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 . . . and is scandalized by their separation.
Now James faces the battle of his life, convincing Theo that he loves 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—and War.
Review: Let me start off by saying this book was not at all what I expected. And there are a few mild spoilers in this review.
Let me explain. James, the heir to the dukedom has been given orders by his nasty father that he needs to marry Daisy or as she likes to refer to herself Theo.
The problem? She’s like a sister to him, and according to everyone but James, she’s ugly.
Naturally you can guess where this is going. His father has just enough hanging in the balance that James is forced to marry the girl. But, here’s where things get weird. James actually likes her, potentially loves her, he just feels like he’s betraying his best friend by not being honest.
They are extremely young (17 and 19) and of course immature in how they handle things. James is a gorgeous man with his whole life ahead of him. Theo is an “ugly” heiress who, the day after her wedding, was titled with “The Ugly Duchess.”
Days after their wedding, Theo and James enjoy marital bliss, until James father, the current Duke, returns home and ruins the secret sending Theo into fits of despair forcing her to resent James and send him away.
And there you have your story..well, kind of. You see, Eloisa James divided this book into two parts. The Before and The After. Quite clever if you ask me, because feminine readers will identify with the idea that Theo’s life was ripped in two the minute her best friend walked out of it. She refers to her own life as the before and after. I really appreciated this and found it interesting. Miss James could have EASILY written the entire book based off of the first section and it still would have been amazing. Instead, she gave us a glimpse into the two main characters past and then jumped ahead to the future.
The middle of the book drags, just slightly, but in a way it needed to in order for us to understand the change in Theo as well as James.
Theo turns into an icicle, no longer laughing, and a trifle OCD. I’ve noticed lately that Miss James has been bringing in some commonly untalked about issues in her books. Asburgers, being in the last book, and in this one, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. As a former counselor I can say she does this beautifully and really shines light onto how this was dealt with during regency times.
While Theo is busy getting the estate back on track (thanks to the late duke’s gambling), James is off in the ocean trying to make a man of himself. He gets tattoos, says goodbye to his old name, and convinces himself that Theo never wants to see him again. His plan? To allow her to announce his death after the 7 year waiting period so she can remarry.
His whole life is based off of guilt. Can you tell?
Theo, on the other hand, is pouring herself into order and perfection. After more tragedy strikes (don’t want to add too many spoilers!), she decides to start her own fashion and goes to Paris to make a name for herself.
She truly does become a Swan. And wonder of all wonders? Her long lost husband returns. Albeit, larger (try 30 pounds of extra muscle) w/ scars and that tattoo he wanted so badly. Ah, men.
As with all Eloisa James books, it ends fantastically and I did have a smile on my face when it was done.
What I didn’t like? It upset me that I never really knew what Theo looked like. She was often compared to a boy because of her lack of curves. It was also said she had sharp features, but James swore up and down she was beautiful? I get that it doesn’t matter, but I still would have liked to have a picture in my head of what she looked like. Was she ugly because she wasn’t the “thing” during that time period?
And later, when James returns, you see this broken relationship that screamed for mending. I feel like they didn’t get everything out into the open until the very end and even then I REALLY would have liked James to be more open about how much he loved her during the seven years he was gone. In all honesty, his behavior while he was gone was less than exemplary, BUT, I will say he apologized.
All in all, I really liked the book. Was it my favorite Eloisa James book? Probably not, but it was still really good. There is some cursing and a few graphic sex scenes. So virgin eyes, beware.