RELEASE DATE: 28th August 2012
FORMAT: Paperback, 331 pages
GENRE: Historical Romance
Theodora Saxby is the last woman anyone expects the gorgeous James Ryburn, heir to the Duchy of Ashbrook, to marry. But after a romantic proposal before the prince himself, even practical Theo finds herself convinced of her soon-to-be duke’s passion. Still, the tabloids give the marriage six months. Theo would have given it a lifetime… until she discovers that James desires not her heart, and certainly not her countenance, but her dowry.
Society was shocked by their wedding, but it’s scandalized by their separation. James heads to sea where he becomes a notorious pirate, and Theo builds their estate into a flourishing concern. Back from the seas, a scandalous tattoo of a poppy under one eye, James now faces the battle of his lifetime: convincing Theo that he loved the duckling who blossomed into the swan. Theo will quickly find that for a man with the soul of a pirate, all’s fair in love – or war. (Goodreads)
This was a book that I picked very recently when I was off sick. I had been reading another book, but needed something a bit more light and fluffy in order to help in my recovery. Eloisa James is always a sure fire hit for me, when I want to take a break from my usual paranormal reads. Her Fairy Tale series is a favourite of mine as I love how she crafts familiar fairy tales into her trademark regency fare.
THE UGLY DUCHESS is a refreshing addition to the series. James always seems to write books that are unputdownable, but this book stood out due to the fact that it didn’t seem to tread the same ground as other books in the genre.
The plotline takes its inspiration from the story The Ugly Duckling. Our Heroine, Theodora (aka Daisy) is not the conventional beauty by the Ton’s standards. She is constantly snickered at by her peers and the only thing she has going for her is her dowry. At least it would be, if it were not for the fact that her childhood friend’s father, who is also like her guardian, had swindled some of her dowry to pay his depts.
This forces James, Theodora’s friend, to marry her in order to preserve the family reputation. At first the marriage is one of convenience on James’ side, but quickly changes into something more. It was heartbreaking to watch as it crashed so dramtically down after Theodora finds out the real reason why James married her.
In a moment of haste she tells James to leave. This results in James becoming a pirate and Theodora is left to manage the estate for nearly seven years. James only returns after a near death experience which makes him re-evaluate his life. Thus the reconciliation begins only to end in a fairytale ending.
Many other reviewers have critisised the actions of both James and Theodora; James for letting everyone think he was dead even after his father passed away, and Theodora for telling him never to return. I disagree with this, mainly because of the age that James and Theodora were when they had married. They were very young, so it is understandable why they acted on impulse. I do think that James may have been rather haste in not returning the day after to try and sort it out, but none the less he wasn’t the typical older male normally associated with this genre. In essence he was still a boy on the cusp of manhood, as is evident by his transformation through the book.
What was really unusual, for an leading man in a book, was that James took up very little “screen” time. It was more quality rather than quantity. Each scene with him in it played an important part of the plot.
Theodora was a refreshing leading lady compared to the other women in Eloisa James series. She is the square peg, refusing to fit in the round hole of her time. Theodora seems to walk to the beat of her own drum, without coming across as too modern. How Theodora deals with the scandal of her husband running off is very commendable. She takes the bull by the horns and manages to carve out a life for herself. She manages to save the estate and actually becomes a bit of trend setter. Her crowning glory is when she returns from the continent and attends a ball wearing, of all things, a cloak made out of swan feathers. It is her way of saying to the Ton, “Screw You!” This little rebellion is funny to read and made me love the character more.
My only main critisim is the way in which James and Theodora reconcile. It seemed to be too instantaneous for my liking. I didn’t want their truce to be dragged out for numerous pages, but there was just something less than satisfying about how it happened. It just seemed to be too easy. A lot of water had to go under the bridge on both sides, yet there was no resolution between the two.
One of the major issues that still had to be discussed was James’s infedlities while at sea. Depending on your take on things, you may view the fact that James had affairs while out at sea as distasteful. Most of the time I would agree, but in this case I could understand why. He was on a suicide mission after finding out his father had died. True, James didn’t get on with his father, but it had a profound affect on him. He cast off his identity and took on a new one in order to get rid of his demons.
What really surprised me was Theodora’s reaction to the revelation. She seemed to almost accept it, apart from the possibility of James’s children living somewhere on the other side of the world.
Overall, I did enjoy the book, but it wasn’t without its flaws. It was rather nice not to have the distraction of secondary characters that were more interesting than the leads. By concentrating completely on Theodora and James, the story was much more enjoyable. Although saying that, I do want to find out about James co-conspirator, Griffin. He disappears near the end of the book to go and reconcile with his own wife. I’ve since found out that this will be covered by an e-book novella out later this year.
THE UGLY DUCHESS just misses out on being a perfect read due to the quickness of the reconciliation between James and Theodora. However, it was nice that Theodora didn’t need James to save her, unlike the other books in this series.
This book will stay on my shelf as I can always count on Eloisa James to deliver a nice warm read, that leaves you with the belief that there is a “Happily Ever After.”
BOOKS IN SERIES ORDER
1. A Kiss Before Midnight
1.5 Storming the Castle
2. When Beauty Tamed the Beast
2.5 Wining the Wallflower
3. The Duke is Mine
4. The Ugly Duchess
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