Everyone loves a duke. If you’re a fan of historical romance, you can’t throw a reticule without hitting a book starring a duke. If we’re being technical and tallied up all of our beloved books with duke main characters, we’d see that number is far higher than the actual dukes that existed during our historical romance timeframe. Pish-posh, who needs technical accuracy when we can have more dukes? The more, the merrier, I say!
So what exactly is a duke? Well, a duke is a sovereign male ruler of a continental European duchy, a nobleman of the highest hereditary rank. According to Webster’s Dictionary, the first known usage of the term duke dates back to the 12th century with its origin coming from Latin duc-, dux, from ducere to lead. Needless to say, a duke has an extreme level of power, he’d be the OG alpha male, the owner of some serious big dick energy, no?
Urban Dictionary defines big dick energy as “confidence without cockiness. It is never misplaced, and it cannot be simulated. It is the sexual equivalent of writing a check for $10K knowing you’ve got it in the bank account.” It goes on to talk about Pete Davidson, but that’s probably a post for another day! I’d take this definition a touch further and say there is a level of cockiness, but it is subtle and understated, not in your face. It’s a smoothness that says, “yeah, I’m in charge, and you like it like that.” One does not have to flaunt one’s big dick energy; one just exudes the confidence without really even trying. Kind of like a duke, at least the sort of duke we like reading about. And just so we’re clear, one does not need a penis to have big dick energy, oh no, BDE is a feeling, not an organ and there are plenty of women out there, in books and real life that exude this level of cool confidence that attracts us all. Let’s take a look at some of my favorite examples of Big Duke Energy (because who doesn’t love a good pun?!).
Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas
Devil in Winter stars Evie Jenner and Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent. Technically, Sebastian is a viscount, but whatever, we aren’t standing on ceremony here because St. Vincent has a major case of BDE. It has been said in certain historical romance circles I frequent that he is considered one of, if not THE favorite hero of all time. Reformed rakes have that effect on readers, don’t you think? The guys that seem completely unredeemable because of past deeds are the ones we seem to fall hardest for. Many a bad boy carries the BDE gene. I would be remiss if I failed to point out that our dear, sweet, stuttering, wallflower Evie has her own brand of BDE. I mean hats off to a woman who knows what she wants, gets it, and somehow convinces the biggest skirt-chasing bad boy of all time to agree to celibacy for three months. Come on now, Evie has the real BDE here!
Guilty Pleasures by Laura Lee Guhrke
Guilty Pleasures features Anthony, Duke of Tremore, and plain-Jane, Daphne Wade. Anthony hires Daphne to help him catalog and restore the priceless treasures unearth on his property. Unbeknownst to him, Daphne is crushing hard on the often shirtless duke. She’s crushing so hard, she has pretty much decided she’d let him have his wicked way with her. That is until she overhears him saying she’s not marriage material, and no one would ever even notice her anyway. Low blow duke, that’s a little careless BDE right there. Have no fear, it’s just the kick in the pants Daphne needs to show Anthony what he’s missing out on by overlooking her and all that she brings to the table. Again, I feel like I’m blurring the gender roles set forth in traditional BDE labels, and I’m okay with it.
The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare
The Duchess Deal is actually the first book in a series chock full of dukes, it’s right there in the series name, Girl Meets Duke. In this book, we have Ash, the Duke of Ashbury and Emma Gladstone, the vicar’s daughter. Ash is a battle-weary, scarred duke in need of an heir. She is a lovely seamstress wearing a wedding dress in his library, hello marriage of convenience, come to momma! Poor scared and scarred Ash has his best-laid plans blown to smithereens when sweet, innocent Emma ends up not being the pushover he thought she’d be. Oh no, she knows she’s a woman of worth. Ash isn’t ready for Emma to get under his skin, and to see past his scars, hell, he never intended for her to see his scars at all, but that’s exactly what she does. Dare gives us the romance and a lot of humor in Ash and Emma’s story and enough BDE to float a boat!
The Governess Game by Tessa Dare
Not to be outdone in the duke department, Dare’s second book in this series, The Governess Game hits all of the right BDE marks. Alexandra Mountbatten falls for a rake she meets in a bookshop of all places. Chase Reynard is the duke’s heir and rake about town. He is also the guardian of governess Alexandra’s two charges. She sets about trying to show him the young girls in their care need a real home, with influences that are somewhat settled. He, like any self-respecting libertine, is not about that game. Settling down is not on his to-do list, so much so he intends to teach the sweet governess a lesson in the ways of a rake. Oh, the best of intentions often get caught up in the guile of a woman with that unsuspecting charm and desirability. Boy, my Big Duke Energy list sure does have a whole lot of smart and powerful woman on it, doesn’t it? I’m sensing a girl-power trend!
Anyone But a Duke by Betina Krahn
Finally, I’d like to give honorable Big Duke Energy mentions to a new book in our historical romance world. Anyone But a Duke is the third book in Betina Krahn’s Sin and Sensibility series. Sarah Bumgarten has not had an easy go of it since her family moved to London from Nevada. A ruthless and very public rejection happens, and the last straw is broken for Sarah. Stick a fork in her, she is done with dukes, viscounts, earls, whatever. She retreats to her sister’s husband’s estate, Betancourt, where she can finally let her guard down and embrace her Dr. Dolittle qualities and be one with nature and animals. The horses, cows, geese, and dogs that inhabit the country estate will appreciate her even if the dastardly noblemen of the ton won’t. Much to her chagrin, the townsfolk give her the endearing nickname of duchess since she completely takes over and refurbishes the rundown and neglected estate. Since the Duke of Meridian, Sarah’s brother-in-law, has turned his back on the estate, it has fallen in disrepair, and the residents are under the threat of losing their homes and livelihoods. Sarah’s BIL never wanted the title of duke, accepting it meant his older brother Arthur didn’t survive his journey of self-discovery. In this case, avoidance by way of moving to the US is his way of handling the loss of his older sibling.
Once Sarah is somewhat settled in and has things up and rolling around the estate again, a mysterious man that feels familiar to Sarah. Still, she just can’t put her finger on it and whoa boy does she want to put her finger on it enters sporting all sorts of undeniable BDE. Going by the name Michael to keep his real identity undercover, Arthur is shocked to see his brother did not take over the dukedom as they’d discussed. Anyone But a Duke gives us a hidden/mistaken identity, scarred hero, smart heroine story I simply could not put down. In terms of BDE Michael/Arthur has it in spades. His travels tested his will, his mental and physical strength, and ended up teaching him that indeed if something terrible doesn’t kill you, it’ll make you stronger. The man has not been living a life of luxury for the past six years, he’s been shanghaied, held captive feared for his life most of the time. Arthur left society as a man unsure of his place and returned with a new-found confidence and some epically heroic ink on his shoulder that demonstrates the strength of character in his heart. Arthur is BDE for the ages, precisely as Urban Dictionary described it.
In keeping with my theme of women that have that Big Duke Energy, every damn woman in this book has it. From the Bumgarten matriarch all the way down to the chambermaids at Betancourt, the women in this book are strong and sure. They are not damsels in distress, waiting to be saved. They are strong, confident women who can kick ass and take names. They don’t require rescuing and certainly don’t get the vapors by the fainting couch when things get tough. Oh now, the Bumgarten women and the secondary characters in this book hair their own Dib Duchess Energy and it is glorious!