AUTHOR: Eloisa James
SERIES: Fairy Tales #3
GENRE: Historical Romance-Regency
PUBLICATION DATE: December 2011
READ DATE: January 2012
SUMMARY: Tarquin, the powerful Duke of Sconce, knows perfectly well that the decorous and fashionably slender Georgiana Lytton will make him a proper duchess. So why can’t he stop thinking about her twin sister, the curvy, headstrong, and altogether unconventional Olivia? Not only is Olivia betrothed to another man, but their improper, albeit intoxicating, flirtation makes her unsuitability all the more clear.
Determined to make a perfect match, he methodically cuts Olivia from his thoughts, allowing logic and duty to triumph over passion…Until, in his darkest hour, Tarquin begins to question whether perfection has anything to do with love. To win Olivia's hand he would have to give up all the beliefs he holds most dear, and surrender heart, body and soul…unless it’s already too late.
Fairytales have fascinated me ever since I was a little girl. I love everything about them from the princess heroines to the knights in shining armor to the seemingly endless adventures. That's why I was pumped when Eloisa James, one of my favorite romance writers, started her series of fairytale retellings in a historical romance context. So far, she has taken the popular tales of Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast and given them wonderful twists. I was intrigued when she chose The Princess and the Pea as her next retelling mostly due to the fact that it appears difficult to accomplish with the whole true princess idea. But, I can gladly report that James took this classic story and turned it into a unique, fascinating historical with vibrant characters, sweet romance, intriguing research, and a creative plot.
Olivia Lytton is the daughter of an untitled English gentleman who had made a deal with the Duke of Canterwick during childhood. The terms of this pact were that Canterwick's eldest son would marry Lytton's eldest daughter. Olivia is the aforementioned daughter and she has been betrothed to Canterwick's only child Rupert since she was a young girl. The only issue with the match is the fact that Rupert is not your typical duke's heir due to the fact that he suffers from mental issues which I will explain later.
Olivia is a fabulous character that just jumps off the page. She is one of those heroines that makes you want to be her best friend. Her loyalty and intelligence are admirable qualities and I loved the fact that she was not a stick figure. But, what makes Olivia stand out in the historical romance world is her sense of humor. She is extremely bawdy and has a definite appreciation for puns which provided some wonderful laugh-out-loud moments for me. She is not without flaws though and this helped make her relatable to me as a reader. Olivia is a bit on the sheltered side and this is evident with how she views Rupert at first. She is also self-conscious about her body despite her seemingly flippant attitude about it at the beginning.
Tarquin is a unique character in his own right. He is a duke and has been for many years. This has caused him to have a responsible nature that can only come from caring for people and lands. But, Tarquin is different than other Regency-era heroes in that he favors logic over emotion which goes beyond simple choice. He truly has problems understanding how to go beyond outward appearances at first which resulted in his disastrous first marriage. The scars that his late wife left are obvious from the beginning and it takes time for him to trust himself when it comes to emotions. Despite this baggage, Tarquin is a very sweet-natured man who completely devotes himself to whatever he cares about.
Olivia and Tarquin are just fiery once they meet. The sexual tension is written perfectly and had me flipping the pages looking for their interactions. These two both have issues they need to resolve (internal and external) and they help each other do that. One thing I love in romances is when couples bring out the best in each other and this is very evident in The Duke is Mine. The only issue I had with the love story was how quickly the relationship moved. I would like to have seen more interactions between Olivia and Tarquin before the whole "I love you" aspect.
There are also some vibrant secondary characters in this story. My absolute favorite was Rupert, Olivia's "dim-witted" fiance. I loved how the author portrayed him and slowly revealed the reasons behind his "slowness." He is not your typical stupid side character, but a heartbreakingly beautiful person. His personality and outlook on life proved to be a great inspiration for both Olivia and Tarquin. I won't go much deeper into his story arc (to avoid key spoilers), but I can say it is very poignant and just makes this book that much more thought-provoking.
Two other side personalities I enjoyed were Tarquin's mother, the Dowager Duchess of Sconce, and Olivia's twin sister, Georgiana. Like most of the characters in this book, neither the dowager or Georgiana is exactly as they appear at first. The dowager is a force of nature and is thought to be the typical controlling matron, bu there is so much more to her. She saw the aftereffects of Tarquin's first marriage and is willing to do anything so her son avoids that type of pain again. Georgiana began as a boring contrast to Olivia's vivaciousness, but she slowly came into her own. I personally would love to see Eloisa James do a book focused on Georgiana.
In addition to the fabulous characters, the plot of The Duke is Mine is also a great asset for Ms. James. It is easy to follow and full of hilarious moments. I really enjoyed the way some key parts of the original fairytale were portrayed in the book especially the mattress scene. Also, Ms. James is notorious for the wonderful research she does and I love seeing the fruits of her labor in fun little tidbits. The ending of the book is full of adrenaline and is perfectly suited for the fairytale feel of the series. Wonderful job, Eloisa! I can't wait to read more of your retellings!
"It wasn’t kissing the way Quin ever thought of kissing. He thought he knew exactly what a kiss was: a caress of the lips that might or might not involve an exploration of the recipient’s mouth by the giver’s tongue. None of that made any sense compared to this. This was an inferno and a conversation, all at once."
Very pretty! I love the use of the mattresses to show the Princess and the Pea aspect.
4.5 OUT OF 5 STARS
These are all retellings of popular fairytales, but they are not linked with similar characters. They can all be read as single titles.
1. A Kiss at Midnight
1.5. Storming the Castle
2. When Beauty Tamed the Beast
2.5. Winning the Wallflower
3. The Duke is Mine
4. Ugly Duchess (To Be Released Late 2012)
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