Scarlett Peckham


#100Romances: The Duchess War + Woke Feminist Dukes

Duchess War.jpg

This week in my journey through the fairest romance novels of them all we arrive at THE DUCHESS WAR by Courtney Milan.

I find this book delightful, in no small part because it features one of my personal favorite historical romance hero archetypes: the Woke Feminist Duke (WFD).

Here's how you can spot a Woke Feminist Duke in the wild:

  • He will be hot, but probably in an intense, intellectual way. 

  • He will be respectful of sexual and emotional boundaries, but good at both kinds of intimacy.

  • He will be a sensitive lover, in an "enthusiastic continuous consent is the biggest turn on there is and my fetish is communication" kind of way. (Extra credit if he is a virgin.)

  • He will really dig a good, meaty Relationship Talk. If you want to enjoy a "Big Mis" with him, you will have to try very hard to avoid confrontation and communicate poorly.

  • He will be fundamentally empathetic and sweet natured. When you hurt, he will hurt too. (Extra credit if he has Emotional Trauma in his past.) 

  • He will be, because Reasons, incredibly jacked. We can safely assume he has excellent hair and his forearms are mesmerizing.

  • He will believe in the fundamental equality of all human beings, even if this makes him an unpopular outsider in his privileged world.

  • Extra credit if he is fighting to use his power to reform the system he has benefited from, even if he is not quite sure how to do it yet, and may require some help from the heroine.

  • Nevertheless, he probably still has a really nice mansion in the Lake District and can afford to furnish you with any number of exquisite ball gowns or horses, should you wish.

When I am in the mood for a stone cold classic factory-grade WFD hero, my first port of call is always with Courtney Milan. 

Which brings us to Robert Blaisdell, hero of THE DUCHESS WAR.

Robert, AKA the ninth Duke of Clermont, might be the ur-WFD. While many WFDs have a social justice or reformist cause, Robert goes that extra step and literally wants to abolish the peerage. When not fighting the good fight in the Lords, he spends his time in a factory town writing seditionist handbills encouraging workers to organize. His hobbies include worrying about privilege and power differentials and falling in love with women on account of their giant brains and facility for chess. 

Reader, I love him. I am grateful to Courntey Milan for inventing him, and for producing a stable of hilarious, intelligent, tightly plotted, hot romance novels about smokin' WFDs uniting with badass ladies to create a more just world.

A lot of historical romance novels are about resistance from within the belly of the system, but some are more explicit about it than others. Ms. Milan's novels tend to be as explicit as they come.

For my money, I like it when a credible, sweet, sexy love story can flourish inside the tension between the trappings of wealth and power and the stark inequities that enable it. And in a m/f book, I always appreciate it when the burden is not solely upon the heroine to understand or feel trapped by the limitations of her society. 

So three cheers for the WFDs. I am always looking for more of them - if you have encountered a good one nominate your personal favorite in the comments!

Next week's read: A ROGUE BY ANY OTHER NAME by Sarah Maclean.