Stevie Carroll's Reviews > A Duke in Disguise

A Duke in Disguise by Cat Sebastian
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Previously reviewed on The Good, The Bad, and The Unread:

Any book that references a specific, preferably lesser known, episode of civil unrest from the 18th or 19th Century is going to score points with me. So I was happy to see this one, set mostly in the bookselling and publishing area of Holywell Street in London, referencing the Pentrich Rising of 1817. Of course the location and setting was a great inducement for me to keep reading as well. Verity Plum runs a bookseller’s and printer’s shop with her more radical brother, and lets out rooms to struggling authors and artists. When her great friend and on-off lodger Ash – John Ashby – returns for the first time in four years, in search of a temporary place to stay, she enlists his help in keeping her brother from being arrested due to his support of the would-be rebels arrested around Pentrich.

Ash is happy to do whatever he can to help Verity. She and her brother are the closest thing to family he has, especially now the man who raised him has moved abroad for the sake of his health. Ash would have loved to travel as well, but he suffers greatly from both seasickness and epileptic episodes and so is forced to remain in England. Not so Verity’s brother. His sister and friends arrange for him to travel to America with his young apprentice, in the hope that they will be safe from the legal repercussions of various inflammatory pamphlets published by the Plums. This leaves Ash and Verity as the house’s only current residents and they find themselves growing closer. Ash, however, learns the truth about his origins – he is the heir to a dukedom, who was spirited away as a young child rather than have to face his family’s prejudices against his epilepsy and, in all likelihood, end his days in an asylum.

Reluctant to lose Verity, who is vehemently opposed to the concept of the aristocracy, Ash conceals the reasons he is working for his newly-discovered aunt – and protecting her from the obnoxious men in her family – while also helping both her and Verity by producing engravings for them, in Verity’s case to illustrate an erotic novel she is planning to publish, and in his aunt’s case, to better preserve the likenesses of the plants she has collected from all over the world.

In the end, the truth has to come out, when Ash realises that the only way to properly safeguard his aunt is to initiate a legal case against the man who believes himself the heir to the title that is rightfully Ash’s. This leads to some nasty actions being taken against Ash and his friends, while Verity agonises over the choice she must make between her heart and her deep-seated political beliefs.

I liked the idea of this book very much, although its execution felt a little flat to me. I couldn’t manage to engage with the characters, not even the wonderfully bisexual Verity, and also wish I hadn’t had to wait so long between the previous book and this sequel, because then I might have picked up earlier on whom Verity’s former lover was in relation to that story. All in all, a quite well-plotted and carefully researched book that just didn’t hit the spot in the way a lot of similar books have for me.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
September 7, 2019 – Finished Reading
September 8, 2019 – Shelved
September 8, 2019 – Shelved as: reviewed-elsewhere

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