In the comments of my review of two contemporary age gap romances, Daddy Crush and Your Dad Will Do, Mrs. Julien reminded me of What I Did for a Duke. I first reviewed this back in 2015 and looking back at my review all I really see is how much I valued (and continue to value) Malin and Mrs. Julien. This book is a tour de force and I don’t think I appreciated that the first time I read it. I haven’t reread any of the other Pennyroyal Green books, but I am pretty certain that this one was my favorite.
The book opens with Ian Eversea engaging in a tryst with the fiancé of the Duke of Falconbridge. The Duke, Alex Moncrieffe, interrupts them, vows his punishment of Eversea will fit the crime and then he ends his engagement. He decides he will seduce, ravish, and abandon Ian’s younger sister, Genevieve during a house party. When we meet Genevieve at the beginning of the party, she is getting her heart broken by the man she loves, Harry, as he tells her he plans to propose to their friend Millicent. Everyone thinks they have a firm handle on life, but at the end, only Millicent emerges unscathed, though she did encounter the dark side of water foul.
Alex is determined to seduce Genevieve, which motivates him to pay attention to her. Genevieve’s world has been up ended by Harry’s plan to ask for Millicent’s hand. Ian is constantly on edge about the Duke’s plans, and Harry doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to propose, but does seem unhappy about the attention Alex is paying to Genevieve. Very quickly, Alex begins to see Genevieve as her own person and lets go of his plan for vengeance. He sees her, the quiet Eversea, in a way that no one else in her family sees her. He sees her passion, and her kindness, and he wants her for himself, even as he points out Harry’s apparent jealousy. Having had her imagined future ripped away from her, Genevieve begins to chafe at the role she has assigned herself in the family – the calm one. Alex truly begins to romance her when he has an extravagant arrangement of roses delivered to her in front of her family and their guests.
Her breath was officially lost.
Her eyes blurred. Instantly she burned, burned with the scandalous pleasure and shock and . . . hilarity of it. As usual, the duke had done far too much and precisely the right thing.
One of the things I loved best about What I Did for a Duke was that Alex is never cruel to Genevieve (or anyone, except Ian, who deserves it). He has a tragic backstory, but there is no need to excuse his behavior with it, instead it gives him a real depth that explains both his reputation and his insight. Chapters 21 to the end will rip your heart out, wring it dry, and put it back wiser than before. What I Did for a Duke gets everything about an age gap romance completely right.