I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
August might be a duke now, but he spent two years surviving on the streets while his father was in debtor's prison. He now can't make enough money and after he acquires a prime location that has a girl's school on it, he wants to buy Strathmore Shipping. The family is in dire straits, so he doesn't foresee a problem of them wanting to sell.
Clara is used to feeling ostracized, deemed a bluestocking and therefore of ridicule, she's ran the Haverhall School for Girls. Her family's money issues have forced her to sell and now the one man to ever catch her eye, is starting to show her attention again.
He had danced with her on a dare.
A Duke in the Night starts off showing the readers how a young, trying to fit in August asked Clara to dance on a dare. The dance and conversation they share ends up leaving quite an impression on both Clara and August and many years later they both still think about it. While this one waltz was a sparking way to start the story and their relationship, hinging so much of their initial feelings for one another on it created a lack of other emotional building moments. Our leads do a good job of talking and listening to one another, August especially has great growth moments, but they didn't crackle and jump off the pages as much as I would have liked.
His eyes crinkled at the corners as he grinned at her, and Clara felt rivulets of longing run down her spine. No man had the right to look that handsome when he smiled.
Clara was a great heroine, she's a bluestocking and experiences some of the consequences (shunned for friendship and romantic relationships) of her choosing to follow her heart and teach. In order to keep her school running, she must also keep her reputation in good standing. I thought the author did a great job giving us a strong-willed, intelligent, and courageous heroine that felt true to the times and honored her with also showing the difficulties. I would have liked more scenes with her siblings to get some emotional impact from those relationships, they seemed like such a wonderful supportive family. I did think her closed off actions and emotions toward August in the middle and end lasted too long and gave a bit of a dragged on feeling.
“I don't want the woman you're supposed to be,” he said, his voice low. “I never have. I want the woman you are, and everything that that encompasses. I wanted her ten years ago, and I want her now.” He stepped closer to her, his hand coming up to toy with the ribbon at the front of her bodice. “A woman who knows her own mind. A woman who can make a man lose his. Make him do reckless things.”
The details of August's character were compelling but his background of having to survive on the streets just didn't completely emotionally come through to me; his supposed ruthlessness wasn't felt. His growth arc felt more centered on allowing his sister her agency and realizing she didn't want a quiet life of glitz and glamour. I thought his excuse for not wanting to marry, his parent's had a horrible marriage and he doesn't want to marry someone he “thinks” he loves. I think concentrating on his years of trying to survive and build his empire (workaholic) would have better served his character makeup; the whole not marrying for love theme fades away so much I almost forgot about at the end when he was still struggling with his feelings.
August and Clara were both intrigued by each other and I thought it was cute how the author showed them liking the other and having moments of feeling stupid because they thought they said the wrong thing, sweet beginning relationship stages of insecurity. Angst is brewing under the surface because the reader knows August bought Clara's school and that he wants to buy her family's shipping company, the school plot I liked simmering under the surface but the resolution was left to the very end and kind of emotionally dealt with quickly. The shipping company felt more clogging up as the predictability of Clara ending up thinking August was only paying attention to her for the company.
This was a good start to the Devils of Dover series, Clara's siblings are showcased enough to entice readers to want to know more about their storylines. August was a great hero in that he actually listened to Clara and took her thoughts to heart and Clara trying to help woman in the capacity she could was lovely to read. There were some arcs that I thought clogged up more than adding, especially the villain of a man felt he was done wrong by August and we get a whole kidnapping danger but oh wait, everyone is fine. A Duke in the Night had two characters that even years later were intrigued by each other, the power of one waltz.