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on 27 April 2017
I love all of Eloisa James books and this didn't disappoint.
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VINE VOICEon 26 June 2007
Eloisa James writes very well and wittily. I recommend this story if you like good and entertaining writing. The plot is reasonably predictable with quirky bits. Girl falls for wrong man, Mr Right tries to show her the error of her ways and eventually they end up together when she finds out that the superficial attraction of her first crush is nothing in comparison to the real lurve and friendship she finds with the right man. Its well done and its fun. You can see the other relationships set up for the rest of the series in the course of the book.
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I read this book yesterday in an effort to catch up on the "Desperate Duchesses" books that I've missed by not having read the books in any semblance of order. I figured why not begin with the first one. The reviews were all over the place and after reading the book, I think I have my answer - at least in part. I have one word to describe this book - "tawdry." Definitions follow: "Tawdry: morally low or bad, cheap, shoddy, or tasteless, mean or nasty."

***This review will be a bit spoilerish so take your chances by continuing to read***

This storyline is initially a bit confusing because there are a couple of connected stories going on. We have our primary characters - Lady Roberta St. Giles and Damon Reeve, Earl of Gryffyn and then we also have Elijah and Jemma - Duke and Duchess of Beamont, whose background story is told in part in this book with their primary story being featured in This Duchess of Mine (Desperate Duchesses Book 5).

Roberta was raised by her kindly, very eccentric father - who was dubbed the "mad marquess" - probably due to his crazy poetry and the fact that his various mistresses lived with him in his home with his young daughter, Roberta. Tawdry! Roberta finally realizes she will never be married unless she gets out of her father's house. She goes to London to appeal to her something like 7th removed cousin, Jemma, who has recently returned to London from France.

Some background on Jemma and Elijah who were betrothed from their childhood: After they were married for a couple of months, she's madly in love with her handsome husband, who is mad for politics. One morning, Jemma decides to visit him in his office where she encounters him having sex with his mistress on his office desk, after having had sex with Jemma that morning before he left home - tawdry to the max!! The disillusioned young Jemma immediately heads off to Paris where she has apparently lived for the past 9 years, initially hoping Elijah would follow her, repent of his misdeeds and ask her to come home. He doesn't make a move to go visit her until three years have passed. How tawdry is that, Elijah!!

At some point, the heartsick Jemma began to make a really good show of having multiple lovers. Who could blame her? It's not clear how much of her reputation is real or for show. Tawdry behavior, but understandable. After nine years of separation with Elijah apparently visiting her occasionally, he passes out from overwork (bless his teeny tiny little heart). Jemma then returns to London where she and Elijah are trying to figure out how they can mend their relationship enough to get Elijah an heir before he passes from this mortal coil - even as he continues to work himself nearly to death in politics. Apparently his father died young and it's expected Elijah will also take the same route. While Jemma's living with Elijah in their London home, she commonly invites men, sometimes two at a time, to come to her room where she's in chemise and corset to help her decide how she will dress for the day. Supposedly this was a somewhat common practice during that period? Tawdry! Into this loosy goosy environment comes Roberta, hoping to have Jemma sponsor her so she will have the opportunity to be married.

The Duke of Villiers, with whom Roberta fancies herself in love, is featured as a larger than life character in this book. You may have read his story in A Duke of Her Own (Desperate Duchesses Book 6), which I've actually read a couple of times and enjoyed. His story deals with his decision to find a duchess to help him take care of his various illegitimate children - six in all. However, had I read this book first, I would have had a much different take on his overall character. In this book, it's rumored he has two - four illegitimate children, but it's never actually spelled out whether or not he's supporting any of them. He's a real cold fish. When he and Roberta become betrothed, he has a little eye-opener talk with Roberta about his expectations of married life wherein he makes it clear her virginity means nothing to him and their marriage will mean next to nothing, with the exception he does want whatever children they have to be his own. She will be able to do what she pleases with any other men as long as she uses protection and doesn't become pregnant by them. Of course he will continue to live in any way that he sees fit. Tawdry!!

The only really interesting parts of the book have to do with ongoing chess games between Jemma and Elijah and Jemma and Villiers. Then there's the actual romance between Roberta and Damon Reeve - Jemma's brother. Although Roberta has her sight set on Villiers, Damon has his set on Roberta. While Villiers and Jemma play chess, Damon and Roberta play their own games - mostly Damon teaching Roberta how to kiss and other stuff of interest. I must confess that Damon was the best part of the story. He's visiting Jemma in the Beaumont home with his own illegitimate son, Teddy, in tow. Apparently he's had the primary care of Teddy since he was a baby - now that is a scenario that easily captured my heart. I loved Damon even though he obviously had his own tawdry background which was all forgiven by me because in his own way, he literally exudes honorable attributes. He absolutely saved the storyline for me. The duel at the end between Damon and Villiers was off the hook!

All in all, I felt a bit low when I finished the book - not because of Roberta and Damon - but because of the lifestyle of the other main characters who were major players in the book. Their lifestyle left me feeling a bit... "tawdry."
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Roberta St. Giles wants to get married. The trouble is her father is not only known as 'The Mad Marquess', he's also prone to obscure poetry, falling to his knees and bursting into tears in public - as well as falling in love with unsuitable ladies.

But Roberta is twenty-one, and no matter how much she loves her father, she cannot imagine living the rest of her life in the country with him. Nor face marrying a man like him either.

So when she meets the Duke of Villiers at a Christmas party she knows instantly what she wants: him. Cool, collected and exquisitely dressed, Villiers is not a man to ever make unseemly public displays of emotion.

According to Damon Reeve, Earl of Gryffyn, Villiers wouldn't even feel them in private either. Roberta doesn't care. Villiers is everything her father isn't, which makes him perfect. Now, how to make him marry her?

With the help of the scandalous Duchess of Beaumont, a game or two of chess and sparkling wit, Roberta astonishes even herself by getting what she wants. Except Damon's kisses are really rather enjoyable, and the prospect of a cool, emotionless spouse might not be as pleasant as she first thought...

Welcome to the decadent era of Georgian England, where men wear high-heels, everyone dresses to excess and powder and patches are the norm. James begins her new series with her trademark cast of intriguing and amusing characters. In fact, at times Jemma (Duchess of Beaumont), with games of chess against both her husband Elijah and the Duke of Villiers threaten to overshadow the main love story. While the brief glimpses of the Mad Marquess almost steals the show altogether.

Yet Damon's bemusement over Roberta's love for Villiers, and his attempts to win her anyway (while she determindly tries to convince herself that Villiers is her perfect match) keep the central romance spinning. And for me, the burgeoning friendship between Teddy and Roberta is what keeps me from dsmissing her as completely hopeless.

In this series James truly comes into her own, with complex, fascinating characters beautifully balanced by wit, romance and a lot of research. She truly brings the Georgian era to life, and makes chess much more than a game of strategy.
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on 11 March 2017
A meandering hot-potch of nonsense; no sense of period; and several utterly ridiculous and completely illogical premises. This may not be the worst book ever - but it certainly comes close.
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on 30 September 2013
This was a 5+ Star book, such a refreshingly different take and way of telling the story .... I can't express just how much I have enjoyed it.

There a a few character's woven through it, and the various paths that they must thread to find their destinies.

This book features as the main players Lady Roberta St Giles and Damon, Earl of Gryffyn.

Roberta flees her mad father and his mistress, and goes to stay with her 4th cousin Jemma, Duchess of Belmount. She believes herself madly in love with the Duke of Villiers - a hardened and unprincipled rake - and ask Jemma's help to trap him into marriage.

Jemma's brother. Damon also offers his own brand of help in her Courtship, but will she get or man or find in fact that another suits her better.

Lots of sub-text, chess and sex. A perfect combination I am happy to report, and I don't even like chess.

You can also find a Review on my Blog, Post #154 in August 2011.
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on 8 June 2011
I love the Historical Romance genre. In fact I am very close to becoming an addict, suffering withdrawal pains when I find a certain author has stopped writing, or books are out of stock, or only available in america on kindle and I am in the middle of rome, or a greek island....

However this book really stood out for me. Without particually realsing it, I had started to become, not bored but wanting a change from books that just happened to be set in the regency/ victorian/ georgian era, because otherwise it would just be a basic one of hundreds mills and boons type book. Add this to the fact that 2 of my favourte HR writers are ex beauty queen, pagency models (?), you can imagine my joy when I discovered this book, written by someone who actually knows about the era, who understands the english language, and diddnt have the book littered with american slang, that while said today would never have been said in those days.

The characters are all well developed and loveable. There were no kidnappings, disasters or damsels in distress, just a lovely funny tale, about love, and relationships. The extra details on fashion, chess and ways of life in Georgian times, were fascinating, and only helped inprove the story, letting the reader picture things more clearly.

Definately a must read for any old, new or future fan, or even those who don't like "romances" but do enjoy historical novels. I reccomend this to you.
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on 19 August 2009
I absolutely adore Eloisa James' books. This one is the first in the duchess series, followed by An Affair before Christmas, Duchess By Night, When the Duke returns and This Duchess of Mine. The last in the series is A Duke of Her Own (2009)

Eloisa's duchess series is like having your very special family on the bookshelf, mainly centered around the famouus duchess Jemma. With great love and humourous care Eloisa makes the plots of the books develop around her and her husband, the duke of Beaumont, and their friends - including the duchesses in the following books.

The plots of the books is a wonderful merry-go-round involving a ring of girlfriend duchesses and their trouble with love. In Desperate Duchesses we meet Roberta, who is desperate for escaping the country and her rather excentric father who writes poems. She already have a notorius duke in sight: The duke of Villiers, Jemmas new chess friend - and the one duke that has set out to seduce Jemma, despite her marriage with Beaumont. Roberta is hopelessly in love with Villiers - but is not aware that Jemma's brother have taken a like to her instead... The book is all about the deliciuos Roberta going from admiration of Villiers and to slowly accept that what you want isn't always the same as what you need...

I can't wait to read the last book in the series where the famous, notorius Villiers gets what he deserves when he looks for a bride to take care of seven(!) offpspring children in "A duke of her own". Throughout the books Villiers goes from a cynical rake to a grown man with a conscience. I'm sure it will be an absolutely delicious end to the duchess stories!
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VINE VOICEon 20 August 2007
Like the Duchesses trilogy this new trilogy has a pivitol couple who look as though they will be central to all four books; presumably their problems only being resolved in the last book. This series is set in the time period of George III, 1780's.

Here we have Jemma, the Duchess of Beaumont and her husband who have been estranged for eight years. Betrothed at an early age, Jemma and Elijah wed when she is about twenty and he is twenty five. Unfortunately, upon getting married Elijah doesn't bother to dismiss his mistress and Jemma walks in on the pair in action, as it were, very soon after her marriage.
Shocked, hurt and angry, Jemma leaves for Paris where she lives for the next eight years living a fairly decandent life style and having affairs of her own, largely in order to spite her husband. She returns to London when Beaumont, a senior parliamnetary minister, collapses while delivering a speech in Westminster. Beaumont is 33 and his father died of a heart defect when he was 34 years of age. So Beaumont feels that time is creeping up on him and he needs an heir. Jemma is willing to do her duty but needs time to get used to the idea of being intimate with her husband again. Underneath, she is still hurt and angry with him and their relationship is like a fencing match.

Beaumont is somewhat self-righteous and up-tight and there is the man/woman double standard thing going on of it's okay for him to have mistresses, but not for her to have admirers/lovers. The one thing he can't have in his position in parliament, is a breadth of scandal. Unfortunately for him the antics of his wife in Paris are well known in England. Jemma adds to this by inviting her brother, Damon the Earl of Gryffen, and his six year old illegitimate son, to stay with her at Beaumont house. She also brings with her her French secretary Caro, who is an expert at arranging novel events for the Duchess. The latest one is a gold painted, pearl encrusted naked woman with a mechanical peacocks tail in her bum, as the centre piece for a welcome home ball that Jemma is planning. There you have the pivitol theme which from the reviews of James's next book in the series, I guess will run through them all, as Jemma is a friend of all the duchesses who will appear in the next books.

Then you have the central couple, or trio, in this first book. Lady Roberta St.Giles, Lord Gryffen and the Duke of Villiers. Lady Roberta is the daughter of the poet Marquess of Wharton and Malmesbury. The Marquess, who is very flamoyant, writes dreadful poetry, and loves his only child with a desparation which constantly embarrasses her. Bursting into tears in public and falling on his knees and declaring his love for her; taking his mistress, Mrs Grope, to balls and other events thrown by the local gentry and insisting that Roberta has her dresses made by the incompetent village dressmaker, so that she, the dressmaker, can feed her children. The last straw comes when attending a local ball, Roberta is not asked to dance because the local gentry are incensed at her father bringing his "strumpet" along. However, at this ball Roberta spots a lavishly dressed gentleman, the notorious rakehell the Duke of Villiers, who later mistakes her for a maid, due to her dreadful dress. He appears to be nothing like her father in character, is not a poet, would never burst into tears in public and declare his love for her and has a controlled 'don't give a damn' attitude. She decides that he is just the husband for her and decides to persue him to London.

Roberta manages to persuade her reluctant father to allow her to go to London to stay with her distant cousin Jemma, Duchess of Beaumont. So there you have the link between the two. Jemma agrees to be Roberta's patroness for the Season; although both she and her brother Damon are dismayed to find out who Jemma believes she is in love with. Damon is instantly attracted to Roberta and wants her for himself, so is determined that she will not throw herself away on the degenerant Villiers.

Chess was apparently very popular during the Georgian period and thoughout the book you have a chess match taking place between Jemma, the best woman chess player and Villiers the best chess player in England, who hopes to get her into bed and another chess match between Jemma and her husband.

The book is very witty in the best James style and extremely enjoyable.
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on 7 August 2009
very predictable story but its entertaining in its own way. although the show is stolen by Damon (our hero) little boy teddy, who at six years old is obsessed with all things gross as only little boys can be. he is so cute especially when he is crawling into roberta's bed!! lots of chess going on which i ddi find a bit dull after a while. first in series about duchesses.
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