REVIEW: The Ugly Duchess by Eloisa JamesMonday, September 10, 2012 1:00
Eloisa James presents us with a new ducal couple in her latest regency romance titled The Ugly Duchess. Theodora Saxby grew up with James Ryland, heir to the Duke of Ashbrook. English society never expected them to make a match, inspite of Theodara’s birth and fortune. Caught in a kiss at the Prince Regent’s ball, James proposes, Theo accepts, and after their fairy tale wedding avidly watched by all of England, they start their blissful honeymoon. Clearly the book doesn’t end here since this is just Chapter One.
Underneath the fairy tale romance hides the sordid truth that James married Theo for her fortune, and, to add insult to injury, the press has gleefully named her the Ugly Duchess. The facts are revealed in a particularly vulnerable moment for Theo and she wants to flee away as far as she can from James and his father. She banishes James from her life and takes over the reins of the Ashford estate, putting her fortune to good use. Like the proverbial ugly duckling, it only takes a few years hidden away from the public eye for Theo to transform into a beautiful swan. She takes Paris by storm and becomes the leading arbiter of fashion in English society. I love how she uses a swans-down cape at her first ball in England to thumb her nose at the English society that had coined her as the Ugly Duchess.
James, in the meantime, has fallen into the hands of pirates on the high seas and believing in the adage “if you can’t beat them join them,” becomes a privateer. Young and idealistic at nineteem, he decides to stay away from his beloved wife’s life and pretend to be dead so that she can forget the humiliation of being married for her money and find true love. He shaves his head, gets a tattoo on his face, takes on a pirate’s name, and starts to build a reputation around the places where pirates and privateers hang out. Almost at the seven-year mark after his disapearance, a near-fatal attack brings him to a realization that love and family is truly important, so he returns to England just in time to show up at the House of Lords where the proceedings are underway to declare him legally dead.
Theo has frozen her emotions behind a set of rigid rules that govern her life. She does not want anything to do with the mess and chaos that the newly returned James brings into her life. James has returned only for her, so he immediately undertakes a campaign to keep her in his life. It’s very cute how he dismisses all the help in the house and undertakes to play lady’s maid to her in the bath while naked and tries to convince her that the state of his body is normal. I love how he finally stands up for Theo and publicly declares his love for her in front of all society and especially his rival for her affections.
The author takes two very young people and through the story matures and grows them into interesting and likeable characters. While James has been a privateer dealing with mayhem and death, his stories about attacking the slave ships to free the slaves and give them gold to make their way back to their origins give solid depth to the type of man he becomes. Theo is a wonderful heroine who is an inspiration to women with her strong leadership, her ability to stand up for herself and go after what she wants. I enjoyed the book but most especially after James returns to court his wife.
How can she dare to imagine he loves her…when all London calls her The Ugly Duchess?
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 desired not her heart, and certainly not her countenance, but her dowry. Society was shocked by their wedding; it’s scandalized by their separation.
Now James faces the battle of his lifetime, convincing Theo that he loved the duckling who blossomed into the swan.
And Theo will quickly find that for a man with the soul of a pirate, All’s Fair in Love—or War.
Read an excerpt.
Other books in this series: