Anyone But A Duke by Betina Krahn
I’ve absolutely loved this series about the Bumgarten ‘dollar princesses’, four American sisters making their way and meeting their matches in Victorian high society. This one is the story of Sarah, the youngest sister, an animal-loving girl just as strong-willed as her older sisters, and Arthur, Duke of Meridian, the man her eldest sister Daisy was supposed to marry in the first book of the series but ended up with his brother Ash instead. Arthur left to go travel the world and find himself, but things didn’t go the way he expected and he endured a great deal of hardship and privation by anyone’s standards, never mind that of a sheltered English lord.
Reeling from rejection by the man she hoped to marry, Sarah’s taken refuge at the ducal residence. Arthur is thought dead and Ashton and Daisy are living in New York, so she has free run of the place - the locals even call her ‘the duchess’. There’s trouble in paradise with a gang of troublemakers terrorising the locals, though, and when a handsome man turns up on her doorstep with a bullet hole in his shoulder, she can’t turn him away.
I was a little confused about why exactly Arthur didn’t announce himself the minute he arrived home, a choice which left an opening for his weasel cousin George to plant doubts in Sarah’s mind and which for me was never adequately explained. He had no cause to hide himself from Sarah; there was no external danger so far as he knew at that point, and waiting felt like something of a plot contrivance.
Nevertheless, Sarah and Arthur’s romance felt real and charming, with Sarah showing Arthur by example who he needed to be in order to be a duke for his people. She’s wonderfully indomitable, refusing to back down no matter how much danger she finds herself in, but her animal helpers Nero and Fancy are the true heroes of the story. Arthur’s drawn into her orbit inexorably, helpless against her charm.
Five stars for a delightful conclusion to this series, and I can hardly wait to see what Betina Krahn will write next!
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.