Review: Manda Collins’s A SPINSTER’S GUIDE TO DANGER AND DUKES (Lady’s Guide #3)

Spinster's_Guide_Danger_DukesCollins’s light-hearted, pleasant historical romance/mystery was read in one sitting…not because it inspired “can’t put this down”, though a fun read. Rather because my home-city experienced a devastating ice storm, which I drove through on Wednesday, and then went into the dark and cold for two days while power was out. The Kindle held out long enough for me to read Collins’s Spinster’s Guide in one sitting on Thursday and then sit on my review till the power came back. I have been thinking about how our reading is as much about the when and how we read a book as much as the book itself and how blogs, waning as they are, recount and reflect those circumstances. So, there you have how I read Spinster’s Guide in the dark and cold. 

Onwards to Collins’s third Lady’s Guide romance-mystery and its lovable characters, especially hero Joshua Fielding, Duke of Langham and heroine Poppy Delamere. To start, the publisher’s blurb to set us up with premise and details:

England, 1867: Miss Poppy Delamare is living a lie. To escape an odious betrothal, she fled to London where she’s been hiding as the unassuming secretary Flora Deaver. However, when her beloved sister is accused of murder, Poppy cannot leave her to the wolves. Only a most unexpected—and unwelcome—collision interrupts her journey home… 

Despite a rather dismal first meeting, Joshua Fielding, the Duke of Langham, has no intention of abandoning a lady in need. But he’s not above asking a favor. A fake betrothal will give Poppy and her sister the power of the dukedom and protect Langham from the society misses intent on becoming his duchess.

Yet the longer the ruse goes on, the more Poppy and Langham realize how false their first impressions were—and the less pretend their engagement feels. But before Langham can propose in truth, their search reveals a tangled web of lies and betrayals. With time running out, can Poppy and Langham find the real culprit—before Poppy becomes the next victim?

Manda Collins’s strength does not lie in what she does to the genre, but in what she brings to it, a playful, endearing, hopeful ethos and lovely writing. In this, A Spinster’s Guide, and others, I find my favourite romance “thing”: clever diction and banter. Joshua and Poppy are smart, kind people and their exchanges reflect their natures. Their playful antagonism is one the reader can see right through, which is the fun part. To use one of Collins’s choice words, there is pleasure in thinking “you nodcocks, don’t you know you’re in love?!” That reader superiority is one of the pleasures of reading light-hearted romance: the stakes are low, but the emotions, a delight…if done right and Collins gets it right every time. What she may lack in development of “deep” themes and issues, she more than makes up for with humour, kindness, tenderness, and camaraderie (she also assembles endearing secondary characters). 

As proof of Collins’s writing chops, here is a favourite bit when Poppy, still in contrarian-mode, ponders Joshua’s good looks: “a man who looked so much like an angel should thrive on devilry”. It is more mistaken reputation than act on Joshua’s part, but fun to read anyway. Case in point also Poppy’s snappy reply to Joshua’s offer of companionship when they find themselves on the same Buckinghamshire-bound train: ” ‘…don’t believe a duke can ever be friends with an impecunious spinster, Your Grace.’ ” Being an impecunious spinster, I totally get it. When the stakes are low and the hero and heroine as lovely and kind as Joshua and Poppy, everything “sharp” may sound like “they doth protest too much,” but that doesn’t make it any less entertaining a read. Consider, when Joshua’s questionable poetic praises to Poppy’s beauty are brought up at the family dinner table, she looks “at him with the kind of expression usually bestowed by mothers upon their ambulatory offspring.” LOL…

Moreover, always appreciated on my part is Collins’s gently feminist message: where the romance novel becomes a paean to finding a partner who will offer respect, consideration, and confidence, as well as love, comfort, support, and sexy times. When the false murder claim against Poppy’s sister needs a final “handling”, this is Joshua to Poppy: ” ‘I realize that of the pair of us, you are by far the cleverer. If you run into problems, I will attempt to help, of course, but otherwise I leave it in your capable hands.” As he does. And she does. And they live happily-ever-after with good humour, affection, friends, and family. The essence of the romance’s HEA. Miss Austen stands with me when we say A Spinster’s Guide to Danger and Dukes offers “real comfort,” Emma.

Manda Collins’s A Spinster’s Guide to Danger and Dukes is published by Forever (Grand Central Publishing) and released on March 28th. I received an e-ARC from Forever, via Netgalley, which does not deter me from offering an honest opinion.

13 thoughts on “Review: Manda Collins’s A SPINSTER’S GUIDE TO DANGER AND DUKES (Lady’s Guide #3)

  1. “As he does. And she does. And they live happily-ever-after with good humour, affection, friends, and family. The essence of the romance’s HEA.”

    ::sigh:: yes, exactly this.


  2. This sounds like good reading for a tough time. The ice storm has sounded terrible, and I’m glad you at least have your power back.


    1. It’s very soothing and pleasant and funny/witty, yes! Thank you, it was a very difficult two days with my mum, but thank God, we’re better. Tossed so much food out though, it was heart-breaking. I can’t imagine what it’s like for those who can’t afford to replenish.


  3. I’ve never read anything by Manda Collins. Do you recommend starting with the first book in the series, or can I just pick up this one?


    1. Greetings! I didn’t read the first two, though they’re in the TBR, and started with this one…didn’t really feel I’d missed much re: the leads. But I did grow a mild curiosity about the other two couples who show up to help with the sleuthing near the end. I’d say go for this one and see if you’re curious enough to read the first two. Happy spring!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I know and so pleasant and soothing and happy! Though I also, during daylight hours, started reading Dennis Duncan’s A History of the Index and it’s fantastic. Definitely, a “Willaful” book. 😉


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