Another romance! Her Night With the Duke by Diana Quincy is like a lot of historical romances I’ve reviewed on this blog. Man meets woman, they get together, they break up, they get to together, the end. It’s fine! I liked it. So for the purposes of this review, I’ll focus on two things that stood out:

1. Her Night With the Duke is another in a growing group of historical romances that show not every person in British aristocracy was white. The heroine’s her father was a marquis, but she’s marked as “other” by her peers because her mother was from an Arab merchant family (that’s how she’s described in the book, so I’ll use that here too). Quincy herself is an Arab-American who grew up around the world, as her father worked for the U.S. Foreign Service. She was a television journalist until she quit to write romances (for which we thank you!)

2. Just like Quincy shows the kinds of people who really lived in London during the early 19th century, she also writes about how it smelled — which wasn’t great. American and British cities then were not as clean and tidy as historical TV, movies and novels would like us to believe, as I learned when researching that New York Times piece I wrote on public toilets. It was a mix of of urine, feces (both human and animal), garbage and dead animals. Gross! As such, Quincy opens the book with how badly a roadside inn/bar smelled. This is also only the second Regency romance I’ve read that acknowledges people go to the bathroom (the other was The Reluctant Countess, Book 17 of this year, where Eloisa James writes about how a character was disgusted at throwing up in a chamber pot she’d used the night before). Quincy writes: “She escorted Leela to the ladies’ retiring room, where she took care of her bodily needs and washed her face and her hands.” That meant peeing in a chamber pot or the fancier version, the bourdaloue (there’s a picture in this link, though your boss might consider it NSFW). When talking to Leslie Lowe, author No Place to Go: How Public Toilets Failed Our Private Needs, Book 8 of this year, she said that one reason we don’t have enough public toilets is because we refuse to talk about bodily functions. So Quincy’s choice to put this in the book jumped out.

One of the joys of reading a lot (other than reading a lot) is making these kinds of connections between what might seem like completely unrelated books. I probably don’t need to tell you that if you read this blog, but I like to say it anyway.

Nail polish: Emmy, Have You Seen Oscar? by OPI.

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Jen Miller

Jen Miller

Jen A. Miller is a an author and freelance writer. Her memoir, Running a Love Story, was a Philadelphia Inquirer best book of the year. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, SELF, Buzzfeed and the Guardian, among others.

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