One Dance With a Duke, by Tessa Dare

One of 2009’s freshest voices, Tessa Dare, is back with another trilogy this summer, The Stud Club (you must check out the book trailer; it’s hilarious). The first book, One Dance with a Duke, was released on May 25, with Twice Tempted by a Rogue and Three Nights with a Scoundrel to follow on June 22 and July 27, respectively.

The premise is this: Likable Leo Chatwick is murdered, bringing together the three remaining members of his Stud Club, Spencer Dumarque, Rhys St. Maur and Julian Bellamy. No, it’s not a male gigolo service. It’s men who play games of chance in order to score tokens that, once collected, mean ownership of a very special racehorse, Osiris. In One Dance with a Duke, Spencer has very personal reasons for wanting sole ownership of Osiris, but when he meets Lady Amelia d’Orsay, the real game of chance begins… for the ownership of their hearts! 

I think what I like most about Dare’s books is how she writes. While romance novels all have a certain “stock” vocabulary, there is nothing pat or regurgitated about her narrative style. She has creative ways of describing things, so the reader doesn’t feel like they’re experiencing the same ol’ formula.

The Duke of Morland had spent the past several hours assaulting her feelings with one rude, arrogant remark after the other. The man had no notion of polite discourse.

But this kiss… now, this kiss was a conversation.

And though Dare writes in third person, there’s an intimacy to it that makes you hear Spencer and Amelia as though the book were in first person. For instance, see this excerpt after Amelia nervously reveals (three times!) what her middle initial stands for — and then realizes she’s attracted to Spencer:

He’s horrid, she silently told herself. Loutish, arrogant, insufferable! He refused to release Jack from debt. He insulted you. He bodily hauled you from a ballroom and then offered you money to please just go away! And for heaven’s sake, you are on your way to tell Lily Chatwick her twin brother is dead. You are a depraved, deranged woman, Amelia Claire-Claire-Claire d’Orsay!

But Amelia isn’t depraved or deranged. She’s warm, funny, devoted to her family and just what the solitary Spencer needs. It’s through her that he learns the value of not only romantic love, but of friendship and being a good parent. I love novels where the protagonists are strong individuals and yet flexible enough to learn from one another. That’s something that One Dance with a Duke definitely has to offer.

My only beefs with the book were more or less cosmetic: If the cover model is supposed to represent a bountifully built Amelia, I’m a zaftig monkey’s uncle. And since the book was deeply entrenched in Amelia and Spencer’s perspectives, the question of Lily’s deafness didn’t feel as fleshed out. She had such natural, easy conversations in the group scenes, that I had to constantly remind myself she can’t hear. Hopefully we’ll gain more insight into how she functions in her and Julian’s book, Three Nights with a Scoundrel.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that three nights with any member of Tessa Dare’s Stud Club is time well-spent!

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