I had been hearing great things about Louise Bay’s romances, so I decided to dive in and give Duke of Manhattan a shot. In the end, I found this story to be a quick, fun, romantic listen. Ms. Bay’s writing style, and the general topic of this story, reminded me a lot of Emma Chase, especially her Royally series. Though I must admit that there weren’t any ground-breaking twists or turns to this story, and in fact the plot is pretty straight-forward, there was just something enigmatically pleasing and addicting to Ms. Bay’s writing style which kept me glued to my earbuds as I listened. I suppose to give credit where credit is due, Shane East’s marvelous narration and Saskia Maarleveld’s adept one were also partly responsible for my above average enjoyment of this title.
Ryder Westbury is a self-made, investor billionaire. Well sort of anyways, except for the fact that his current billion-dollar enterprise was built on a small cash infusion from his grandfather, the Duke of Fairfax (and therefore his business constitutes property of the Fairfax dukedom). You see, Ryder by rights could be the next Duke of Fairfax himself, and thereby inherit his business cleanly except for one very small inconvenient condition to his inheriting the title: he must marry first. Unfortunately, Ryder loves women too much to commit to just one for the rest of his life. So, though he could care less about the title, his refusal to marry may now also cost him the very business he has built with his own two hands.
Into this life-changing quandary enters Scarlett King. Scarlett has her own business to save. She has a huge loan coming due which she has no way to pay-off and her entire fragrance business (which has the potential to be a fragrance empire) is riding on it. Moreover, to her great horror, her impetuous decision to, for the first time in her life, have a one-night stand is coming back to haunt her. That is because the man who is offering to buy-out her business (though she is willing to only give up a minority interest, not sell the whole business) also happens to be the man that she had the one night stand with.
Fortunately, for both Ryder and Scarlett, Ryder is a quick thinker and quickly devises a plan to save both of their businesses: they will marry in a marriage of convenience. This arrangement will qualify Ryder to inherit the dukedom (thus avoiding his cousin inheriting it and his business in one fell swoop), and – as compensation for this arrangement – he will pay off Scarlett’s business loans without taking an equity interest in her business. The one fly in the ointment, of course, is that this couple really does feel a genuine attraction – one which will only continue to flourish during their arranged marriage. But when one or both of Scarlett and Ryder finally get what they bargained for – their business free and clear – will both be willing to stick it out to see if they can double down with a HEA in the end?
Shane East and Saskia Maarleveld narrate in the typical contemporary romance dual narration style with Mr. East narrating the chapters from Ryder’s perspective and Ms. Maarleveld narrating the chapters from Scarlett’s point of view. This style works generally well. In particular, I’ve become a huge fan of Shane East’s – though I discovered his narrations just a short while ago. I would equate his voice and narration style to a British version of Sebastian York. Mr. East, therefore, is the perfect narrator to bring the cocky and confident Ryder to life, especially given his sexy, aristocratic British accent. Moreover, I greatly enjoyed Mr. East’s ability to deliver the witty dialogue in Duke of Manhattan and to impart genuine emotion into his characterization of each of the characters in the story.
Ms. Maarleveld also does a good job with her parts of the narration. For example, I think she aptly differentiates characters making it easy to know which character is speaking just based on her intonation and voice without needing to rely on dialogue tags. The one aspect of her narration, however, that did not totally convince me was her British accent for Ryder. It just sounded a bit off – and unfortunately with Mr. East being her counterpart and his parts being so perfect – Ms. Maarleveld’s dialogues for Ryder just fell flat for me. Fortunately, the rest of Ms. Maarleveld’s narration was above average.
All in all, I’m glad I finally listened to one of Louise Bay’s works. Duke of Manhattan was a quick and fun listen that made the time fly by as I listened to Ryder’s and Scarlett’s entertaining exploits and romance. I will definitely be looking to listen to more of Ms. Bay romances in the near future.
TITLE: Duke of Manhattan
AUTHOR: Louise Bay
NARRATED BY: Shane East and Saskia Maarleveld
GENRE: Contemporary Romance
STEAM FACTOR: 5
REVIEWER: BJBuy Duke of Manhattan by Louise Bay on Amazon