ARC Review: The Duke Gets Even by Joanna Shupe

The Duke Gets Even by Joanna Shupe
The Duke Gets Even
Joanna Shupe
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: January 24, 2023
Series or Standalone:The Fifth Avenue Rebels #4
Links: Amazon Barnes & NobleGoodreadsStoryGraph
Rating: 3.5 Stars

MY REVIEW

CW: domestic violence; domestic abuse; chronic illness

I so desperately wanted to love this one as I adore Joanna Shupe and have been dying for Nellie and Lockwood’s story since I read The Heiress Hunt. Unfortunately, this fell short of my expectations. I felt something was missing from Nellie and Lockwood’s relationship that stopped me from falling head over heels in love. 

Nellie Young purposely ruined her reputation a long time ago to escape the shackles of marriage. She kisses who she wants, when she wants, including a handsome stranger in the ocean under the moonlight. To save his estate, the Duke of Lockwood must marry the perfect bride – wealthy and with an unblemished reputation. He plays the perfect gentleman while repressing his darkest desires. And after a few failed engagement efforts, the last thing he needs is another scandal. But Nellie sees through his charade to the man he is beneath – and she cannot resist him. When they agree to an affair, it’s far more than either of them expected.

Now don’t get me wrong, this book is hot. This might be Joanna Shupe’s hottest and horniest book yet, and I absolutely loved that. I did think the chemistry between Nellie and Lockwood was fantastic – no one writes sexual tension quite like Joanna Shupe. From their first meeting, I couldn’t wait to see these two circle around each other, as the tension was delicious. 

But, as much as I loved the chemistry and tension, I felt like the romance was missing for me. I wanted to see more progression from Nellie and Lockwood’s relationship than we got. The timeline and pacing of this book are a little wonky as it spans all the previous books and we get a lot of small chance encounters between Lockwood and Nellie. I found that hampered the relationship progression as they didn’t spend much time together. I wanted more moments of them getting to know each other one-on-one, especially as their relationship starts out contentiously. I wanted to see the feeling and relationship be developed and teased out more before jumping to them both start thinking, “I love you.” 

The book did take a bit of a turn towards the end to focus on sexual reproductive freedom, which I was not expecting but ended up loving. Shupe would have written this book before Roe v. Wade was overturned in June 2022, so little did she know how relevant this discussion would become. The parallels between 1895 and 2023 are eerie. I was so sad and frustrated that over 100+ years later, women are still fighting for the same fundamental right to autonomy over our own bodies. The Comstock Laws are eerily similar to what people are trying to push today, and the Comstock Laws are still being cited today to prevent women from gaining access to contraceptives. I think Nellie says it best with my feelings on this matter:

“Women have the right to decide when to start or expand their family. These unjust laws would rather keep us ignorant, forbid us to any control whatsoever on reproduction. I won’t stop until Mr. Comstock’s restrictive policies are revoked, and contraceptives are accepted as decent and necessary for all people.”

One of the reasons I loved Nellie was her devotion to fighting for women’s reproductive rights and freedom. She’s incredibly independent and flouts the expectations for high-society women of the time, and I admire her for that. She’s her own woman and won’t let anyone try to change that. She always reads a little older than her 22 years to me because she is confident and self-aware. I also adored her relationship with her father – he might be one of my all-time favorite dads in historical romance, as he was so loving and supportive.

With Lockwood, I wanted to know him better than I did. He’s always been a bit of an enigma in the other books in the series. While we learn more about him and his history, I still felt I didn’t actually know him all that well. Some of his reasoning for his actions kept making me scratch my head. But if you like a starchy, proper Duke who comes undone in the bedroom with a filthy mouth, Lockwood delivers on that. I also adored his devotion towards Nellie – this man worships her, and we love to see that.

The Duke Gets Even is one of the books that have fallen victim to sky-high expectations. I hyped this book up so much in my mind, and it failed to deliver exactly what I was looking for. Now, that’s not to say this is a bad book. I still really enjoyed it, but it didn’t blow my socks off, and I wanted more. I can see my thoughts potentially changing on a reread of this book, but on the first read, it didn’t deliver what I expected.

Thank you to Avon/Netgalley for the ARC. All thoughts, ideas, and opinions expressed in this review are my own.

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