My weekly romance picks are influenced by a variety of things from buzz, reviews or personal faves. I try to chop it up so that there’s something for everyone along the way. There are two elements that are always in the mix – there must be a love story (obvs) and representation of diverse and #ownvoices whenever possible.
Courtney Milan played an instrumental role in pushing the Romance Writers of America to acknowledge and correct their endorsement of romances with racial stereotypes. This journey remains ongoing, and Milan, a former RWA board member, ultimately resigned from the organization.
Understanding Milan’s story gives the reading of The Duke Who Didn’t even more layers. It’s a well-written and engaging novel absent of any knowledge of Milan’s backstory, but awareness of her story allows it to pack a punch.
The Duke Who Didn’t is a Regency romance set in Wedgeford, a small village in England, which hosts an annual game called The Trials. For most of the year, Wedgeford is a small and sleepy village, but The Trials brings in participants and spectators from far and wide. Chloe Fong is the sensible, determined, list-making daughter of Mr. Fong, a renowned cook whose previous sauce recipe was claimed by the English as their own, leaving their family virtually penniless. Chloe has dedicated the last several years to helping her father unveil a new sauce at this year’s Trials.
Preparations are going well until Chloe’s childhood sweetheart Jeremy Wentworth returns to the village, leaving Chloe unsettled and unable to keep focused on her ever-present to-do list. While Jeremy is known to be rich, earning the monniker of Posh Jim, what no one knows is that he is the Duke of Lansing, and owns the town of Wedgeford.
There are many interesting ideas about identity woven throughout this novel. What do people think they know about us because of our circumstances or appearance? What do we not want people to know about us, and why? Even if we are of the same background – Jeremy and Chloe are both Chinese – does that make us the same?
One of the reasons I love romance so much is that at its core, every romance is ultimately about the universal language of love and its power to unite if it is allowed to catch fire.
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