Book Reviews

Romancing the Ugly Duckling by Clare London at Jocular Press

Genre Gay / Contemporary / Romance
Reviewed by Serena Yates on 27-March-2020

Book Blurb

Is this the makeover of a lifetime?


Ambitious fashionista Perry Goodwood lands the project of his dreams—track down a celebrity family’s missing brother in the Scottish Highlands and bring him back to London for a TV reality show. But first he must transform the rugged loner into a glamorous sophisticate.


Greg Ventura has no use for high fashion. He lives on the isolated island of North Uist to escape the reminder that he’s nowhere near as handsome as his gorgeous brothers and avoid the painful childhood memories of being bullied.


Greg wants nothing to do with city life, and Perry’s never been outside London. When Perry is stranded on North Uist, this conflict seems insurmountable. But Greg is captivated by the vivacious Perry, and Perry by both the island and his host. However, Perry’s one heartfelt wish remains: that ugly duckling Greg fulfill his potential as a swan.



First edition published by Dreamspinner Press, June 2017.


Book Review

The tale of the ‘Ugly Duckling’ has fascinated me as long as I can remember. It combines the idea of a second chance (on a personal basis) with discovering who you really are a little later in life than your contemporaries – and both of those are wonderful tropes, at least in my opinion. In ‘Romancing the Ugly Duckling’, Clare London has taken the well-known children’s story of duck-to-swan-fame, added in elements of city mouse/country mouse, and braided those strands into a wonderfully entertaining, deeply touching, and very emotionally satisfying modern-day romance. Of course, as she usually does, she also adds a little personal twist to the plot – and that made this novel just that much more special to me. A big part of my enchantment came from the sense of humor Clare magically weaves into the telling throughout – I couldn’t help but laugh out loud more than once.

The story begins with, as it accurately states in the blurb, “ambitious fashionista” Perry receiving the assignment of his dreams – or so he thinks until he meets the object of his makeover-to-be: hermit-for life and one of five brothers, Greg. Perry may have expected a few issues, since he is told that Greg is in “hiding”, but the very metrosexual, city-raised guy really has no idea what an immense challenge he is facing. He thinks it will be a simple matter of a couple of new outfits, a haircut, a manicure, and some make-up to ensure Greg fits in and portrays the right image on the reality show his brothers desperately need him for to obtain a lucrative TV deal. Once Perry arrives on the island and meets Greg, however, the sheer insurmountability of the task quickly becomes obvious. I am convinced that, were Perry a lesser man, he would have turned around and run straight back to London at that point.

Greg really is one of a kind. Has his own ideas about what’s right and wrong, and I immediately liked him for that reason alone. But Greg has also suffered quite a bit, so his “seclusion” has a more serious undertone and, even though he certainly needs no one to speak for him, his history and what he has been through brought out my protective side. He enjoys his loneliness, has some rather not-so-fond memories of his brothers, and sees no reason whatsoever to travel to London. But Perry is like a force of nature and, as different as they are, Greg can’t help but be captivated by the whirlwind who so badly wants him to fulfill his potential on TV.

Perry and Greg would never have met under normal circumstances. And as difficult as some of the situations are that they get into, there is a basic attraction between them that is stronger than any of the obstacles Fate throws at them. It’s a close call more than once, but Clare managed to keep me thinking it might just work. So I kept reading, turning the pages as fast as I could because I wanted to know what revelation was “around the next corner” in their evolving relationship. Absolutely marvelous.

Greg’s four brothers with their joking around and fraternal infighting, Perry’s insufferable, meddling, egotistical boss, and several of the villagers who have accepted Greg as one of their own also deserve a special mention. All these characters brought the story to life and added not just color but some real depth to Perry and Greg’s adventures. The main settings of the story – London and a secluded island in the Scottish Highlands – could not have been more different, just like Perry and Greg - yet Clare managed to make both feel real and brought them to life to the point where they added a special flavor to the proceedings.

If you like stories about slick city guys falling for gruff country men, if you want to watch a personality transformation – or two - take place before your very eyes, and if you’re looking for a read that is as funny and entertaining as it is thought-provoking and touching, then you will probably like this novel as much as I do. All I can say is “Bravo, Clare. Could I have some more stories like ‘Romancing the Ugly Duckling’ and ‘Romancing the Wrong Twin’, please?”





DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the publisher or author. This book has been provided by the publisher for the purpose of a review.

Additional Information

Format ebook
Length Novel, 239 pages
Heat Level
Publication Date 10-February-2020
Price $4.99 ebook
Buy Link