Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: May 25, 2010
Series or Standalone: Stud Club #1
Links: Amazon – Barnes & Noble – Goodreads
One Dance With a Duke kicks off Tessa Dare’s second series, The Stud Club. Before the “But Do The Bang?” Tessa Dare readalong, I had never read this series or the Wanton Dairymaid series. After not really enjoying the Wanton Dairymaid series, I was a bit hesitant about her second series despite being a fan of everything she’s published since Spindle Cove. However, this book felt so much more like the Tessa Dare books I know and love! It felt like a full 180 from her first series.
Spencer Dumarque, the Duke of Morland, cares little for society and would much rather spend time with his horses. However, when he forces himself to attend a society event he shows up at 11:30pm and chooses one woman to dance, earning him the moniker of “The Midnight Duke.” He follows this routine at every ball, except for the night wallflower Amelia d’Orsay claims his dance to try to get him to waive the massive debt her brother Jack has racked up with him. This one dance changes everything and afterwards Amelia and Spencer get wrapped up in trying to solve the murder of Leo, the founder of the Stud Club, an exclusive horse club that grants members breeding rights to the prized race horse Osiris.
I truly loved this book! The signature wit and banter that I’ve come to expect from Tessa Dare was there from the first page and in every interaction between Amelia and Spencer. The writing style felt so much more fun and fluid than the Wanton Dairymaid series – it almost felt like they were from different authors! This book and its characters are much more aligned with the stories I’ve come to expect from Dare.
Speaking of characters, Amelia and Spencer made this book for me. I loved how sharp, smart and strong Amelia was. I feel like she doesn’t see herself that way, but she really took her own destiny in her hands and wasn’t afraid to call out Spencer when he is acting pig-headed. Their first interaction is perfect – I loved how she took her destiny into her own hands and pulled him for a dance to get what she wanted, gossip and drama be damn. Amelia is also very much someone who needs to care and protect those she loves – her love language is clearly acts of service for others. This is both good and bad as it does lead her to make some foolish choices out of love for her wastrel of a brother. And then we have Spencer. I feel like he could easily be a hard character to love if we also didn’t spend so much time in his head. He seems very cold and arrogant at times, but he also clearly has feelings towards Amelia, he just doesn’t always know the proper way to express them. He also cares way too much for his horses and getting Osiris (like he’s obsessed), but once you learn why, my heart melted for him. He clearly suffers from social anxiety and I love Dare’s portrayal of that and how Amelia helped him through it.
Amelia and Spencer feel like total opposites a lot of times, but they work together so well. The banter and chemistry between them is bursting off the page. I loved watching Spencer, who clearly has no idea how to express his emotions properly, bumble his way through showing how much he cares for Amelia. He would literally do something, like give Amelia an ultimatum (BAD IDEA) and think “I shouldn’t have done that” but not know how to remedy the situation. I feel like I shouldn’t like that, but it made him endearing to me as it felt like such a human thing to do. Amelia also could hold her own against him and call him out when he says boorish things – she had this inner spark that would come out when she butted heads with him. I also honestly wasn’t expecting them to get married so early on (much less Amelia agree to it!) but it was fun watching them develop feelings for each other. The romance tugged at my heartstrings a lot. Dare also managed to give us some pretty sexy scenes in this one! The one scene with the dressing room table – whew!
While I overall really enjoyed this one, I did get a little annoyed with Amelia at the end. She is a great character, but I felt like her loyalty and devotion to her brother went overboard in the end. Jack clearly has a gambling problem and by trying to continually help him, she ends up enabling him. It felt like a very real portrayal of the conflict families go through when a loved one struggles with addiction. She didn’t want to hear anything Spencer said, which was coming from a place of caring, as she was so focused on her brother. Jack ends up doing a pretty terrible thing at the end of the book which finally opens Amelia’s eyes to how bad his problem is, but I hated that Jack almosted ended Spencer and Amelia’s relationship.I also felt she totally overreacted when Spencer bought Briarbrook – her family’s cottage and the one place she’s felt truly happy. He clearly bought it to show his love for her and she ended up throwing it in his face.
One Dance With a Duke is a strong opener to the Stud Club series and I’m so excited to get the stories for the other two members and see how the overarching series mystery of Leo’s death. This book felt like a breath of fresh air after the Wanton Dairymaid series and I can already tell I’m going to like it significantly more. The humor and banter, plus the strong and nontraditional female characters and complex male characters, that I’ve come to associate with Dare’s writing are definitely reflected in this book. Any fans of Dare’s more recent series will definitely enjoy this and it’s a great entry into historical romance if you’ve never read one before as well.