Much Ado About Eloisa

I have to agree with Julia Quinn that “Nothing gets me to a bookstore faster than a new novel by Eloisa James.


This latest effort by Eloisa, ‘Much Ado About You’ is partly inspired by Louisa May Alcott, best known for her ‘Little Women’, and launches what she calls the Sisters quartet. Obviously it’s about four young women facing one of the most important decisions of their lives — marriage. Or rather, they’re left with no choice but to find themselves husbands to support them since their improvident, horse-mad father left them without two pennies to rub together but horses (and magnificent ones, at that) as dowries.

Witty Tess Essex has to fulfill her duty as the eldest to marry well, and quickly, so that she can arrange fine matches for her three younger sisters, who are all very different in their personality as well as attitude towards love and marriage. Beautiful Annabel has a rather mercenary view of finding a husband – must be titled or have money or both – while romantic Imogen is determined to marry the one and only love of her life. Practical Josie is bent on making up for her plump figure – she’s still got some baby fats to lose – by gaining a proper ladies’ education. While Tess, well, she’s just so overly concerned about providing for her sisters that she doesn’t let her hair down often enough for some fun.

Until she meets serious, reserved Lucius Felton, whom she couldn’t resist drawing out, who fell for her unknowingly. So when one of her sisters eloped with a horse-mad young lord, and her own fiance left her at the altar, our hero was more than eager to have her for wife. Marriage to her cool but intense rich husband seems to be the best thing to happen to her, until a tragedy drove her and one of her sisters apart. In the ensuing low period of her life, Tess came to realise just how utterly she loves and needs Lucius. And Lucius discovers that a life with Tess means giving up any semblance of control over his emotions. Got you hooked yet? If not, go read the excerpt here and find out how Eloisa dreamt up Tess in her bookshelf section.

Eloisa is a master at weaving delightfully witty prose, no doubt due to her background (she’s a Shakespearean scholar! And the daughter of a poet and writer), gentle humour and subtle satire (her character Ms Pythian-Adams is proof of this) into highly original and always delicious plots. She’s one of the authors I’ve been tracking since the debut of her Pleasures Trilogy, and I’ve read all her books in the Duchess Quartet except ‘Duchess In Love’. My favourites are ‘Potent Pleasures’ , ‘Enchanting Pleasures’ and ‘A Wild Pursuit’. There is a very good interview she gave in the New York Magazine if you wish to find out more about her pedigreed upbringing (see her bio too) and why she ended up writing romance under a pseudonym. You can also pop by the Squawk Radio blog she co-authors with some other notable romance writers for a chat.

Before I sign off for the night, I’d like to share this lovely poem by Catallus that Lucius and Tess recited, in parts, to each other. I’d like to think this brought them together:

Lesbia, you ask how many kisses of yours
would be enough and more to satisfy me.
As many as the grains of Libyan sand
that lie between hot Jupiter’s oracle,
… as many as the stars, when night is still,
gazing down on secret human desires …
~ How Many Kisses: For Lesbia, Catullus

The full translation can be found here and I can’t possibly leave without quoting some famous verses from Shakespeare’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’, so here goes:

“Let every eye negotiate for itself
And trust no agent; for beauty is a witch
Against whose charms faith melteth in blood.”
– Act II, Scene 1

“O, what men dare do! What men may do! What men daily
do, not knowing what they do!”
~ Claudio’s line in Act IV, Scene 1


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