Bear with me, I’m a bit rusty at this reviewing thing. After a long hiatus, I have recently returned to reading. Several weeks ago, I picked up Duchess by Night, the third book in the Desperate Duchesses series, on a whim. I enjoyed it and so checked out An Affair Before Christmas. While I usually like to read in order, I was sufficiently intrigued by the description of A Duke of Her Own, and so decided to skip ahead. I’m assuming that this is the last in the Desperate Duchesses series, and I’m happy to say that, for me, it was a slam dunk. James can be hit or miss, but here she is firing on all four cylinders, with a witty, passionate comedy of manners.
A Duke of Her Own is the story of the Duke of Villiers, well known to followers of the series as the chess playing rake who almost lost his life in a duel. I expect some readers might not like him, but I’ve always found him very amusing. Anyhow, Villiers’ brush with death has made him resolve to take better care of his SIX bastards who have been scattered around the country. As the book opens, he has tracked down all but two, and has further resolved to marry the daughter of a duke, reasoning that only a woman of that rank could get society to tolerate his offspring. There are only two eligible women: the smart, sarcastic Lady Eleanor and the ethereal, impulsive Lady Lisette. However, while both women are less than conventional, there are reasons that both may not make a good match.
The cover copy is slightly misleading but, yes, there is a bit of a love triangle, or quadrangle, really. I’m going to be a bit cagey about it, but for the most part, it worked. It is quite clear early on who Villiers is meant to be with, but there were a few times where I was getting a bit concerned and frustrated. His heroine is absolutely perfect for him, and their crazy passion swept me up. It is a true match of minds and their verbal sparring and physical chemistry had me wanting to bang their heads together and say “Get it together, people!!”
James refrains from introducing too many subplots, which makes this stand alone easily. Instead, she peoples the cast with characters who, while not always sympathetic, are vividly well drawn. They move the plot along and provide a number of amusing and interesting moments. Oh, the dinner conversations! While I really like Eleanor’s younger sister, Anne, I have to give a shout out to Villiers’ likable bastards. It’s rare to find young characters who are not annoyingly precocious or precious.
But in the end it is the romance between two intelligent, mature and strong willed people that made the book. This is the first book that I’ve read in awhile where I know I’ll be re-reading certain bits for days to come. [It’s the first Eloisa James that I’ve read in a loooong time to attain such status. And I’ve re-read parts of Duchess in Love many, many times.] This one’s a hit—a passionate, moving romance with spot on characterization and plenty of fun. The only thing keeping my grade down is Villiers occasional lunkheadedness.
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.
Read an excerpt
Other books in the series: