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Doing the Duke and Duchess Justice
on 27 May 2009
After just three weeks of marriage, Jemma, Duchess of Beaumont fled to France, after finding her husband, Elijah, on his office desk with his mistress. Now, after nine years apart, Elijah has summoned her back. It's time to produce an heir, for the good of the title.
Except that Jemma doesn't know everything. Oh, she's heard about her husband's collapse in the House of Lords, but she puts it down to exhaustion, and vows she'll do what she can to stop him working so hard. But just when things are starting to go right, they're putting the past behind them and finding some hope for the future, Elijah's secret comes out: It isn't exhaustion that plagues him, but his heart. His own father died of heart failure at just 34, and now at 35, Elijah's heart is giving up on him. But before it does, he wants to fall in love with his wife all over again. And this time he plans to do it properly.
At last! After four books, the estranged couple first introduced in Desperate Duchesses are getting a book of their own. Of all the duchesses Jemma has always been the most sophisticated, the most wise, the smartest, the one who plays chess, who dresses best, and whose heart was shattered by her husband. Elijah, by contrast, is the ultimate duke, a man whose integrity and sheer goodness has carved a name for himself in politics and made him near indispensable to the welfare of the country. They are complete opposites. Everyone knows it. Surely they can't find happiness together?
I adored this book. Right from the outset of this series James has intrigued me with the Beaumonts, starting in such strife but gradually drawing closer. Their differences were obvious, but James has slowly been revealing their similarities and reasons for doing as they did, and behaving as they have. Now, at last, all the pretence and the tiptoeing is over. The chess games with Villiers have been cast aside, Elijah no longer moralises and Jemma is ready to forgive him for him past mistakes.
Well, sort of. Though this book never hides the direction in which it's going, that doesn't mean James makes it easy for them to get there. For such intelligent people, both Jemma and Elijah have their weaknesses. And thanks to some advice from Corbin, some conversations with Villiers, a return from the Black-and-White marquise Louise, and a lot of champagne, things veer on and off course with angst, amusement and aplomb.
Yet it's the scenes between the duke and the duchess that are the best. The notorious chess game (blindfolded and in bed) finally happens, and it doesn't disappoint; the trip to the baths; the trip to the glassblowers; the doctors - anything and everything. Elijah's goodness shines through, but so does Jemma's love for him. And the scenes about his failing health are heart-wrenching.
A little more serious than the previous books, that doesn't mean it lacks for fun, and poor Villiers returns once more. This book isn't the easiest for him, but not only do we learn more about him, but so does he. True, the ending of this is a very neat setup for his book (A Duke of Her Own) that is soon to follow, but his story has always been so entwined with Jemma's that it would be a shame to leave him out. (I also have high hopes for that epilogue and what stories James intends to write next, now that she's finished with her Georgian Duchesses.)
For me this is the best in the series, it doesn't disappoint and it does my favourite Duke and Duchess justice. If you're new to this author and this series, go back to the beginning and enjoy yourself. They're completely worth it.