Loretta Chase continues to prove her reputation as a queen of Regency romances with the second title in her Difficult Dukes series, Ten Things I Hate About the Duke. When a troublemaking duke and a plain-speaken heroine cross paths, again and again, sporting banter isn’t the only thing that starts to take shape between them.
The exploits of Lucius Beckingham, Duke of Ashmont, are known far and wide: There hasn’t been a spot of trouble he’s left alone or failed to wiggle out of, relatively unscathed. Surprisingly, he does have standards; besmirching a woman’s name is one thing he tries incredibly hard not to do. He’s a bit of a bull in a china shop, but a very charming bull at that.
Cassandra Pomfret has a notoriously sharp tongue and her frustrated father is running out of ways to temper her, well, temper. By tying Cassandra’s fate with her beloved sister’s marriage prospects, he hopes she’ll learn to think before she speaks. Her younger sister, Hyacinth, shan’t marry until she does. When one of Lucius’ scrapes threatens to ruin Cassandra’s reputation, he takes it upon himself to court and marry her, an action which she would never encourage if not for her concern for her sister’s prospects.
If you’re sensing similarities to The Taming of the Shrew and 10 Things I Hate About You, you’re not wrong! This is a rom-com lovers’ delight, complete with period clothing and sneaky flirting around the rules of propriety. Chase effortlessly weaves those allusions in without making the romance feel derivative.
Years earlier, Lucius was Cassandra’s childhood crush. She was hopelessly in love with him, but now all she feels is irritation, exasperation and . . . attraction. They show their growing love for one another differently and it’s utterly adorable; smitten doesn’t even begin to cover it. Bickering and banter is the ultimate foreplay between Cassandra and Lucius, and Chase builds tantalizing frustration in both the characters and readers. You will scream, “Just kiss already!” multiple times. Chase is a tease of the highest order, but always delivers satisfyingly.
There are tropes aplenty with something to delight even the most discerning of readers. Lucius is a bit of a himbo (a slang term for a handsome but not very bright man), a hapless golden retriever in a human body, who is earnest and open toward those he cares about. There’s a fake engagement of sorts, with Cassandra and Lucius forced into repeated proximity. And, as I mentioned before, it’s a retelling that taps into a story held near and dear to romance readers’ hearts.
Though this is the second book in a series, it stands fine on its own. If you’re new to Chase's work, I encourage you to jump in with both feet. Ten Things I Hate About the Duke is magical, romantic and simply wonderful.