By Charis Michaels
Publication Date: November 10, 2020
Series or Standalone: Awakened by a Kiss #1
Links: Amazon – Barnes & Noble – Goodreads
Now, this is how you do a fairytale retelling! I’m not usually a big fan of fairytale retellings, particularly in historical romance, but Charis Michaels’ A Duchess a Day is a pure delight. Not only does Michaels manage to make an old tale feel new, but she also manages to weave in the whimsy and fantastical elements into a heart-warming romance.
Lady Helena Lark has been trying to escape her engagement to the dreadful Duke of Lusk. She’s tried everything to get out of it – from running away to pretending to be mad – but the Duke’s uncle has had enough of it and brings her to stay in their townhouse to get her to walk down the aisle. However, the Duke’s uncle doesn’t trust having her in the townhouse will be enough to get her to walk down the aisle. He hires Declan Shaw, a mercenary who ended up in Newgate prison after being set up on a previous job, to watch Helena. Declan’s willing to do anything to get out of prison and help provide for his family, even if it means babysitting what he assumes is a spoiled heiress. However, when he meets Helena, she isn’t anything like he expected. He quickly ends up as an accomplice in her latest scheme to undo her betrothal – finding another duchess candidate that the Duke of Lusk will fall head over heels in love with so he breaks the engagement. Even though Declan’s freedom rests on Helena marrying the Duke, he cannot stop wanting to help her. And the more closely they work together, the more they can’t seem to keep their hands – or lips – off each other.
This was such a fun spin on the Snow White tale, focusing on the Huntsman. I loved how Michaels took the key elements of the traditional tale and turned it into something new. Also, I’m a sucker for a bodyguard romance, and this was a perfectly executed one. I loved that you could clearly see the fairytale influences in the story, yet Michaels wasn’t married to keeping every little element of the traditional tale in the story. She picked certain features to include and play up while leaving others out completely, which really helped this feel fresh and new. I found myself grinning as I came across the allusions to the original tale. For example, instead of the seven dwarves, we get the seven duchess candidates. Instead of poisonous apples, we get Helena’s apple orchard. Instead of an enchanted mirror, we get a cruel game called “Mirror, Mirror.”
Despite this being a spin on a classic story, I honestly wasn’t sure how the whole plot would play out towards the end – and I loved that! Fairytale retellings can be very predictable, but this one felt anything but. I also really loved Michaels’ Snow White character. I usually HATE Snow White-type characters, but Knightly Snow was a TREAT!
Speaking of characters, how could I not talk about our two leads? Declan Shaw and Helena Lark are my new favorite romantic couple. The chemistry between these two was amazing. They literally couldn’t keep their hands and lips off each other. While this book is relatively light on the sexy times, we get so many great kissing scenes! Both Declan and Helena are constantly saying we shouldn’t be kissing, yet in they go for a kiss….and oh another kiss….and maybe just one more…and this is the last kiss seriously. It’s perfect. I was living for those kissing scenes. I think it really ramped up the sexual tension in their relationship and showed how these two were meant to be together regardless of the barriers between them. There was no denying the connection they had. Also, that scene outside the museum? One of my favorites in the book.
Outside of Helena and Declan’s romantic relationship, I also really loved them as individual characters. I was sold on Helena almost immediately. She’s such a fierce, smart and savvy female character who is willing to do anything to ensure her own happiness. She doesn’t need a man to save her, though she’s not above enlisting Declan to help her. I loved that she knew her own mind and wasn’t afraid to go after what she wanted.
Declan was the perfect match for Helena. Despite him being her pseudo-bodyguard, Declan quickly realizes there is more to Helena than meets the eye. She’s a force to be reckoned with. I loved that he didn’t try to stifle her spirit and admired her for her independence and intelligence. Even though his freedom was on the line, he was willing to give that up so she could be happy. Also, I’ve got to say, he was a terrible bodyguard/spy. She caught on to him almost immediately and, despite this, told him her whole plan, which caught him by surprise, and I think, helped endear her to him. Also, I feel like, with bodyguard romance, the guy can sometimes be a massive alpha male and overbearing, and we didn’t really get any of that with Declan. He was a pretty big softie who fell HARD.
I haven’t been this surprised by a book in ages! As I sit here writing this review, I have a massive grin on my face as I think about this story. It gave me the warm-fuzzy feelings inside while reading it.
This book manages to capture the magic of fairy tales through its romance. Everything about it worked perfectly, and I know this is another book I can add to my rereading rotation when I need something that will give me a pick me up.
I’m so glad I gave this a try and I’m so looking forward to diving into book two in the Awakened by Kiss series, which gives us Michaels’ twist on Tinker Bell. If A Duchess a Day wasn’t on your radar yet, add it now! You won’t be disappointed.