The Duke Who Didn't by Courtney Milan
Reviewed by Cardyn Brooks
In The Duke Who Didn't, Courtney Milan offers readers a thoroughly delightful historical rom-com with substantive cultural research and emotional family legacies seamlessly combined. Forthright entrepreneur Chloe Fong is a Type A planner. Undercover Duke Jeremy Wentworth is a Type B improviser who has loved Chloe since they were children. He wants to build a life with her, but there's one significant problem: She doesn't know who he really is, or does she?
Questions of identity—its sources, its authenticity, its obligations, dominate this story without weighing it down with tragic angst, especially for Chloe and Jeremy, who each develop philosophically different, yet somewhat effective coping strategies for negotiating environments that label them as outsiders. Wedgeford and its residents supply vibrant local color and community context. Milan's signature style of distinctive multifaceted characterizations gets amplified by details in cultural heritage, generational inheritances, and personal agency. An examination of racism as a nuanced and insidious construct when expressed in words and actions by oblivious family members is organically included and magnified in striking contrast to the overall lighthearted tone. Chloe constantly says, “Be serious.” Jeremy and The Duke Who Didn't prove that being serious is not the same as dour, although occasionally, like Chloe, readers may feel some exasperation with Jeremy's constant teasing even as she enjoys it.
This first installment of the Wedgeford Trials series builds upon the rock solid foundation of exploring hierarchies dictated by socioeconomics, gender, age, sexual orientation, and geography in her previous series, and expands on those themes while adding a more intense and broader spotlight on race and ethnicity presented as a historical rom-com frolic in Chloe and Jeremy’s tenderhearted love story.
Self published, September 21, 2020