Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Duchess in Love by Eloisa James

Duchess in Love (2002) (Piatkus)
Eloisa James
Grade: B-
Genre: historical romance
Sex scenes: mild
Source: own
Duchess Quartet: (1) Duchess in Love
Romance RBC 2015: A book with an arranged marriage 

Forced into marriage aged twelve to eighteen-year-old Camden, future Duke of Girton, Gina has only ever known married life. However, she’s never known married life with her husband. Camden escaped out a window as soon as the ceremony was over and has been sculpting nude women in Greece for extortionate amounts of money and shocking the Ton ever since. When Gina requests an annulment so she can marry the love of her life, Sebastian, Marquess of Bonnington, Cam is only all too happy to oblige and returns to England for the first time in over a decade to get the ball rolling. What Cam doesn’t expect is to find that the slip of a girl he married has blossomed into a great beauty. Living and socialising in close quarters at a house party, they’re both forced to re-evaluate their decision to separate and find themselves distastefully falling in love with each other!

This really should have been a TBR read: I own the whole series (thanks, The Works!) and have done for a while, but there just wasn’t an appropriate category. Nevertheless, I’m fond of this category and knowing my luck, it was better to grab the chance while I had it. With three more books to go, I’m not sure how much more creative I can get, but I can certainly try!

I do love the estranged-husband-and-wife trope, especially if that estrangement has lasted a very long time. Typically, our hero will have left after some sort of misunderstanding or disagreement with the heroine, and starts a new life on the other side of England, if not even further abroad. When he returns to either make their separation permanent or beget an heir, their attraction is reignited and eventually their marriage can continue happily-ever-after. Always predictable but never boring, Eloisa James excels at this – as her Desperate Duchesses series attests. I’ve read a few of these types of romances in the past few months (Private Arrangements, Sherry Thomas, Loving Lord Ash, Sally MacKenzie, The Ugly Duckling, Eloisa James) and I’ve only grown to love the trope more.

While Gina and Cam didn’t part amicably, they haven’t exactly been enemies either. Rather, Cam didn’t want the burden of a 12-year-old wife and also believed that she would be better off without him. Before their marriage, they had both been under the misguided belief that they were cousins and had been good friends. When Gina is left under the guidance of Cam’s father to manage the estate, she takes on the job with enthusiasm. Their reunion forces them to re-evaluate how much they really know about each other, giving them the opportunity to start-over their relationship in circumstances that no by-stander could have expected!

Eloisa James doesn’t hold back with the secondary characters and romances. Gina has a close group of friends that for a number of reasons, have all become estranged from their respective husbands. Of course, these couples are all forced into close quarters at this house party and to varying degrees, revisit their relationships with one another. While I’m a huge fan of strong secondary characters and secondary romances, there were just too many to keep track of here. A good secondary character(s) and/or romance(s) will, if written right, become just as important as the storyline of the protagonists. Not only will you fight for these characters as much as you do for the protagonists, but you’ll also come to look forward to their scenes as much as any other. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the resulting effect. Besides getting confused about who was who as well as their respective spouses, it simply made for a highly confusing set of events that detracted away from Gina and Cam’s storyline. Disappointing.

The deluge of secondary characters is my only complaint. Otherwise, this is another great romance from Eloisa James. Gina and Cam are sexy as hell and the presence of Gina’s fiancée only makes their clandestine relationship all the hotter. There’s some mystery as a sub-plot twist is thrown into the mix, but otherwise it’s all about our hero and heroine. Eloisa James is one of those authors who should never switch genres and while Duchess in Love isn’t her best work, even at 12-years-old, it’s a very good indicator of why she should never, never stop writing historical romance.

Image courtesy of Book Depository.

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