Monday, July 8, 2013

REVIEW: "The Ugly Duchess" by Eloisa James

The Ugly Duchess (Fairy Tales, #4)
The Ugly Duchess by Eloisa James
For Ages 18+
Historical Romance
Avon -- August 28, 2012
Mass Market Paperback, 334 pages
Purchased from Amazon

Fairy Tale Retelling, Troubled Marriage, Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder, Pirates

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.

"You'll have to marry her.  I don't care if you think of her as a sister: from now on, she's the Golden Fleece to you."

Eloisa James is one of my auto-buy historical romance authors.  I have read almost all of her books and have enjoyed the majority of them.  I also adore fairy tale retellings so her current series is perfect for me.  So far Ms. James has focused on Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, and The Princess & the Pea with each romance acting as a stand-alone.  And now she turns her attention to one of my favorites, The Ugly Duckling.

My favorite part of an Eloisa James romance is the characters.  She is not afraid to push the envelope with them and this is evident in The Ugly Duchess.  Our hero is James Ryburn, future Duke of Ashbrook, who is a young, handsome lord that is in the height of his social prime at the beginning of the book.  He does have moments of immaturity which can be found in most people at his age, but has a good heart.  The issues with his marriage force him to rethink how he looks at himself and those around him which I think really says good things about his personality.

I also really liked the character of Theodora Saxby (known as Daisy by James) who is the titular "ugly duchess."  Theo is intelligent and knows that she isn't a great beauty, but is determined to not let that effect her overall happiness.  I really felt bad for her with all the gossip surrounding her marriage though I thought she handled it with strength and maturity.  I do wish that she hadn't been so quick to kick James out when she found out about the deal with his father, but I can admire

As a couple, Theo and James were a lot of fun to read about.  Eloisa James does a fabulous job of showing the differences in their interactions with each other as newlyweds and as adults later on in the book.  Both were so young when they got married that it was inevitable that things would go wrong, but it is shown how they both matured when they finally got their happily ever after.

One aspect of The Ugly Duchess that I feel like needs to be mentioned is the theme of infidelity.  I am not a fan of it in my romances, but found that James's cheating did not bother me as much as I thought it would.  There is a very extended separation between James and Theo and I can understand why James did what he did especially because of his ultimate plan to stay away long enough to be considered dead by English law.  But, I do know that this is a plotline that can bother some readers so I figured I would make sure others were aware of its existence.

The only other part of this book, that I didn't care for was the way the long separation was depicted.  I understood the need for it in order for Theo and James to develop properly, but I thought this section was a bit boring.  I read romance to see the interaction of the main couple and I missed that for a chunk of the book.  I also thought the ending was a bit rushed when James finally did return to England though I loved the scene where they were reunited.

All in all, I thought The Ugly Duchess was an entertaining and unorthodox historical romance.  It was a creative take on the original fairy tale and was as wonderfully written as the rest of Eloisa James's romances. I can't wait to read what this talented author does next!

4 STARS -- Really enjoyable book that is just this close to being wonderful. May or may not re-read.
“Discretion is a synonym for intelligence.”

**This series does not need to be read in order though the novellas are attached to certain full-length novels.**

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. The Ugly Duchess
4.5. Seduced by a Pirate
4.6. With This Kiss
5. Once Upon a Tower 


  1. I've been wanting to read something by Eloisa James, but I'm not sure where to start. I might feel a little weird about the infedelity thing, but I'm not sure because they are separated. Any suggestions?

    1. My two favorites by her are The Taming of the Duke and When Beauty Tamed the Beast. She has a different style to her that seems to be either hit or miss with readers, but I love it! Other than being a writer, she is also a Shakespearean scholar and that comes out in most of her books.


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