Guest Review – All In With the Duke (Gambling on Love #1) by Ava March

All In with the Duke
Publisher: Carina Press
Publish Date: Out now
How I got this book: Bought

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…

Blurb came from Goodreads

BP NOTE: Don’t forget to look at our New Series Spotlight earlier this week to learn more about this series.

I discovered Ava March last year, and what happened was that rare moment in the book world where the stars align, and there is a connection so sublime between author and reader. I read her Brook Street trilogy, and then gobbled up everything else she’s written. i would probably read her grocery list if she ever decided to publish it. Once I was done, though, I had no more Ava March to read, which made me sad, until I learned she was starting a new series for Carina Press. Novel-length M/M historicals? More of a chance to watch her sexy, angsty boys fall for each other? Why yes, please!

Max Arrington, the Duke of Pelham, has been burned once by love. He thought he had forever with one man, but it turned out that his former lover only wanted access to his bank account. After a nudge from a friend, Max visits a brothel. After all, a prostitute is already going to be getting money. There won’t be any pesky feelings involved. What he doesn’t count on is meeting Tristan Walsh, the most beautiful man he’s ever encountered. Their sex is steamy and intense, and Max can’t leave him alone. When he happens to catch another of the house’s clients abusing Tristan, he makes the man an offer–leave London and come to Max’s country house, where Tristan can spend his days as he likes, but he’ll warm Max’s bed at night.

Being a whore wasn’t really Tristan’s plan for his life, but he’s accrued gambling debts that his madam paid off for him. It’s been a job to him, though with Max, things are different. Max is a generous lover, and he turns him on like no man ever has. Agreeing to Max’s arrangement seems like a good plan to Tristan. As he spends more time with Max at the ducal estate, though, he begins to see beneath the stern duke to the vulnerable young man Max truly is. But a relationship can never work between them. There’s simply too much to overcome, not least Max’s own trust issues.

All In With the Duke did not disappoint. March builds her characters up slowly and realistically. In the end, I couldn’t say with certainty which of the boys was my favorite. I loved Tristan’s steely determination and his pride, but Max was an emotionally vulnerable alpha male, and that was so refreshing. I enjoyed watching the connection between Max and Tristan. The sex scenes were hot and creative, with just a touch of D/S play for spice. The conflict felt natural, and I liked the way the major difference in social standing was dealt with. Admittedly, I have no idea how historically accurate the book is, but as with March’s other historical M/M novels, nothing felt glaringly wrong. I also loved the fact that the story was wrapped up with an HEA. I’ve loved some of March’s series of novellas–the Bound books come to mind–but it was good to see her stretch out this story in one longer work. The sequel baiting was subtle and not intrusive, and I can’t wait for Morgan’s book next.

The one thing that keeps this from being in the A range for me was the editing. I kept noticing the kind of word misuse a spellcheck wouldn’t have caught. I am not the most observant of readers, but if I caught the errors, an editor should have, and I hated being thrown out of the story.

All in all, this is an excellent historical series with two lovely men, some steamy sex scenes and an emotionally satisfying arc to the story. I can’t wait to continue, and I hope Ava March writes her next book soon. My grade is a solid B.

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Shannon is an avid reader, aspiring writer, and someone who gets paid to push books at a library in the northwest. You can find her tormenting her BFF, Book Pushers’ own Meka, and the rest of the world on Twitter or at her blog.

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