Publisher: Avon Books
Publication Date: July 26, 2022
Series or Standalone: Awakened by a Kiss #3
Links: Amazon – Barnes & Noble – Goodreads
A Duchess by Midnight is a smart, fun twist on the Cinderella tale in the final book in Charis Michaels’ Awakened by a Kiss series. While I enjoyed reading this book, it felt like something was missing and I cannot quite put my finger on what it is.
Miss Drewsmina “Drew” Trelayne is a former ugly duckling and wicked step-sister. Raised by a truly heinous mother, Drew has made peace with her orange hair and bean-pole height. She hopes to help other ugly ducklings and wallflowers find the confidence they need to succeed in Society by opening her own finishing school. But to open a finishing school, one needs paying clients. Ian Clayblack, the Duke of Lachlan, lives alone in Dorset following a scandal with Luddite riots on his estate. But when his estranged sister shows up with two vagabond nieces in tow, Ian realizes he needs to venture back into London society to provide them with a better life and get them the polishing they need to succeed in their debut. Thanks to some meddling from Drew’s stepsister Cynde (now a princess), Ian ends up being Drew’s first paying client. And while Drew has charmed Ian’s nieces into opening up, she’s also charmed him, and they cannot deny the growing attraction brewing between them. When they’re caught in a scandalous, nothing short of marriage can prevent a scandal. But can a marriage made in haste lead to more?
Of the three books in the Awakened by a Kiss series, this book is definitely the steamiest! The two previous books are much more of a slow burn, but Drew and Ian had chemistry and acted upon it pretty quickly. Let’s just say, I’m never going to look at birdwatching the same way after this book. And while I’m not usually the biggest fan of the marriage of convenience trope, I found this one enjoyable as there was good chemistry, and I enjoyed the forced proximity. However, I did feel like the “I love yous” came on pretty quickly, especially when you realize how long Ian and Drew actually knew each other.
One of the things I loved about this book was the characters. Ian was different than most Dukes that you find in historical romance. He’s a bit of an outcast from society, but this man genuinely wants to do right by everyone in his life. His heart is in the right place when it comes to his family and his tenants. I loved that he wanted to use his position and privilege to help those he cares about. I also liked Drew, but I struggled a little bit to get a solid read on her. We hear more about her mean girl tendencies than see any of them. It was hard for me to reconcile the mean girl Drew with the current Drew as the Drew we get to know in the book seems so nice and caring for other people. I admired her drive to start her own business and loved her approach to helping Ivy and Imogene come out of their shells.
Outside our main character, we also get fantastic secondary characters – they made the book for me. I absolutely adored Drew’s nieces Ivy and Imogene. Imogene is probably my favorite character in the whole book. She’s got a heart of gold that she hides behind a tough exterior and smartmouth. You can tell her personality is a coping mechanism to protect herself and her sister – she had to be strong and outspoken to survive living in a cult. I adore her little matchmaking schemes as it showed she actually really cared about Drew and Ian. I would love to get a spinoff romance focused on her as I felt like she’s such a firecracker. Ivy, by contrast, was much more delicate and softspoken. They dealt with trauma differently, but it was good to see her come out of her shell. I also loved learning more about their mother and Ian’s sister Lady Tribble. That poor woman has so much guilt over her actions, but she did what she thought was best after losing the love of her life and being swept up with grief.
This book would be a great one for someone new to the historical romance genre as it does a great job providing an overview of the rules of Regency England. As an avid historical romance reader, this did feel a little tedious to me as there were a lot of scenes explaining things I already knew. A lot of the plot was based on Drew teaching Ivy and Imogene the rules of society, so it felt inescapable. However, this book also had a lot of other plotlines woven. From smugglers to TOE to an evil stepmom, there were lots of side plots to the point where it felt like there were almost too many things going on. I’m not sure that all the plot points paid off in the end – some did, but others felt like they didn’t.
If you’re looking for a fun, charming twist on a classic fairytale, you’ll love A Duchess by Midnight. While my feelings are a bit mixed on this book, I did enjoy reading it and would definitely still recommend it. Charis Michaels‘ books are always a lot of fun with some humor woven in and this was no exception. It was just missing that special something to make me love it.
Thank you to Avon/Netgalley for the ARC. All thoughts, ideas and opinions expressed in this review are my own.