Portia Hobbs was introduced in Alyssa Cole's A Princess in Theory (the first in her Reluctant Royals series) as a friend of that heroine. Portia 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, Portia and Tavish have to battle not only their own preconceived notions, but external forces who are determined to keep them apart as well.
I dip into "royal" books every now and then to mixed results. Some are great (Tokyo Ever After to name one), some are just meh (I'll refrain from naming any of those). But every now and then there's a real gem. And this is one of those. Yes the royal elements are a bit far-fetched, but even so, this is a very strong entry in the royal sub-genre and I truly enjoyed Portia and Tavish.