Kelly Bowen’s Season for Scandal series is everything I want in a historical romance; unconventional heroines, over-the-top plots and minimal ballroom politics. The first book in the series, Duke of My Heart, was one of my early favorite reads in 2022 and I’m so glad I got to finish the series this year.
Each book follows a member of the clandestine crisis management firm Chegarre & Associates as they fall in love during a mission. I love that these are true standalones, the plots don’t interact at all so you can read them in any order.
And let me say, the publisher really had a time with these pun titles.
A Duke To Remember (Season for Scandal #2)
War of 1812 veteran and current theatre actress Elise deVries’ latest assignment with Chegarre & Associates sends her to the English countryside to locate the lost Duke of Ashland. A slight detour lands her (literally) in the arms of Noah Ellery…aka the Duke of Ashland. Noah ran away to escape his abusive father and has kept his identity a tightly guarded secret for over a decade. But Elise’s appearance in town is making him feel reckless for the first time.
Bowen writes a deeply emotional and enchanting romance between two guarded people holding on to some deep trauma– Noah’s from being institutionalized as a child, Elise’s from being a prisoner of war. This book takes place over the course of a few days so there is some instalove but Bowen makes it works.
My only frustration was that the narrative relies a lot on dramatic irony because Elise immediately realizes Noah is the duke but doesn’t tell him and then later when he knows she knows she doesn’t know that he knows that she knows he knows, you know ? It’s my least favorite trope.
content note: Noah was abused because of his stutter and there is definitely some abelism that pops up.
Between The Devil and The Duke by Kelly Bowen
Between the Devil and the Duke follows Chegarre & Associate employee and gaming hell owner Alexander Lavoie. Lavoie knows everyone’s secrets–except for the mysterious new woman subtly counting cards at his tables.
When Lady Angelique Archer’s father dies, their family money vanishes. Since Angelique’s older brother, the heir, refuses to be responsible it’s up to her to keep the household financially solvent—even if it means donning a mask and using her aptitude for mathematics to count cards at Lavoie’s gaming hell.
When Angelique’s family problems go from bad to worse, Angelique entrusts her secrets to Lavoie and they set out to find the truth behind her family’s sudden string of bad luck.
Bowen effortlessly blends mystery thriller elements with a slowburn sensual romance that burns up the page.
I’ve listened to Ashford McNab narrate a ton of audiobooks and this is some of her best work. Her narration was much more expressive and vivid than in the previous book of this series. I was a little concerned about getting this on audio because her voice for Alex’s brief cameos in the other books was kind of cartoon-y but she gives him a totally unique voice in this.
When I say that Bowen’s books are utterly unconcerned with historical romance conventions I’m specifically talking about the fact that she somehow got away with a historical romance where the hero is not titled. The titular duke is the antagonist.