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February 27, 2022

Last Duke Standing by Julia London ~ a Review

by MK French

Princess Justine will one day be queen of Wesloria, and is currently being tutored in queenly decorum by Queen Victoria herself. She's also introduced to Lord Douglas, rake and Duke heir, who knows everyone worth knowing. He's meant to help her find a suitable husband that can get along with the Prime Minister. The two are friends, but is he really inappropriate for her?

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cover of romance novel Last Duke Standing by Julia London
February 2022; HQN; 978-1335639868
audio, ebook, print (416 pages); historical romance

If Wesloria sounds familiar, that's because it's the kingdom mentioned in Julia London's other books. The Royal Wedding series focused on Alucia, which was next door to Wesloria, so we do get some mentions of characters from that series. It's not necessary to have read that series, as this one takes place quite some time later, but it was still kind of fun to see the names of those heroines dropped at one point, and to see Beck happily married with four daughters and a fifth child on the way.

With King Maksim dying of consumption in 1844, his oldest daughter Justine is the crown princess. The paternalistic country, for all that they had warrior queens in their past, would still feel comfortable if Justine were married to a strong man to be prince consort beside her, especially since her first love as a teen had deliberately tried to manipulate her. This means she must be married before her father's death, and he's given less than a year to live. Her Prime Minister doesn't trust her to find herself a proper husband of England's elite and enlists help to ensure his own interests are met. Even Queen Victoria is called upon to "teach" Justine how to be a young queen, though she's terribly self-absorbed. I'm not a historian of the period so I don't know if that's accurate, but it's still terribly sad how isolating the tea and meetings leave Justine at the end.

While we start out with something of an enemies-to-friends-to-lovers story, the matchmaker Justine's mother enlists for further help puts forth one terrible choice after another once she realizes that Justine and William love each other, though the second prince was perfectly nice and sweet, and would have been a great friend to either of them. Hopefully, he gets his own book someday! Being a Duke means that William is everywhere that Justine needs to be in order to be seen, even if public places inspire terrible anxiety for her. She's also nearsighted, which to some extent worsens her anxiety on several occasions. It's sad how much her appearance and station dictate who she needs to be and who she must spend time with, but at least she and William are able to be friends first and find they're able to suit. It's a kind of ridiculous plan that gets the two of them together when William isn't deemed appropriate due to rumors, but it's a romance novel, and we get our happily ever after for everyone involved.

Buy Last Duke Standing at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever.

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