While the Duke Was Sleeping by Sophie Jordan
Book One of the Rogue Files series
Publication Date: October 25, 2016
Rating: 4 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss
Summary (from Goodreads):
Sometimes the man of your dreams . . .
Shop girl Poppy Fairchurch knows it’s pointless fantasizing about the Duke of Autenberry. Still, dreams can’t hurt anyone . . . unlike the carriage Poppy spies bearing down upon the unsuspecting duke. After she pulls him to safety, the duke lapses into a coma and Poppy is mistaken for his fiancée. But one person isn’t fooled: his arrogant and much too handsome half-brother, Struan Mackenzie. Soon Poppy isn’t sure what she wants more . . . the fantasy of her duke or the reality of one smoldering Scot who challenges her at every turn.
. . . is not who you think.
An illegitimate second son, Struan may have built an empire and established himself as one of the wealthiest men in Britain, but he knows he will always be an outsider among the ton. Just like he knows the infuriating Poppy is a liar. There’s no way the haughty Duke of Autenberry would deign to wed a working class girl. It doesn’t matter how charming she is. Or tempting. Or how much Struan wants her for himself.
What I Liked:
I actually wasn't sure that I would enjoy this book, since the premise was all about a girl who is infatuated with one man from afar, but really falls in love with another. BUT, this book surprised me! The romance was so fun and steamy and shippy. Jordan's historical romance novels have been good and not-so-good, for me, but this one was great.
Poppy Fairchurch is a shopgirl, working in a florist's shop. One of the shop's best customers is the Duke of Autenberry, who comes every week to buy flowers for a different woman (doubtless his various paramours). The first time Poppy sees him, she is totally infatuated. She builds a fantasy in her head that they fall in love, and get married... despite the fact that neither has said more than five words to each other. One day, she sees the Duke punch another man, and a fight ensues. She runs to stop the fight, and the Duke gets hurt to the point of a coma. When she accompanies him and the stranger (who turns out to be the Duke's half-brother), Poppy is beside herself. She mutters something along the lines of "we're to be married someday, remember?"... and the housekeeper hears her muttering, and mistakes Poppy as the Duke's fiancee (the Duke has no fiancee though). Soon everyone is convinced that Poppy is Autenberry's fiance (the dowager duchess, the Duke's siblings, even Struan Mackenzie, the Duke's half-brother from the fight). But Poppy finds herself drawn to the half-brother, and not the Duke. As the Duke lies in a coma, Poppy plays along with her lie, and she and Struan get closer. But what will happen when the Duke awakes?
Like I said, this book's premise didn't really appeal to me, so I wasn't sure I'd like this book. Even if Poppy is simply pretending to be the fiancee... she is infatuated with Autenberry. But as the story progresses, we can clearly see that she adores the idea of Autenberry - the idea she has in her head. Who he really is, that's a completely different story.
So, Poppy is a romantic and a dreamer. She follows her heart and not always her head, though she is clever. She feels awful about the lie, and would have come clean within the day, but Autenberry's friend Lord Tucker asked her to continue the lie, since Autenberry's family was so happy about him finally settling down (Autenberry is a rake of epic proportions). Poppy is kind and selfless, giving up a lot of her life to take care of and raise her beautiful and vivacious fifteen-year-old sister.
Struan Mackenzie is the bastard son of the late Duke of Autenberry, just a year younger than the current Duke. He's from Scotland (hence the name), and he has never had anything to do with his father's family. His father threw Struan's mother out, and the current Duke never wanted to be reminded of his father's indiscretions. So Struan has no relationship with his half-brother, or half-sisters, or the dowager duchess. And after Struan's mother died young... Struan has no one. And he wants nothing from Autenberry. Struan is extremely wealthy and successful. He came to England looking for a bride, and he definitely found what he was looking for.
I adored Struan! He had an incredibly difficult childhood, but he made himself into something much more. He's big and rough and a little possessive, and he likes getting what he wants. Jordan writes this type of alpha really well.
You'll recall Struan being in Jordan's Debutante Files series - he courted Aurelia in All the Ways to Ruin a Rogue! I like this crossover between the series.
The Duke of Autenberry was in a coma for the entire book, and anyway, there was no real romance between Poppy and him. The romance is entirely between Struan and Poppy, and it's steamy and sweet. At first everything is purely physical, but you can see that the two are drawn to each other. They have verrrry hot chemistry, and the tension boils throughout the book. But I liked seeing them fall for each other too. It wasn't easy, because Struan believed her to be his brother's fiancee, and Poppy knew that she wasn't but had to keep up the pretense. So in a way, it was wrong of them to fool around, but the engagement was never real. Still, questionable morals much, Struan?
One thing that I especially loved was the ending, for several reasons. Yes, we get a nice happily-ever-after. But I love that Struan leaves after Poppy pushes him away (and the Duke too - after he wakes up), and POPPY is the one to chase Struan down. Often in adult romance novels, you'll see that the woman pushes the man away, the man leaves, and then the man comes back begging and pleading. To me, I'd like to see the woman fight for what she wants more often... especially if she's the one messing up (in this case, Poppy kept saying no and pushing Struan away). So, good for Poppy! I'm glad she created her own ending.
Overall, I enjoyed this book! I look forward to reading more from this series. I'm sure Jordan will write a book for Autenberry, redeeming him in some way. And we'll see Tucker's story too (I hope). I would love to read about Bryony (Poppy's younger sister) too!
What I Did Not Like:
One could say that the entire idea behind this book is silly... Poppy's ridiculous dream about marrying the Duke, and getting overheard muttering that. BUT. I liked how absurd it was, though at first the idea really bothered me.
Another thing - so Jordan specifically writes that Struan has rough, slightly more adventurous tastes than English noblemen... I was totally hoping to see this wild side, when Struan would get it on with Poppy. Sadly nothing they did together was "wild" or "rough". Still steamy, but nothing different.
I felt a little weird about typing this dislike. Hopefully that made sense though!
Would I Recommend It:
This was probably one of the more fun and steamy historical romance novels I've read recently, and I would definitely recommend it. It's not bogged down by angst and drama and hardships, though it's not cute and fluffy either. This book is full of fiery passion!
4 stars. I'm glad I wasn't deterred - I almost didn't read this one. I hope the next book, The Scandal of It All, will be just as good!
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