying anonymous. Sorry it’s all just so funny to me. And the representation was just so… odd? Even the way he describes her felt weird and fetishy to me at times.

Also I think the whole I don’t want to claim a title bs was supposed to make her seem stubborn in a good way but it just made her seem stupid considering she was being humiliated on a daily basis and it was all very inevitable.

Tried to be Bridgerton s2 but alas
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Allie (alliewithbooks).
337 reviews601 followers
January 25, 2022
I finished this in one sitting and I loved absolutely everything about it. The enemies to lovers romance was perfectly executed, and I felt like so much of the conflict was necessary and wasn’t just shoehorned into the plot for the sake of having a conflict. It’s also exactly how I like my historical romances: cute, spicy, and with mostly modern sensibilities. I can’t wait to read the second book in this series!
Profile Image for Zubee.
665 reviews22 followers
July 31, 2021
Indian h ... Sadly there was very little explored about her heritage .. and this is such an intriguing part in history because Britian ruled over India ... And there must have been many cross culture relationships so it would have been a treat if this angle was explored
Apart from that, h's modernisms leapt off the page ...
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Delle.
22 reviews
July 19, 2021
Dare to Be a Duchess is the story of a young half Indian woman by the name of Lara Ramsay who struggles to find acceptance within the biased community of the ton. As she searches for acceptance and a man who will love her for who she is, she finds herself falling for the one man she's always been at odds with, her childhood friend's brother, Wolf.

First things first, I'm really surprised this was categorized as a historical romance given all the modern language. Strip away the brief descriptions of the outfits the characters were wearing and mentions of castle this and manor that, you'd think the book took place in modern times. It's usually something that doesn't bother me because in all the historical romances I've read over the years, I've always come across one or two words that just don't seem to fit. In Dare to be Duchess, words like "whatever", "something was up", "learned the ropes", you get the gist. Just...how? I paused so many times while reading because I was so surprised. I wonder if the editor caught onto this because I'm genuinely surprised.

I will say that I absolutely loved that Lara was Indian. About damn time! I get so tired of seeing the same 'ol white characters in historical romances so it was nice to have a POC main character for once. I really wish the author would've expanded on Lara's Indian background. She lived in India until she was fourteen (I was surprised to learn that since it seemed she'd left at a young age). With Lara, I wanted that part of her heritage to shine through. She had one conversation with Wolf where she told him about her time in India and it was very vague. I wanted to see how her time in India affected her life in England and coloured the way she lived her life. Honestly, the book just lacked nuance. I wanted to see some passive-aggressive racism in the book. Something more subtle and varied instances. The interactions were cartoony almost. Lara would be in the ball and people would be loudly whispering "How dare that Indian girl want to be like us". I don't know, let me not slip my own black experiences into it but let's be real, it gets more subtle than that. I wanted to see how life was different (and even more difficult for her) as an Indian member of the ton.

Also, the names! I've seen other reviewers mention it and...my God the names. Listen, I usually don't judge. The Duke of Wolverton aka Wolf was one thing. But then his best friend is named Hawk too?? Did their fathers have a pact? I'm sorry, I couldn't take it seriously. It was probably made worse by the fact that Wolf was always growling whenever expressing any sort of emotion whether it be anger, jealousy, or sexual interest and then Hawk was annoying. At least Leo was the voice of reason.

Speaking of Wolf...

I must be getting old...er, because I'm getting tired of the overly-macho-I-lack-communication-skills-and-cannot-adult-properly male love interests. Like with most romance novels, a lot of the issues would've been solved with simple communication. Wolf decides he cannot in good conscience marry a "half-breed" woman since it would destroy his reputation so he . Dumbass. I got so annoyed when he was actually shocked his actions had repercussions and affected Lara. I don't even know what Wolf actually saw in Lara (or what she saw in him). It was a case of the not-like-other-girls problem. Oh, she's opinionated, she stands up to me, she's interested in politics, etc. The funny thing is, we never saw any of it. The only times Lara and Wolf fought was when she was trying to get into some kind of mischief or she didn't want him following her. There was just so much explaining. Whole paragraphs dedicated to what someone was wearing or their personality traits when we could be shown this. We're told how kind and charitable Wolf is (quite later) but never shown. We're told Lara's political beliefs but never shown. Even their relationship isn't that deep, especially since they couldn't have a conversation without wanting to jump each other's bones.

Let me wrap this up.

Everything wrapped up in too neat of a bow but hey, I don't mind much. Wolf pissed Lara off, then apologized, then they got back together, got engaged, and the people trying to break them up in the end were easily taken care off. In the end, it was a good enough romance story but very very rough. It was still an easy read and I enjoyed Wolf (when he wasn't being annoying, aggravating, you get the point) and Lara.

I liked Leo so I'll see if his book is out or is coming out.
Profile Image for Brinley.
1,016 reviews68 followers
January 25, 2021
I really enjoyed this book! It was a fast paced read, and even though it wasn't particularly surprising, it was a fun read.

First off, this cover is gorgeous! As soon as I saw it, I knew I wanted to read this book, regardless of what it was about. And I wasn't disappointed at all.

Tristan and Lara had the sweetest relationship. I loved how protective he was of her, and how it wasn't a stifling kind of protective. He let her be herself, but was there when she needed a shoulder to cry on. I loved seeing this in a historical novel, because so often, the main lead is so "protective" that it becomes controlling and unhealthy.

I'd just finished watching Bridgerton before I started this, so I was in the mood for a historical romance full of scandal. This was everything I wanted, and I can definitely see myself rereading it.

Thanks to Netgalley and Saphna Bhog for providing a free copy in exchange for an honest review!
Profile Image for Jewels Tate.
79 reviews
February 6, 2021
This book was given to me as an arc from netgalley in return for a honest review.

3.5 stars

Trope: Enemies to lovers/interacial couple

I really liked the main characters Tristan and Lara. Having Anne, Cammie, Leo, Hawk was also a plus.

I really enjoyed this book. It was such a fun read filled with lots of emotional pulls. The banther between Tristan and Lara is really cute and sexy. I loved the first kiss they shared especially because they don't like eachother nor get a long. It was sudden and she kissed him to distract him from something else. She was not expecting to like it one bit but ended it up wanting more. It surprised him and he couldn't get enough either.

One other thing I loved about this book
Is that they are a interacial couple. It's something different and because it's not often you get to read about interacial relationships. It made the book much more interesting and refreshing. Lara is half indian and half english. Tristan is a english Duke and she is a ward to his uncle. But the sad thing in this book is The ton. They have such a hard time accepting her throughout the entire book, which made me feel sad. But through this bumpy road you witness firsthand how her strong her character is. She stands her ground. She is hurt acourse but never shows her pain, giving her them no satisfaction.

Anyhow Tristan and Lara are both strong and stubborn individuals. They clash all the time and have been fighting since their whole existence together. Until that one kiss I mentioned in the beginning. I mean they still fight but after that it opened both their eyes and they fought together and in different ways. Their relationship was hard won. They dealt with so much problems from like her not being accepted from the ton, a hateful duchess(his mum), people trying to murder her, but they both had a strong support team. They had eachother, a group of wonderful friends and some family members who were there for them. The only thing that I thought could've been better was the ending. In my opinion they married too abruptly. So thankfully there was a epilogue, and I'm glad I got to see there happily after.
Profile Image for Pia R.
44 reviews4 followers
July 27, 2022
Ghurl, ang marupok mo at tsaka si bhoy, ang gulo-gulo ng utak mo. The first hundred pages were cute albeit cliche. But bro, this duke can’t grovel properly and girl gets easily swept away just by staring at his face EVEN AFTER the duke publicly and privately humiliated her. I can’t-

Finishing it was frustrating. 2.75 ⭐️
Profile Image for Lina.
105 reviews30 followers
February 12, 2021
Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Publishing for providing me with an ARC of this book. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and in no way influenced by the publisher, author, or any third party.

Lately, I’ve been deeply enjoying period-themed pieces, especially those set in the 19th century England. When I saw a book that, at first glance, seemed to combine all my favourite tropes (regency era setting, enemies-to-lovers trope and promise of a good scandal combined with Indian representation—something I feel is definitely not as common as it should have been in this type of novels), well, you can bet I was not going to let it pass.

Dare to Be a Duchess is a historical romance centering around Lara Ramsay, the daughter of a British colonel and an Indian woman, who walks the precarious line at the edge of the ton, balancing between her own wish to be free and loved for who she is and the crushing expectations and prejudice of the ton. Enter Wolf, her adoptive uncle’s nephew (just to make it clear, they are not actually related in any way) whom she passionately hates—or doesn’t she? All that was needed was one chance encounter at a masquerade ball (which may or may not have included a certain alcove) and suddenly neither can stop pining over the other—which could present a problem, considering their relationship wouldn’t exactly be seen as appropriate in the eyes of the ton.

What made this book really stand out to me at first was the ‘own voices’ aspect of it. Considering Britain’s colonial history, it’s highly unlikely stories like that of Lara’s parents were that uncommon in real life, yet this is only the second book I came across that actually features it. I feel like that it leaves room for a nice little social discussion to be held, which is something I’ve been loving in books lately. Bhog didn’t delve too deep into it, but still I think it only added to the story.

My main problem with this book, though, was that I simply couldn’t connect with the characters enough to care about them, much less truly ship them and root for them to be together. The thing is, this book starts pretty much in medias res. No preamble whatsoever. There is this ball and the first big kiss happens pretty much immediately. No secret pining, no building tension. We are told that Lara and Wolf didn’t used to get along and that they used to always get on each other’s nerves—but we don’t see any of it. It’s like all those feelings came out of nowhere; which, sure, could happen. However, more often than not those feelings tend to build up over time, with both parties denying them so vehemently that when it comes to the last straw they feel equally surprised (and appalled). What happened here, though, was that we didn’t get to see the built-up tension—if there even was one in the first place. Instead the author chose to cross that line at the very beginning of the book (and then kept crossing it), cutting short even the denial phase afterwards, and filled the middle part by made-up obstacles that were supposed to put their relationship on trial and that kept getting more and more ridiculous. Maybe I would have cared more had I seen actual chemistry between Lara and Wolf in the first place, but as it is, the only reason why I kept reading was that it was weirdly entertaining.
With all that being said, there is another matter I would like to touch on: the amount of erotica in this book. I don’t really mind reading adult/erotica content, especially when it’s well written and I ship the characters. But this was just too much, too soon, and kind of without basis. To put it bluntly: there was barely anything to their relationship other than sex. And by barely anything, I mean nothing but dirty thoughts and occasional—almost—small talk. I know they used to know each other from before, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t supposed to get to know one another on a bit deeper level, develop a friendship of sort. Something more than “They lapsed into companionable chatter thereafter.” It honestly made the characters seem flat and one-dimensional—especially Wolf, whose entire personality seems to be disturbingly like that of an actual wolf.

Which brings me to my final point: the characters’ names. I can’t decide whether I found the fact that the love interest is literally called Wolf hilarious or if it made me kind of uncomfortable, but then I found out his friends were called Leo and Hawk and I just—couldn’t. I know those are all abbreviations and that back then most gentlemen were addressed by their surnames, but the fact that they are all called after animals and that no one, not even their families, used their first names made it sound really weird.

Overall, I would have liked it better had there been less telling and more showing going on.
Three stars for good writing style, own voices, and entertainment.
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