To fully immerse myself in the holiday season this year, I decided to pick up a few Christmas books. Being the tightwad that I am, I searched for free Christmas romances on my Kindle and up popped Once Upon a Duke by Erica Ridley. This is the first book of a twelve book series called the 12 Dukes of Christmas, which is honestly adorable. I was able to get the second book, Kiss of a Duke, for free, as well. I will most definitely NOT be reading all twelve books because I just don’t have the time but let’s discuss the first one. This review will have spoilers.
Due to the terms of an estranged relative’s will, the Duke of Silkridge must revisit the cold, unforgiving mountains where he lost everything he once loved. As soon as he rights his family legacy, he’ll return to London where he belongs. He definitely won’t rekindle the forbidden spark crackling between him and the irresistible spitfire he’d left behind…
Noelle Pratchett is immune to charming rakehells like the arrogant duke. He stole her heart, stole her first kiss, and then stole away one night never to return. Now he’s back—and so are all the old feelings. Noelle knows he won’t stay. But how can she maintain her icy shields when every heated glance melts her to her core?
Since this book was free and a relatively short read at 212 pages, I’m not going to review it as harshly as I normally would. However, this book just isn’t the best. It takes place in a small village in England called Cressmouth. The villagers in Cressmouth love the Christmas season so much that they even call the village Christmas instead of its actual name. They don’t celebrate Christmas all year but they do embody the spirit of the holiday season. Everyone is kind, helpful and smart; especially our heroine, Noelle.
Noelle’s character was the strongest aspect of this book. I really liked her. She knew what she wanted and she wasn’t willing to give it up just to be with a man… though, that doesn’t mean she wasn’t conflicted. I liked Noelle the most but I also liked our hero, Benjamin, the Duke of Silkridge. He had had quite a few traumatic experiences with loss and this made him afraid to love again. I’m a sucker for this kind of love story so I was happy with it. Other than Noelle and Benjamin, however, I didn’t like much about this book.
My main issue was with the village and villagers. Call me Scrooge but I thought it was so cheesy that they called the town “Christmas.” I also didn’t like that everyone in the village was perfect. I understand that this is a cutesy Christmas romance but it’s forgettable and boring because there was no depth to the story or characters. I need some drama and even with Noelle and Benjamin, there was no tension or surprising twists. It was very obvious that they would end up together and how it would happen.
There was also a storyline that just went nowhere. The whole reason Benjamin was in Cressmouth was because his estranged grandfather passed away and he wanted to collect a family locket that his grandfather had refused to give him. His grandfather was beloved by the townspeople because he was so kind and generous; despite being the exact opposite with his own grandson. The grandfather left the locket to Benjamin in his will but stated that to inherit it, Benjamin had to build an aviary and stock it with one partridge. Benjamin did this and inherited the locket but why his grandfather was so horrible to him and why he wanted the aviary built was NEVER explained.
I didn’t hate this book but I didn’t love it. I thought it was well written and entertaining enough but it could’ve been much more fleshed out. I’m not sure if I’ll read the second book in the series but I might because I do think this author has the potential to write something really good. Since this book is free, I do recommend it if you’re wanting a sweet and simple romance with a Christmas setting. Are there any Christmas-y books that you love? Let me know! Thanks for reading and have a great day!