Title: Anything But a Duke
Series: Duke's Den #2
Author: Christy Carlyle
Format: Paperback/eBook, 368 pages
Expected publication: April 30th 2019 by Avon
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
Reviewers: Crystal & Kimberly
Self-made man Aidan Iverson has seen more closed doors in his thirty years than he’s ever cared to count. As a member of the elite Duke’s Den, he has all the money he could possibly need, but the one thing he can’t purchase is true power. If roguish Aidan can’t buy his way into society’s hallowed halls, he’ll resort to a more extreme measure: marriage.
Brought up to be a proper lady, the only thing Diana Ashby desires is to be left alone to the creation of her own devices. But when her dreams are crushed, she must find another way to secure the future of her invention. Knowing his desire to enter her world, Diana strikes a deal to arrange Aidan’s marriage to the perfect lady—as long as that lady isn’t her. She doesn’t need any distractions from her work, particularly of the sinfully handsome variety.
As Diana and Aidan set out to find him an aristocratic match, neither are prepared for the passion that ignites between them or the love they can’t ignore.
In the Duke’s Den, can happiness ever be a winning prospect?
Crystal's Thoughts:Christy Carlyle brings to life a riveting cast of characters in the Duke's Den, and with Anything But a Duke, lowborn Aidan Iverson believes marriage to an aristocratic lady will open all of the doors he's been denied. But Aidan soon learns that the key to love's door cares little for one's station in life...
Diana Ashby lives on the fringes of upper society, and she is perfectly okay with that. Despite her mother's hopes for a titled marriage, Diana would much prefer to spend her time in her work shop then in a stuffy ballroom. However, when her family's financial welfare falls on her shoulders, Diana is faced with convincing the members of the Duke's Den to invest in her latest invention or finally entering the marriage mart.
Aidan Iverson knows what it's like to climb his way to the top, and now as part owner of the exclusive Duke’s Den, he hopes to help others make their way in the world as well by investing in them and their ideas...as long as it will turn a profit of course. The first time Adan met Diana Ashby, she saved his life, now maybe he can return the favor by striking a deal with her to invest in her vacuum cleaner while also using her blue-blood connections to find a titled wife in need of a wealthy husband.
Christy Caryle thrives on writing unconventional heroines and Diana in Anything But a Duke is no exception. Diana is an inventor, and deep down strives to make up for her late father's failures. She doesn't care one whit for societies rules or expectations, and was a fun character to get to know. There was depth to her, though it took some digging to find. The chemistry that she shares with Aidan was apparent from their first meeting, and their relationship was a slow burn which I always relish. Despite their obvious connection though, Diana fights her feelings for Aidan for a majority of the story, thinking that she isn't what he ultimately needs in life. I never quite grasped the reasoning's behind Diana's reluctance to commit to Aidan, especially after Aidan finally saw the light, as he was very open with his feelings and supportive of her ambitions. That aspect dampened my view of her character towards the end.
Aidan on the other-hand was a wonderful hero to read about. He began as a bit of a single-minded arse, but as the story progressed his many layers were peeled away and we found a man who chased answers about his past but was terrified of ending up back there again. Unfortunately though, sometimes the answers we seek turn out to be not at all what he had hoped for. Aidan had an interesting story that I wish was expanded on more. I felt that the sub-plot surrounding his mother and sister fell short. In the end though, Aidan's tenacity in winning Diana over is what ultimately endeared him to me. His drive and determination to prove to Diana that she was the one that he wanted in life was beyond swoon-worthy. Together is where this pair shined, and where I really adored them.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Wine Glasses
Kimberly's Thoughts:Second in the Duke's Den series that follows three friends who invest together, Anything But a Duke follows the one without a title, Aidan Iverson. He's been able to rise from a childhood where the mother he can't remember left him and his sister and amassed great wealth. What he can't seem to overcome is the snobbery of the ton and certain doors remain closed to him. He decides that marrying an aristocrats daughter is his gateway to all these doors.
Diana doesn't want to get married and is trying to keep her family afloat by creating an invention that members of the Duke's Den will want to invest in. Her and her mother come to an agreement that if by the end of the month, if her invention doesn't become profitable, she will have to marry. When a chance encounter has her rescuing and kissing a mystery man, who turns out to be one of the investors she's supposed to impress, her world gets shaken.
Diana Ashby drew him. She always had. Her confidence. Her fearlessness. From the moment they’d met.
Aidan's plan to marry an aristocratic, while mercenary, did work as a ploy to achieve what he wanted. For having two friends of that world, a duke and and a marquess, I thought the story thread oddly underutilized them. It is set-up so that Diana, who is not nobility but has friends of that world, gets into a deal with him to try and set him up, while his side of the bargain is to get more investors for her. It worked but was also all a little coerced. There's a second thread underlying the romance one with Aidan searching for information about his birth mother and the sister he hopes escaped an orphanage fire. I thought this was rife for some great emotion but it was pushed to the side too much for me. Even when Aidan gets the answers he was searching for, the reveal fell a bit flat as character relationships in this thread weren't explored and Diana wasn't a huge part of this thread for Aidan to share with her. I did believe in why he fell in love with Diana but again, the emotional moments where he is choosing her over his ambition, fell a bit flat.
Every moment that they shared, every detail they revealed, made her want more.
I also would have liked a bit more of Diana's family relationships explored, especially with her mother or maybe a flashback or two with her father. Her father seemed to be like an absent minded professor, except with inventing. Part of her wanting to succeed was to show her father's pursuits weren't all a waste of time. We get a pretty good feel for her relationship with her twin brother, a seemingly wastrel but sticks up for Diana but her relationship with her mother was fairly blank. We know, because of their money issues, her mother is pressuring her to get married but the mother doesn't really appear on the pages and I missed feeling that aspect of Diana's life. While I believed in why Aidan feel in love with Diana, I didn't believe in it as strongly from Diana's side. He treats her well, the biggest being he embraces her inventor side, and she finds him attractive but I just didn't get see or get a handle on Diana developing feelings for him.
“I remember our deal, Diana.” He slid his hand from hers slowly and there was such disappointment in his gaze that her breath tangled in her throat. Moving past her, he strode toward the room across the hall, but midway he stopped and glanced at her over his shoulder. “Perhaps I’m just not content with the terms anymore.”
As I mentioned, Diana and Aidan's deal, he introduces her to investors to push her vacuum prototype and she introduces him to ladies of the nobility to find a wife and if she doesn't succeed in finding him a wife she must marry him at the end of the month, was a pretty coerced story plot. At the end, there is some angst where I didn't understand at all Diana's reluctance or refusals, that made it feel even more forced. Everyone is likeable and the story is nice but not a lot new here and all pretty sedate. If looking for a quieter, tried and true formula romance, this would be a nice pick. I'll be looking forward to the third in the series coming up where Aidan's roguish marquess friend will be finding love.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Wine Glasses
Suggested Reading Order:
Book #1 A Duke Changes Everything
Book #3 Untitled - coming May 26th, 2020