Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Review of All In with the Duke by Ava March

Ava March
All In with the Duke (Gambling on Love #1)
Carina Press | November 11th 2013 | 81,000 words

Author’s website | Goodreads | Buy book here

London, 1822

Max Arrington, the Duke of Pelham, vows to never again let a handsome face blind him to a man's true intentions. But ten months of celibacy and lonely nights drive him to a decadent brothel, where a beautiful young man arouses his illicit passions as never before.

Tristan Walsh has grown tired of being used for men's pleasure. But his latest client is different: commanding yet generous, Max makes him feel cared for as well as wanted. Yet Tristan knows he'll never have the choice to leave the brothel and submit only to Max.
So when Max invites him to be his guest at his country estate, Tristan eagerly agrees to his terms—days to do as he pleases while Max tends to the dukedom, and nights spent together in wicked play. But when the "business arrangement" begins to deepen into something more, Tristan must face the fact that he has no true place in Max's life—or in Max's guarded heart…

Genre & Keywords: Historical Romance, M/M, Britain, London, Hampshire, 1822, Duke, hooker, light bdsm, bondage

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Heat level: 2.5 out of 3 flames
Ava March's newest historical romance is about setting aside your pride and hurt feelings for a chance of real happiness and love. The main characters in the full length novel All In with the Duke couldn't be more different from each other: one is a very wealthy Duke, the other is working in a brothel where he's stuck due to his gambling debts. But both men have to face their own insecurities and get past their feelings of pride in the end to take a risk to become truly happy. This makes them more equal than anything else and I think that the author did a wonderful job of making us believe in that equality and therefore in their happiness.

The plot in a nutshell: Max has been hurt by a lover ten months ago and finds it difficult to open has heart again to another man. Then he meets Tristan, a boy who works at the brothel Max decides to visit after ten moths of celibacy. Soon Max invites Tristan to his country estate to spend the nights with him while he tends to his dukedom during the day. This 'business arrangement' suits Max because he thinks it will save him from going through the same feelings of hurt again as he went through with his ex-lover. But when Tristan starts to fall in love with Max and says he wants to end the arrangement, Max doesn't react very well.

I admit that I'm rather fond of March's historical settings and characters. Additionally, I admire her writing style and skill to paint pictures with words. It makes it all so easy to submerge in the world she creates and to experience the feelings of her protagonists. In this novel we alternately get presented with Max' and Tristan's point of view, so that we can empathize with them both. This way the conflict and angsty moments are felt to its fullest potential, and with a maximum of understanding on the part of the reader for their behavior. Just how I like it.

I'm absolutely convinced that Max and Tristan are a great match. March put in a successful effort to show how they bring out the best in each other's personalities and how they complement each other too. From the beginning they have fabulous chemistry in bed, which leads to hotter than hot sex scenes, with sometimes a kinky character. Gradually more emotions are woven into those scenes and after a while the emotions and feelings make an appearance outside the bedroom as well. Max and Tristan start to spend some time together during the daytime too, which results into more personal conversations and getting to know each other on another level. March builds up their relationship with well-dosed and balanced portions, until it reaches a believable steadiness.

Just when you think that they're going to enter their version of paradise and live happily ever after, things turn for the worse. There's no big drama, just a short disconnection between the two, but one with a rather sad result that doesn't have an easy solution. I thought it was a plausible 'disconnection' and I rather enjoyed the way they had to work things out again, with Max making serious efforts to convince Tristan, and with Tristan finally realizing that he has to set aside his pride and doubts and put his trust in Max as well.

With All In with the Duke Ava March has written one of her longest novels, which translates into a well rounded, well balanced plot with plenty of room for exploring the depths of her main characters' feelings and motivations. This novel appears to be the first of three, according to her website. The main characters of the next two novels, Morgan and Rawling, are introduced in this first installment as Max' driver and Max' friend. Both will get their own love story in the next two books, but unfortunately we'll have to be patient for their release. I can only hope that their stories will be as engaging and well developed as Max and Tristan's turned out to be. Definitely don't miss out on this first in a new series, it's worth your time.

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