A man holds a large sign with the book title and a woman holds a dog with the NYC skyline outlined in white above them.

About the Book

Title: Duke, Actually (A Princess for Christmas #2)
Published: 2021

Deck The Halls: Imitation Is The Sincerest Form Of Flattery
Naughty or Nice List: Nice Twice
Melt My Marshmallows: Perfectly Toasted
On A Scale from The Grinch to Buddy The Elf: It’ll Be A White Christmas!

After the year(s) we’ve all had, I think it’s time to bring back the dopamine-inducing fun of the Holiday Series! Wherever you find yourself, it’s time to cozy up in your favorite sweater or under your softest blanket, get yourself something sweet to nibble on, and spend some time believing in the magic of the holidays.


Note: This book features side characters from Jenny Holiday’s 2020 A Princess for Christmas, so it does “spoil” that book slightly (you mean they GET TOGETHER?!) but there’s enough recap that I don’t think you’re missing anything major by not reading it first. (I say this as someone who did not read the first book but very much enjoyed this one.)

Deck The Halls: Imitation Is The Sincerest Form Of Flattery

Oh, they knew exactly what they were doing with that Love, Actually cue card moment. It caught my eye (mainly because the name had me wondering how far they were going with this movie comparison) but aside from that, it’s the “vintage red truck carrying a Christmas tree” of book covers, i.e., a basic bitch (says a basic bitch who owns plenty of vintage red truck decorations).

What’s Going On In Santa’s Workshop

What should one do when faced with a faculty Christmas party where one must see their cheating ex with his former student-turned-girlfriend? Invite a duke, of course! Dani Martinez met Maximillian von Hansburg when her taxi-driver best friend fell in love with Max’s arranged-marriage fiancée, the princess of Eldovia, last Christmas. There were no hard feelings over the broken engagement, so now Dani and Max are playing best man / best woman at a royal wedding next Fall. While Dani wasn’t impressed with Max’s playboy style, when he randomly messages that he’s in town and would like to hang out, she decides to use his rich, titled, and impeccably dressed person to prove to her ex-husband that she’s doing SO MUCH better without him.

To Dani’s surprise, she and Max get along, and over the next year, they form a friendship over text, helping each other with things like getting Dani laid for the first time, post-relationship, and finding Max a “real” job he can feel passionate about. He needs to marry a wealthy, titled woman to make his parents happy, and Dani’s got a whole list of things she will never again do for man, including, but not limited to, move for him or neglect her friends. But none of that matters, because it’s just friendship…right?

Naughty or Nice List

A plaid square with "naughty or nice" where "naughty" is crossed out

When my friend started reading this book after I recommended it, she texted me, “Of course you like it, they talk like you, lol.” I…hope that was a compliment? Haha. Because I definitely felt a kindred spirit in Dani. She’s funny and smart—she works as an English professor but secretly desires to be a writer—and even though she’s embarrassed that her ex-husband turned out to be such a sleezeball, she’s still (mostly) open to love, though she has to go on a journey towards trusting her own judgment again. Her family also lives in Huntington in Long Island and I was born there! Sometimes she gets a little too fixated on adhering to her list of what she thinks she wants, but as this is a HEA, she figures it out.

Verdict: Nice.

A plaid square with "naughty or nice" where "naughty" is crossed out

Max on the surface may look frivolous and cavalier, but he’s got layer upon layer of protective armor hiding insecurities and trauma. He’s very attuned to social cues and keeping the peace, honed by years of practice, for good or ill. Like Dani, I couldn’t help but fall slowly in love with him the more I got to know him.

Verdict: Nice.

Melt My Marshmallows: Perfectly Toasty

Obvs spice level varies, but for a Christmas this hit my perfect sweet spot: there’s plenty of friends-who-flirt-with-the-edge-of-more, heated looks while things are left unspoken, then a satisfying pay-off with just enough detail. I’d say it strikes the right balance somewhere between porn-with-plot and those disappointing Hallmark close-mouthed kisses.

We Got (Christmas) Spirit, Yes We Do!

Even with the year in between, the most significant parts take place around the holidays or in wintery settings, and because it’s smartly written it’s more of a tasteful tableau vs an explosion of Christmas. I appreciate that.

Mistletropes

Various Christmas things like trees, cookies, lights, etc.

Characters make snow angels, debate the merits of Christmas movies, go on snowy hikes and wear lots of cozy sweaters by the fire. Christmas traditions like seeing The Nutcracker and making fruitcakes also make an appearance. And you can’t forget the fancy faculty holiday parties (the part which the author admits in the author’s notes is the most fantastical portion of her book—as someone who works at a college, that definitely made me LOL)!

On A Scale from The Grinch to Buddy The Elf: It’ll Be A White Christmas!

After finishing I immediately texted my other friend who is diving into Christmas romances this year and told her to start it, and she ended up loving it too. I tend to rate my holiday romances on a curve, but this could’ve been any normal romance novel and I would’ve still given it two thumbs up. The characters feel fully fleshed-out and multi-dimensional. It’s a sweet, slow-burn in the way the couple actually gets to know and care for each other through extended conversations that kept me engaged and swooning. There was enough escapism/Christmas magic to make me happy. Win-win-win!

FTC Full Disclosure: I got my own copy of this book from the library. I received neither money nor peanut butter cups in exchange for this review. Duke, Actually is available now.

Stephanie (she/her) is an avid reader who moonlights at a college and calls Orlando home. Stephanie loves watching television, reading DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.