Alyssa Cole's first in her Reluctant Royals series, A Princess in Theory, has been getting great buzz since before it came out in February, but for whatever reason I didn't get it read until April. I really liked it. And the very next day I was offered a chance at an early read of the second in the series, A Duke by Default and what lovely serendipity that was. Because, turns out, I liked book two of the series even more then the first (and that one I liked a lot).
Portia Hobbs was introduced in Princess as a friend of that heroine who was a bit of a mess; partying too much, drinking too much, and definitely too many men. As Duke opens she's just arriving in Scotland to take on an apprenticeship with a struggling swordmaker. If that sounds odd, Portia would agree. But finding the job gave her the impetus to break away from her partying habits and try to start fresh. She does have some educational background that suits the job, so it's not entirely out of the realm for her to have taken the job. But that doesn't seem to be enough for her new boss, Tavish McKenzie. Tavish didn't want an apprentice to begin with, so to say he's not thrilledt that the one he's got is a spoiled, wealthy American is an understatement. And her trying to tell him how to run things, even if she's mostly right, is making him a little crazy. But Portia perseveres and Tavish is forced to see the contributions she's making, much though he'd like to ignore them given that being near to Portia is a distraction in more ways then one. As the attraction grows (or is allowed to bloom), external forces may drive them apart.
I've been on a bit of a royal kick for a while now (think it probably dates to the engagement of a certain real-life duo) and though I've read many "royal" books, there are very few I'd strongly recommend (or even mildly unless you too were on a royal jag), but this one, though the royal elements are a bit far-fetched, is a very strong entry in the sub-genre and I truly enjoyed Portia and Tavish.