Special thanks to Zealous Quill Press for providing an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!
Goodreads: The Rigid Duke (Matchmaking Chronicles #1)
Publisher: Zealous Quill Press
Published: 08 March 2021
Genre: Historical Romance
As a refinement tutor, Mrs. Juno Langton helps young ladies develop the skills and confidence to secure an advantageous marriage. Her cheerful disposition never wavers no matter how challenging her assignment. When a house party provides an opportunity to match her difficult charge with a duke, Juno will go to any lengths to satisfy her employer and ensure the young lady’s future. Too bad the duke is an unsmiling, rigid grouch, albeit an irritatingly handsome one.
The Duke of Warrington dislikes social gatherings and despises the Marriage Mart which makes it nigh impossible to find a wife. He plans to secure his future duchess at a house party, but she’s being managed by a thoroughly meddlesome—and provocative—Mrs. Langton, who is determined to find his better nature. He’ll do anything to avoid her sunny charm and room-brightening smiles, but she’s breaking through his shell and the only way he can think to keep her quiet is to kiss her. He must marry the young lady, not desire the companion.
But now he’s rethinking his wife choices.
TL;DR: I’ve come to really enjoy Darcy Burke’s books ever since discovering her historical romances last year and The Rigid Duke was no different. It was an enjoyable grumpy/sunshine romance that’s slightly more sex than plot but was a quick and entertaining read that delivers a sweet HEA!
I have to admit that I was initially a little worried that this would end up being a bit of a “love triangle” situation as Juno, as Lady Marina’s refinement tutor, is playing matchmaker to her and the Duke at the house party because they both don’t like parties or people so everyone thought they’d make a perfect match. Thankfully, there was none of that mess here because it was clear from the beginning that the Duke was basically besotted by Juno and Marina had zero interest in him. I appreciated that this was a low drama and low angst romance and although there was still the “third act conflict” that sees them go their separate ways, they also very quickly come to their senses so it’s resolved almost immediately.
I really liked Juno’s character and her openness about searching out and having multiple lovers as a widow, and her boldness in (eventually) making the first move! It’s not often we see heroines in HR be so sexually open, and not in a negative way either, and I found it refreshing. She was an extremely loyal ray of sunshine and it was easy to root for her. In contrast, the Rigid Duke or Dare, as he’s known to the people he likes, was the epitome of a grumpy H. He’s surly, intimidating, and hardly ever smiled—except in the presence of Juno, of course. Though he eventually cracks around Juno, there’s very little depth to his character and I found that a pity because usually the grumpy ones have some kind of painful backstory where we learn what made them that way, but Dare doesn’t get that and that’s just the way he is? They do have great chemistry though and could hardly keep their hands off each other; plus this Duke liked it a little dirty, which led to some pretty steamy scenes 🥵 This definitely ended up being more sex than plot and y’know, that’s totally okay—so if you’re looking for a historical romance that’s fast-moving and steamy, you’ll probably want to check this out! That said, this was a little too insta-love for me. Bearing in mind that the whole house party took place over the course of several days totalling (I think) one week, this surely was more insta-lust than love? But if you’re looking for a HEA, have no fear because you get one here!
Other than Juno and Dare, there are a few supporting characters who make several appearances but I particularly liked the house party’s host, Lady Cosford, who also had a similarly sunny disposition to Juno and who became a good friend to her. I honestly would’ve loved to get to know her more but sadly, I found the supporting characters to be very flat! Overall though, this was a fun and easy read that I finished in one sitting but certainly not my favourite of Burke’s books.
Have you read The Rigid Duke or is it on your TBR?