Last summer, J. J. McAvoy released Aphrodite and the Duke, the first book in her new Regency romance series, the DuBells. Like the Netflix adaptation of Bridgerton, this series features people of color in aristocratic roles in a society void of racism. I’ve been looking forward to reading Aphrodite and the Duke, and now felt like the perfect time to dive in.
Four years ago, Aphrodite Du Bell’s dreams shattered when the man she loved and thought she would marry—Evander Eagleman, the Duke of Everely—unexpectedly married another woman. Evander is now a widower and father of a young daughter, and despite his earlier betrayal, he hopes Aphrodite will forgive him and marry him now. Though she loves him still, Aphrodite needs answers first. What really happened four years ago? Can she trust Evander with her heart again? What dangers will she face if they do finally marry? This second-chance romance takes the readers on a shocking journey of love, family, and finding happiness.
Aphrodite and the Duke is a sweet romance with a cast full of compelling characters. Our titular Aphrodite is known for her stunning looks, but she’s more into reading than beauty. At only 22, she’s been burned in love, but she still hasn’t gotten over Evander. He’s a widower now, and they both still love each other. But how can she ever trust him again? How can they have a life together now?
Although her younger sister Hathor is entering her first season, Aphrodite is along for her second chance at finding a husband, and it’s Evander she’s drawn to (and to whom her mother is pushing her). Much of the first half of the novel follows Aphrodite and her excitable family. Her brothers and sisters add a lot of fun to her parts, and I particularly enjoyed her interactions with her sisters. Aphrodite’s parents are also wonderfully drawn characters. Her father is scholarly and mischievous, while her mother is a force to be reckoned with. The whole family is a delight and will be fun to explore in the rest of the series.
Evander’s family is far more dubious, with a dark and secretive past that continues to haunt him and his sister. The first half of the book focuses on the secret event that drove Evander away and how the two of them can get a do-over on their happily ever after.
The second half of Aphrodite and the Duke goes in a very different direction, and as it’s not in the book’s official summary, I shall refrain from spoiling it too much. I will say that it brings up some thoughtful themes, including the ways a family can fit together and the need for open, clear communication with those closest to you. I love how relationships are explored in this second half, as well as the surprising addition of mystery and thrilling action.
Throughout the book, another thing I loved was the representation of people of color, including in titled and moneyed positions. The author has constructed a Regency era world without racism, in which skin color is never used to determine a person’s worth or the kind of positions they can hold. I will pursue more historical romances with this kind of diversity going forward!
Aphrodite and the Duke is an unconventional book, especially given the division between part 1 and part 2 and the multiple points of view it offers. In addition to POV sections from both Aphrodite and Evander, we get POV sections from her brother Damon and his sister Verity, too. These latter two add dimension not usually seen in a romance between two main characters. And speaking of Verity, I’m excited to read her love story next. I’m already fully invested in both her and the young doctor.
Aphrodite and the Duke is a charming and thoughtful romance that goes in some unexpected directions. Combining romance and mystery, it’s both thrilling and heartfelt, with an emphasis on family and standing by those you love. This book also sets up the love story explored in the second installment, Verity and the Forbidden Suitor, due out this April. I can hardly wait to read that one, so stay tuned for my review of it soon!
Get the Book
You can buy Aphrodite and the Duke here – it’s available as a paperback, ebook, and audiobook.
|Aphrodite and the Duke by J. J. McAvoy|
|Series||The DuBells (#1)|
|Number of Pages||384|
|Format I Read||Paperback|
|Original Publication Date||August 23, 2022|
Aphrodite Du Bell has always resented her name. While the members of the ton, and even the queen herself, praise her warm brown skin, perfect curls, and exquisite features, Aphrodite can’t help but think that living up to the literal goddess of beauty is asking a bit much. Her renowned loveliness certainly didn’t stop the love of her life from jilting her and marrying another woman four years ago.
When Aphrodite’s formidable mother summons her back to London to aid in her sister’s debut, she has no choice but to acquiesce. But Aphrodite is determined to ignore one man in particular: Evander Eagleman, the Duke of Everely, the man who devastated her all those years ago. Yet why does her guileless heart still flutter at the sight of him?
Evander Eagleman lost his chance for true love, but now that he is an unattached widower, he is determined to win back Aphrodite’s trust—and her hand in marriage. But just as the couple make strides to mend old wounds, Evander’s true reason for rejecting Aphrodite threatens their coveted future . . . and even their lives.
About the Author
J. J. McAvoy has written numerous independently published novels that have been translated into six languages and are bestsellers in Turkey, Israel, and France. McAvoy’s historical romance series featuring the Du Bells includes Aphrodite and the Duke and Verity and the Forbidden Suitor. She is active and delightful on social media.
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