Ever since I picked up the debut novel by Eloisa James, Potent Pleasures, this romance author has won a place in my heart, and over the years, I’ve grown to enjoy a great many of her books and series.
Take the latest releases in the Desperate Duchesses series, This Duchess of Mine (Desperate Duchesses) and A Duke of Her Own. They are prime examples of Ms James’ unique brand of deliciously naughty and witty historical romance which I enjoy tremendously.
Of all the characters in the series, I must say that that it’s Jemma, Elijah and Villiers who captured my interest the most. Not just because of the so-called love triangle, but the mysterious past which led to the estrangement of the couple. This Duchess of Mine was much anticipated as it sheds light on the true state of affairs between Jemma and Elijah, the Duchess and Duke of Beaumont, and builds up to a marvellous and beautiful reconciliation.
For the low down on plot and the synopsis, hop over to Eloisa’s site or check the back cover, which reads:
Wedding bells celebrating the arranged marriage between the lovely Duchess of Beaumont and her staid, imperturbable duke had scarcely fallen silent when a shocking discovery sent Jemma running from the ducal mansion. For the next nine years she cavorted abroad, creating one delicious scandal after another (if one is to believe the rumours).
Elijah, Duke of Beaumont, did believe those rumours.
But the handsome duke needs an heir, so he summons his seductive wife home. Jemma laughs at Elijah’s cool eyes and icy heart—but to her secret shock, she doesn’t share his feelings. In fact, she wants the impossible: her husband’s heart at her feet.
But what manner of seduction will make a man fall desperately in love…with his own wife?
From Elijah’s rescue of Jemma from the disastrous party on the royal yatch at the start of the story to the closing charity party the reunited and very-much-in-love Beaumonts threw, Ms James kept me captivated with the witty repartee, engaging characters, and the dilemmas faced by Jemma, Elijah and even Villiers. What made the story an emotional experience was the desperate lengths Jemma and Elijah go through to at first, hide their true feelings for each other, then reach out and attempt a reconciliation, while trying not to read too much into the hidden meanings in each other’s heated remarks, which always happen at rather inconvenient times, the new layers and understanding revealed when they each share a secret side of their lives, the unrelenting hope in miracles for a dying man and the uplifting reaffirmation of the love they had, and always have secretly, coming into full bloom.
Even the subplot of Villier’s illegitimate offsprings, which sets up the next book in the series, did not distract nor diminish my enjoyment. A truly excellent book, and the best in the series, IMO, and I’m not alone in that opinion.
IMB rating: 4.5
The last book in the series, A Duke of Her Own, is a must-read for those who have been following the series. The enigmatic Villiers gets his happy ending in this book, and the comedy that the readers get treated to is well worth the wait. Here’s the summary on the back cover, if you must know …
A duke must choose wisely . . .
Leopold Dautry, the notorious Duke of Villiers, must wed quickly and nobly—and his choices, alas, are few. The Duke of Montague’s daughter, Eleanor, is exquisitely beautiful and fiercely intelligent. Villiers betroths himself to her without further ado.
After all, no other woman really qualifies. Lisette, the outspoken daughter of the Duke of Gilner, cares nothing for clothing or decorum. She’s engaged to another man, and doesn’t give a fig for status or title. Half the ton believes Lisette mad—and Villiers is inclined to agree.
Torn between logic and passion, between intelligence and imagination, Villiers finds himself drawn to the very edge of impropriety. But it is not until he’s in a duel to the death, fighting for the reputation of the woman he loves, that Villiers finally realizes that the greatest risk may not be in the dueling field . . .
But in the bedroom. And the heart.
I practically pounced on a copy when I spied it in the used book store I frequent when I couldn’t find a new copy at the Borders. Eleanor is such an engaging, intelligent heroine with an irreverent sense of humour that I couldn’t help rooting for her. The ‘matchmakers’ in the story – from Elenor’s sister, Anne, to Villiers’ own son, Tobias – were delightful in their obvious manipulation of various situations to bring about their desired ending for the couple.
Of course, having made poor judgment calls and mistakes in the past, Villiers procrastinated in making his decision between the two ladies, even when his heart was screaming out the choice for him. It was sort of frustrating, but it allowed the introduction of a rival in the form of Eleanor’s old sweetheart – another Duke – which stirred up the romantic comedy angle with a duel. Definitely warrants a reread.
IMB rating: 4.5