Oh hey I finished reading a book!
That I finished reading a book, I mean, the book was good but "amazing" would be an overstatement. The Duke Who Didn't is Courtney Milan's newest release, a historical romance about a mixed-race (British & Chinese) English duke, and his Chinese-British love from the working class. Like most Milan romances, the pair is incredibly unlikely -- how do these two even meet, much less fall in love? Milan spends much of the book selling the premise; it takes a lot to establish. I almost gave up on the book early on, after the reveal of one of the devices intended to keep the lovers from resolving the romance too soon. It was a cringe-inducing device and I did not want to spend the rest of the book cringing.
Fortunately, she didn't devote too much of the book to this particular point. Milan said on Twitter that one of her inspirations was non-Western story structures that don't center around conflict. I would not describe this as a "book without conflict" -- it's got a lot of conflicts between characters, and the standard central conflict that is resolved before the end of the book. But it is atypical of Milan's romances; it doesn't have the Mandatory Third Act Breakup, which I hate*. (I don't care that it's considered mandatory, and very few of my romances use the device.) And overall, it's lower conflict and the stakes do not feel as high as Milan's other romances.
All in all, I enjoyed it and hope she continues to explore alternative story structures because this was a great change of pace. I'd give it an 8 on my "enjoyment" scale, due to miscellaneous nitpicks.
*To be clear, I hate that it's regarded as mandatory. In some stories, it makes sense and it works. But as a required element, it is incredibly grating.
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