Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Ugly Duchess by Eloisa James (includes international giveaway)

Theodora Saxby is a wealthy young woman and so you would have thought that she would have been in demand on the marriage market. She is, though, considered to be quite unattractive and so even with her wealth the pickings on the possible marriage market are slim.

What Theo doesn't know is that her odious guardian has not only managed to run his own estate into the ground, he has also 'borrowed' some of her own money. His handsome and accomplished son James is mortified when he discovers that his father is expecting him to marry Theo, or Daisy as he likes to call her, in order to keep his indiscretions undiscovered. It's not that James is reluctant to marry Theo because of her looks, but rather because she is his closest friends having shared the school room with him. He is also sure that when she finds out that James had to marry him, Theo will be extremely hurt which in due course is exactly what happens. I wasn't quite convinced on the need to hide the truth, or at least why it couldn't be explained to Theo couched in more acceptable terms.

Once they start to think of each other as possible marriage partners, the attraction grows. After being caught in a compromising position, James and Theo are married post haste and initially at least they are both very happy. The newspapers however were having a field day, quickly dubbing Theo the 'Ugly Duchess', however this is nothing compared to the scandal that is caused when Theo throws James and his father out of her life when she finds out the truth about her marriage. The fact that James and Theo were quickly realising that their feelings for each other were much stronger than they initially thought is not enough to save the marriage.

Here the two characters go there separate ways for an extended period of time, perhaps too long in my opinion, but still. Whilst Theo retreats to the country and starts working towards rehabilitating the duchy's financial situation, James takes the one asset that Theo said he could keep, a boat, and withdraws to the sea. Years pass and Theo emerges from her country life now comfortably wealthy and heads to Paris for an extended period and returns to becomes something of a trendsetter - she will never be considered beautiful but she has learned not to dress as per the frills and flounces that her mother chose to dress her in as a debutante and into stylish clothing that is designed to suit her figure and features. The word striking, handsome and spirited would probably be applied

James however has disappeared. When he took the boat, he became a pirate privateer with his cousin, but of course, like most romance hero pirates he is a good pirate privateer. He only kills men who truly deserve it, only has a couple of women in the years he spends apart from his wife, and gets rich from only stealing from other, badder pirates. Along the way he changes his name to a much better pirate privateer name and gains a tattoo and some scars.

Without giving too much away, a series of events finally sends James back to England and back to his wife. Whilst it's not quite an instant romantic reunion it really isn't all that long before we get to the inevitable ending.

I really enjoyed lots of things about this book - I liked Theo, I liked that for once the author made the heroine someone who you could imagine wouldn't be considered beautiful now but wasn't in the past because our definition of beauty has changed. I liked that she was good at business and was able to singlehandedly save the duchy. She possibly took a bit long to get to the point of moving on but this would have been a very different book if she had of moved on sooner.

I liked James both before the whole pirate privateer thing, and even as a pirate but I was kind of shocked that he expected to walk back into his old life with very few repercussions. I was also kind of disappointed that Theo accepted James back as quickly as she did. I think I needed him to grovel more because that man had years of absence to explain!

If I read back through the reviews I have written about Eloisa James books, there is a common theme. I mostly like them... but. Most of the time the but was because I felt as though the author was far cleverer than me and her books reflected back. I have to say though, I have felt that less the further her current Happy Ever After series has gone on, the more I am able to get lost in the book and not worry so much about that.

Now if, like me, the fact that I just said that this book is part of a series - it is in fact the fourth book - makes you instantly think I can't read this book until I have read the previous ones, don't fret. The four books in the series are not linked through the characters or even the story. They are all standalone. What they do have in common is that they are historical romance retelling of fairy tales.

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Rating 4/5

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.
If this book sounds like something you might like to try, then enter the international giveaway that I am hosting! To enter leave a comment including your email address answering this question:

What is your favourite romance fairy tale retelling, or what would be your favourite fairy tale to be retold?

The giveaway closes on 30 September 2012


  1. This is a great review, Marg. I think I'm going to skip the book, though. I generally get tired of historical romance, even if this one has the "twist" of having a normal-looking woman at its center.

  2. I think I'd like to see a deeper and darker reworking of The Wizard of Oz. Thanks for the chance to win.

    nanze55 at hotmail dot com

  3. I think I would like this one, based on what I have heard about it. I do like romance novels, but only when they have a real hook, and it sounds like this one does. I would love to have a chance to win it as well, and if I had to pick a fairy tale retelling, it would have to be Cinderella, though it has been done!

  4. I like all of Eloisa's fairy tale retellings. I can't wait to read this.

  5. This sounds like a good read!
    If I've to pick on a fairy tale re-telling, it'd be the story of the Mermaid.

  6. I want to read James, and I've been thinking of making this my introduction, what I've read of the heroine sounding like a breathe of fresh air. Glad that it's a stand alone, some of her books seem out of print at the moment.

  7. I'm glad you're continuing to enjoy Eloisa's books! Thanks for being on the tour.

  8. Great question! I would love to see Little Red Riding Hood turned into a romance.


  9. I typically love reading any retellings of Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella. But I would love to read a retelling of Wizard of Oz. Thanks for the giveaway!

    kliu107 (at) gmail (dot) com

  10. I've been curious about these books so I might give them a try. I want to start with the first one though. I'm glad to see you enjoyed it. No need to enter me to the giveaway... :-)