4.5 stars Action/Adventure adult - 18+ Angst Level Audiobook Author Provided Book Gay Historical m/m Mid level angst Novel 140 pgs + (80K + words) Tracy

The Duke in Denial: Scandal in Sussex, Book 1 Written by: Alexandra Ainsworth Narrated by: Joel Leslie


Sebastian Lewis never expected to become a duke. But with the sudden deaths of his cousin and uncle, Sebastian’s position changes. He is determined to fulfill his new responsibilities with grace, even if it means remarrying, and even if the attractions of women, so often lauded by poets, fail to interest him.

Captain William Carlisle, newly returned from India, is elated when he meets Sebastian. Nobody knows of his inclinations, but his harrowing experiences in battle have prompted him to reach for the type of companionship he longs for. He thinks Sebastian might feel an attraction as well, but to his dismay, he discovers that Sebastian is courting his sister, Dorothea.

After a semi-arranged engagement and a disconcerting romantic tangle with William, Sebastian escapes London to look after his manor, only to face mysterious thefts, a headless ghost, and the arrival of his fiancée, her brother, and his family. Sebastian’s new estate sits on the south coast, England’s most vulnerable location, and Napoleon has set his sights on conquering the area. Amid this growing turmoil, Sebastian must sort out his feelings for his fiancée’s brother and keep his home safe…and determine if he has the courage to reach for his own happiness in the process.

This is a gay regency historical romance.
Audiobook Review:
The story begins in London with Sebastian Lewis on his way to a ball hosted by his Aunt Beatrice. He is to meet his fiance for the first time. Sebastian has been given the title of Duke of Somerset because his cousin Lewis has passed away. A gust of wind blows his top hat off his head and into the street. He tries to chase after his hat when somehow it ends up in a tree. He attempts to climb the tree and is interrupted by a man, who with the slightest touch leaves Sebastian breathless. William gallantly retrieves his hat and the two head to a tavern to enjoy a drink.
It is while they are at the ball that they learn of each other’s identities. William and Sebastian are instantly attracted to each other and William is dismayed to learn that not only is Sebastian a Duke but he is also betrothed to William’s sister Dorothea.
This story has a little bit of everything. Mystery, intrigue, romance and a lot of internal struggles due to Sebastian’s sense of duty and William’s longing for Sebastian.
There are a lot of things I really liked about this story, the realistic portrayal of Sebastian’s inner conflict about his attraction to William, Sebastian’s unwavering honor in upholding his duty, and William’s acceptance of himself. I really loved Sebastian’s Aunt Beatrice (she was amazing), and Sir Ambrose as the villian.
The story itself seemed to drag a bit in the beginning but towards the end the action picks up and moves at a faster pace. I definitely enjoyed the second half of the book much more than the first part.
Now for the narration. Joel Leslie did such a fantastic job with his narration. His voice is very smooth and I really was able to enjoy all of the distinct “voices” for each character. No one sounded the same and it was so easy to follow along in the story. Joel has such a smooth tone and his pacing was spot on. I absolutely loved his voice for William. William’s voice is a little deeper than Sebastian’s and I was able to distinguish between the two very easily. Joel did a great job of highlighting William’s strength of character and also his frustration in not being allowed to love who he wants. I could hear William’s hurt when Sebastian would constantly pull away from him. There were times during the more romantic scenes where his voice would dip low and I really could feel the emotion that he was portraying.
I enjoyed Joel’s narration of William. I loved the accent and tone especially, like I mentioned earlier, when his voice would deepen.
Sebastian as a character frustrated me throughout the book. He seemed to run hot and cold although I think he is just overwhelmed by his feelings for William. Sebastian realizes that he has always appreciated the male form and maybe a time or two his eyes lingered a little bit too long on men. The time period also plays a big part in the story. Homosexuals were often arrested and hanged and when societal status means everything, a whole family’s reputation could be ruined. Sebastian is duty bound and is quite willing to put his feelings for William aside and go through with the marriage to Dorothea. He is willing to live a lie in order to fulfill that duty and that is very sad but very true to the time period the story takes place in.
William, on the other hand, knows who he is and what he wants and that appealed to me.
I have to say that Aunt Beatrice is one of my favorite characters in the story. She was funny and very supportive of her nephew Sebastian. I loved Joel’s portrayal of her. I couldn’t help but picture the actress Maggie Smith. He really captured her character so well I couldn’t help but smile every time she spoke. She was a true delight.
I highly recommend this narrator. He is very engaging, has a smooth voice and a wonderful tone to his narration. And I think the best aspect of Joel’s narration is that his “voices” are all very distinct which is a must when listening to a story.

After finishing the story I was a little curious about the narrator and investigated a bit. I was so pleasantly surprised to learn that I had listened to him before. I would never have put two and two together because in this particular story he had an American accent and I wondered to myself, is he from England or America? It turns out he grew up in a British commonwealth with American parents. What a surprise! I definitely will be looking for other audiobooks by Mr. Leslie.

4.5 of 5 stars


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