Review: Duels & Deception

Lydia Whitfield has her future entirely planned out. She will run the family estate until she marries the man of her late father’s choosing, and then she will spend the rest of her days as a devoted wife. Confident in those arrangements, Lydia has tasked her young law clerk, Robert Newton, to begin drawing up the marriage contracts. Everything is going according to plan.

Until the day Lydia is kidnapped―and Robert along with her. Someone is after her fortune and won’t hesitate to destroy her reputation to get it. With Robert’s help, Lydia strives to keep her family’s name unsullied and expose the one behind this devious plot. But as their investigation delves deeper and their affections for each other grow, Lydia starts to wonder whether her carefully planned future is in fact what she wants…

Fans of historical romance will delight in Duels and Deception, a young adult novel from Cindy Anstey, author of Love, Lies and Spies.

This book was beautiful. As an ex-Jane Austen addict (I still love her, I’m just less pretentious about it now :P) this was right up my alley. Plus, as someone who was around when Swoon Reads (the publisher) first came to be, I had an added layer of interest.

To begin, the novel itself was beautifully unique and creative. The way it combined YA, regency, and a bit of mystery was just like the perfect makeshift stew. None of the pieces of the plot or style were things one would expect to go together – but they did! The writing was beautifully humorous, lots of amusing regency jokes (like “Oh gosh, that ankle tho”), and just general charm.

Anstey’s writing reminded of a BBC period piece, with a bit of modern sass. One of my favorite aspects was how polite and proper every character was with each other. Even at the story’s climax, when the villain and heroes are facing off, they are very much minding their manners. It was the most incredibly amusing thing to read.

Lydia was the most wonderful heroine I’ve read in awhile. Although I do enjoy the Mulan type, where the heroine will be all: “I throw away all gender stereotypes for my era and culture and I am a total power house” Lydia’s story was just as pleasant. For, Lydia was a very powerful, intelligent, spunky, and interesting character, she was also a normal regency girl. She cared about balls, and customs; she was powerful in her own right, while still being a part of the society she lived in. She was very clearly a rebel, but in the most Jane Austen of manners.

This story had changing POVs, which I am typically not a fan of. Yet, here it was written quite well. It was interesting to see both characters’ perspectives on their smitten-ness, the dangerous events, and the general plot. The POVs were very easily distinguished, and I did think, in this case, it added to the story.

I remember when Swoon Reads was just developing – essentially it allows readers to chose what books they will contract to publish. Duels and Deception is a perfect example of why this is important! This story is not the kind that would typically be in demand, as there is no historical fiction fad occurring right now. However, it is a beautiful story, and I am seeing a lot of success for it. So, while a traditional publisher might not have picked it up, Swoon Reads gave it a chance to fly.

I give Duels and Deception 4,5 out of 5.

Maddie

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