Saturday, June 17, 2006

Fool for Love by Eloisa James

The second book in the Duchess series, following on from Duchess in Love. Due to the way that the stories of several of the characters intertwine their way throughout the first two books this review will include some small spoilers for Duchess in Love, but I have done my best to limit them.

The Woman
Lady Henrietta Maclellan longs for the romantic swirl of a London season. But as a rusticating country maiden, she has always kept her sensuous nature firmly under wraps -- until she meets Simon Darby. Simon makes her want to whisper promises late at night, exchange kisses on a balcony, receive illicit love notes. So Henrietta lets her imagination soar and writes…

The Letter
A very steamy love letter that becomes shockingly public. Everyone supposes that he has written it to her, but the truth hardly matters in the face of the scandal to come if they don't marry at once. But nothing has quite prepared Henrietta for the pure sensuality of…

The Man
Simon has vowed he will never turn himself into a fool over a woman. So, while debutantes swoon as he disdainfully strides past the lovely ladies of the ton, he ignores them all…until Henrietta. Could it be possible that he has been the foolish one all along?

It's interesting to me to see how these first two books link together, and then to wonder how the final two books will link together again as well. In the first book of the series, the main story was that of Gina and Cam, but in the background there were Carola and her husband Tuppy, Helene and her estranged husband and then Esme who during the course of a house party decides to reunite with her husband in order to provide him with an heir. In the meantime though she submits to her desire for Sebastian. When her husband dies, she is left pregnant, but doesn't know which of the two men could be the father, which brings us to the events in this book, and our hero, Esme's husband's heir Simon Darby. It is obvious that Esme is the centrepiece of this series, especially seeing as Gina and Cam barely rate a mention in this book!

Simon is sceptical that Esme and his uncle had reunited and therefore is concerned that if the child is a boy, then the title may be passed onto another man's child. He therefore decides to decamp to Esme's estate to see if he can figure out what went on before his uncle's death. Unfortunately, he has rather recently become the guardian of his two young stepsisters and therefore he has to bring them with them. The two girls are...well...painful. I don't normally mind much when there is kids in a romance but these two are not cute and adorable. The elder girl, Josie, throws tantrums all the time, and her favourite line is that she is a poor, motherless child. Abigail, the younger girl, is apparently less than a year old, makes her presence known by throwing up at the most inopportune moments on a regular basis. The author in her note talks about her own daughter who continued to throw up regularly until she was about twelve months old. Whilst I don't doubt the veracity of the condition, I don't want to read about it!

So anyway, when Simon meets Henrietta he can't believe that no-one else has snapped her up and married her before now, and given the attraction between them, and the fact that his mind has turned to marriage is a bonus. After being caught kissing Henrietta up against a carriage in public, Simon does the honourable thing and proposes marriage to her stepmother. However, she strongly suggests that Henrietta should not get married because with her disability of a weak hip, she would not be able to stand the rigours of the marriage bed, and would likely die from the perils of childbirth, as did her mother who shared her weakness of the hip.

Instead of accepting this as her fate, Henrietta arranges a plan with Esme where a letter that she wrote to herself pretending it was from Simon is read in a public dinner party, meaning that she is thoroughly compromised and there really was no choice but for Simon to marry Henrietta. Esme comes to the rescue with a contraceptive device that means that the lovebirds can have a normal relationship... thank goodness!

In the meantime, Esme has a new gardener who she is more familiar with than she should be, and the next book is set up to be her story. I can't wait to read it!

In terms of the characters, I didn't really feel as though I connected with Simon in particular. He was portrayed as a very fashionable man about town, with lace collars and sleeves, a man who is happy to be seen in salmon coloured breeches. Turns out he is the chief importer of lace into London, and whilst he is a bit of fop, he is also a very manly man! As for Henrietta...well, I am bit in two minds about her as well. Whilst she didn't just accept that she should be an unmarried woman which is admirable, her reaction in a couple of situations was verging on hysterical for want of a better word.

The fact of the matter is, that for me, I suspect that this book really is just the build up to the main course, which is Esme and Sebastian's story!

Rating 3.5/5

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