One Night with a Duke by Erica Ridley
Though all the novellas in this series stand pretty well alone, I think this one is best read in conjunction with Dawn with a Duke, since it follows Jonathan McLean, the other half of the partnership behind the Fit for a Duke clothing enterprise. Arriving in Cressmouth, Jonathan is annoyed to be stranded for a few days awaiting his partner’s arrival. Exploring the town, he meets jeweller Angelica Parker, and finds himself enchanted.
I loved the fact that Angelica was a Black woman running her own business, and a skilled one at that, in the Regency era. Nor does the author shy away from pointing out that Black people were experiencing racism and discrimination at the time in England, although we don’t really see Angelica experience it directly. Jonathan is a gadfly, a man who never returns to the same town twice, but in Cressmouth he starts to realise maybe there can be something good about living in a place where everyone knows your name.
I did really enjoy this, but I think it was just too short and all wrapped up too neatly and rapidly. It was a story that justified a full book rather than a novella, because both Angelica and Jonathan had a lot of story to tell and I’m not sure it was really done justice here; it felt too rushed.
And as a hobby jeweller, I was wincing at the timeframes Angelica was apparently working in, without so much as an apprentice to help her out. You couldn’t do that today, using modern equipment, without some help. The author had the right tools and terminology, but Angelica should have had a shop assistant to handle sales and at least one apprentice to do the grunt work of cleaning and polishing anyway, with the rate of production she was apparently keeping up. Of course, said assistant and apprentice would have been thoroughly in the way of the romance, so I understand the artistic licence being taken… but perhaps just a few less pieces being made would have made it more believable to me, at least.
I’m not going to knock off a star for the jewellery thing because most people wouldn’t have a clue that it was even an issue, but I am going to take one off because I think the story was simply too rushed. It’s an enjoyable read but too much was skimmed over.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.