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The Ugly Duchess by Eloisa James
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's review
Jul 01, 12

it was amazing

Original Post:
Yo ho, Yo ho, a Pirates Wife for He at Fangs, Wands, and Fairy Dust

The Ugly Duchess (Fairy Tales, #4) by Eloisa James

by Eloisa James
Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
and E-Book Release
Publisher: Avon (August 28, 2012)
Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
Disclosure: ARC received at BEA signing. No remuneration was exchanged and, except as noted, all opinions herein are my own.

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.

I thought this novel got off to a great start with a sympathetic hero and heroine coming up against a villain from page one. Eloisa's fairy tale based series is not just a simple retelling; each of Eloisa's fairy tales has a plot and character that stands on its own. She doesn't just stuff a Regency heroine into the feathers of the Ugly Duckling story, instead she builds a story in the spirit of the fairy tale and not just a mash-up.

I became quite engaged with Daisy/Theo and James. With pathos and an almost empathic ability to convey feelings Eloisa made me care about these star-crossed lovers. Beyond that, I was actually angry about their separation.

Though I thought Daisy/Theo overreacted, I felt so much for the young girl thinking she had been betrayed by her husband and childhood best friend James. Theo does what needs to be done, and becomes hard and unyielding. No one will ever have the opportunity to take advantage of her again. Despite her hard won and new found confidence, I found that character to be the ugly one.

I understood James' quandary. But I also felt this character's love for the other character, Daisy, and I felt for him just as much. I felt their foolish separation was the result of humiliation, his guilty feelings, and their mutual immaturity. Had they waited for cooler heads to prevail she'd have, at some point, she discovered the truth that separates them anyway. The time the couple is separated changes them but it also gives them maturing experiences.

The characters are not just "type" They are unique and well-described, lovely and sympathetic. There are several love scenes in the book. In each case they are written with the participants' age and experiences, as well as the time, in mind. The first one made me feel that young and in the flush of love.

I had a tougher time with James' piracy and the woman in business. While there were certainly woman who ran great estates and concerns, it would have been very hard. I imagine a title would pave the way. And, Louisa, like many romance writers makes piracy sound fun. But, it is a fairy tale, and as such a little fantastic reality is allowed.

Eloisa's research into the period is excellent. She makes note of the few things she tweaks. As you may read below in Mary Bly (aka Eloisa James) Talks to TIME About Her Literary Double, she is well credentialed. The writing is great, as is the editing. Details of the time are enough, but not too much. It's fun to read how a young couple pushes against societal convention. If you love Regency Romance with a little steam this is a MUST READ.
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