Duels and Deception by Cindy Anstey
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Publication Date: April 11, 2017
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher
Summary (from Goodreads):
Miss Lydia Whitfield, heiress to the family fortune, has her future entirely planned out. She will run the family estate until she marries the man of her late father's choosing, and then she will spend the rest of her days as a devoted wife. Confident in those arrangements, Lydia has tasked her young law clerk, Mr. Robert Newton, to begin drawing up the marriage contracts. Everything is going according to plan.
Until Lydia—and Robert along with her—is kidnapped. Someone is after her fortune and won't hesitate to destroy her reputation to get it. With Robert's help, Lydia strives to keep her family's good name intact and expose whoever is behind the devious plot. But as their investigation delves deeper and their affections for each other grow, Lydia starts to wonder whether her carefully planned future is in fact what she truly wants…
What I Liked:
It is no secret that I adore adult historical romance novels. Tessa Dare, Elizabeth Hoyt, Caroline Linden, Katharine Ashe... you name it, I've probably read it or heard of it, one of the two. Historical fiction set in the 1800s isn't super common in YA fiction, especially since when there is a YA novel set in the 1800s, it's usually of a story with paranormal or steampunk aspects - basically, not a purely historical fiction novel. Cindy Anstey's books are exceptional: they are YA historical fiction novels that anyone who loves adult historical romance will love.
Duels and Deception is a standalone novel, not related to Love, Lies and Spies in any sense (not a companion novel, not a sequel). It begins with Miss Lydia Whitfield meeting Mr. Robert Newton for the first time, in which Robert comes to Roseberry Hall (Lydia's home) to discuss important legal matters with Lydia and her uncle. Robert is the apprentice of the Whitfield's solicitor, Mr. Lynch. Lydia and Robert discuss mundane things like replacing the estate manager, and figuring out what to do about Lydia's greedy uncle... oh, and drawing up Lydia's marriage contract. Lydia has always know that she won't marry for love, and marrying her equally reluctant neighbor, Lord Aldershot, will suffice. So, the marriage contract is drafted. But while in town, Lydia and Robert are kidnapped, and only barely escape. And then someone starts threatening Lydia. Someone is trying to ruin Robert and extort a lot of money from Lydia - and they must find out who, before irreparable damage is done.
I am seriously in love with this book! I loved Love, Lies and Spies, which had been my favorite Swoon Reads book to date. Has anyone else been disappointed by the books published by Swoon Reads? They are hit-or-miss for me, mostly miss. But Cindy Anstey's books give me hope. Maybe it's because I love adult historical romance so much, maybe it's because her books have such swoony and undiluted romances, but Anstey's books are easily my favorite of the Swoon Reads line, and the best I've read by far.
Lydia is such a lovely young lady. She is clever and kind and selfless. Perhaps in the beginning she comes across as too selfless and agreeable - she puts her family first in everything, and puts up with so much. She stands to inherit everything when she comes of age (which is shortly, since she turns 18 soon), or marries. Her uncle, aunt, and two cousins live with her, since her father died. So she lives with them, her mother, and her sister, and she gives in to a lot of their crap, Lydia is so sweet and honestly a better person than I'd be. Family is so important but sometimes, family needs to be put in their place. I loved seeing the development of this character - Lydia becomes more vocal as the book goes on. In many ways, she was assertive to begin with - she is a bit of a control freak, which is why she is arranging her own marriage and drawing up the paperwork with Robert.
Robert! I love Robert. This book is writing in third-person limited POV, switching between Lydia and Robert. So Robert is equally as important in this story, as it is shared between him and Lydia. Robert is a new book boyfriend for sure! He is intelligent and hardworking and such a sweetheart. He's a gentleman to a fault, and always looks out for Lydia in a protective, loyal, sweet way. He's not an overly aggressive alpha type, but he is commanding and authoritative in a distinct way. He is an apprentice to become a lawyer, but he's also the third son of a nobleman (earl, I think?). Basically he is a good man and I want one of him! I'll take the excellent manners and kind but protective disposition any day.
The world-building is so flawlessly written. At no point did I feel like I was reading anything but an 1800s England story. The towns, the peerage, the mode of dress, the language/phrases, the customs and norms of society... Anstey has really done her research, because this world was created so well and so unshakably. I usually read and seek out anachronisms in historical fiction novels, because they're pretty common if you really look. But with this book, I'm not sure I found any! Or perhaps I was so captivated that I missed any.
I loved the light, fun tone of the book, with the sense of adventure, even with the terrible kidnapping and the harm that came to Robert and Lydia (Robert especially). The overall tone of the book was incredibly lighthearted and warm, which is so refreshing. YA books can be so grim, you know? This book was fun, and incredibly enjoyable. I was hooked from start to finish.
The romance made my heart so happy! I finished the book with a serious case of the warm and fuzzies. Yes, it might seem like there might be some sort of love triangle or something, with Lydia drawing up a marriage contract for her and Aldershot. But they're not engaged, and Aldershot is enamored with someone else, and Lydia doesn't care for him - she sees marrying him as duty. When she meets Robert, this changes, and the more time she spends with him, the more seriously she considers not marrying to preserve family honor and such. Trust me, there is no love triangle.
The romance between Robert and Lydia is so adorable and swoony. Once they meet, you can clearly see how much the two of them want to be in the other's company. Eventually it gets to the point in which they are always thinking about each other, which is so cute. There are so many swoony moments in this book, even though there isn't a ton of actually touching going on (I mean it's 1800s England, what do you expect). I loved watching these two fall for each.
And I loved the ending! It's perfect! You might wonder how there could be some sort of ending, with Lydia being a rich heiress, and Robert being an apprentice (though he is the third son of an earl - I think it's an earl). But the author pulls it off really nicely. The ending is excellent and the whole story is wonderful - trust me!
What I Did Not Like:
I don't really have any dislikes! Maybe more kisses? Every book needs more kisses...
Would I Recommend It:
I highly recommend this book especially if you love adult historical romance! It's a very "clean" version of an adult historical romance novel, like Tessa Dare's or Elizabeth Hoyt's. And with the wonderful characters and swoony romance, I think any YA reader would enjoy this book.
4.5 stars. I'm trying to decide if I want to round up or down, so I'm going with down for now! This book and Anstey's debut novel, Love, Lies and Spies, are so brilliant, and probably Swoon Reads's best books (in my opinion). I really hope Anstey writes more YA historical fiction for Swoon Reads, because I am impressive and dying for more!
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