I’m familiar with the name Elizabeth Boyle, but this is the first one of her novels that I’ve read. I was drawn to it by the Cinderella element. Heroine Tabitha Timmons begins Along Came a Duke as a penniless spinster but soon becomes an heiress due to the death of her uncle. But the money comes with strings – she must marry Mr. Reginald Barkworth by her twenty-fifth birthday, which is only two weeks away.
Unfortunately, Tabitha meets the Duke of Preston right before hearing the news. The two keep running into each other and soon the sparks are flying. Tabitha, who doesn’t know Preston is a duke, entrances him because she isn’t out to marry him. He enjoys her forthrightness. Meanwhile, Tabitha has been overlooked in a village that’s mostly women. Preston is the first man who she’s spent much time with, and he makes an effort to talk to her, teach her to dance, and otherwise be charming.
Along Came a Duke is one of two books I’ve read recently featuring a hero ostracized by society. Normally romance heroes can get away with anything, so I like this element. Preston ruined the reputations of several young women and emptied the pockets of many men as well, and society has decided that it’s time he learn to obey the rules. His aunt orders him to marry a respectable woman in order to restore his own reputation. I don’t like that the novel never explains what happens to Kipps, the young man whose ruination precipitated Preston’s shunning. Preston never much cares that he ruined the man and his dependent’s lives, and that callousness is hard to overcome when reading about his flirtation.
Tabitha is a fish out of water, in addition to being a Cinderella father. She never expected to leave her father’s vicarage; she even stayed there after his death, working as a servant to her aunt and uncle. Going to London, being outfitted with new clothes, and being introduced to Society is so overwhelming that she doesn’t have much time to ponder her uncle’s strange will. And if she thinks the condition of marriage odd, it’s not like her remaining uncle and guardian would give her access to the will so that she might know the terms and plan her own life. (C’mon, this is a romance, we all know there is a way out of the betrothal.) At times I did wish Tabitha was a more forceful figure. She stands up to Preston but never says boo to her aunt and uncle, even after she no longer has to depend on their charity. She does get her chance to shine at the climax, thankfully.
As for the fiance, he’s a boring nonentity.
I enjoyed Along Came a Duke and look forward to reading the next book in the Rhymes With Love series. It’s a quick read that made me smile quite often. I finished reading it much faster than I expected because I just kept reading it instead of picking it up between chores, as was the original plan. Along Came a Duke is a pleasant introduction to Boyle’s writing.
“A young lady with a fortune is subject to all sorts of untoward attentions by the worst sort of vagrants.” Aunt Allegra
A lesson Tabitha Timmons, a penniless spinster, has never needed to heed. That is, until she is left a vast fortune payable only upon her marriage to the very respectable Mr. Barkworth—a match that offers little chance of discovering exactly what her aunt means by “untoward attentions.”
But the same can’t be said when the Duke of Preston happens along Tabitha’s path. He spies a rebellious streak in her that matches his own and he makes it his mission to save her from such a passionless match, interfering in her life at every turn. All too soon, Preston—whose very name spells ruin—has Tabitha caught between the good fortune that guarantees her security, and his kiss, which promises an entirely different kind of happily-ever-after.
Read an excerpt here.