This is a returning feature where I "spotlight" a certain series that I love and recommend to other readers, inspired by Anna's Book Blog.
About the Series:
This is a group of four Regency-set historicals that focuse on the romantic adventures of the Essex sisters: Tess, Annabel, Imogen, and Josie. These ladies are left under the guardianship of the Duke of Holbrook who is definitely not expecting his new wards to be grown women. Each of the sisters is very different personality-wise, but they all care deeply about one another and their relationship is a big part of the overall series plot.
Books in the Series (in order):
When you're the oldest daughter, you don't get to have any fun!
Witty, orphaned Tess Essex faces her duty: marry well and marry quickly, so she can arrange matches for her three sisters -- beautiful Annabel, romantic Imogen and practical Josie. After all, right now they're under the rather awkward guardianship of the perpetually tipsy Duke of Holbrook. But just when she begins to think that all might end well, one of her sisters bolts with a horse-mad young lord, and her own fiancé just plain runs away.
Which leaves Tess contemplating marriage to the sort of man she wishes to avoid -- one of London's most infamous rakes. Lucius Felton is a rogue whose own mother considers him irredeemable! He's delicious, Annabel points out. And he's rich, Josie notes. But although Tess finally consents to marry him, it may be for the worst reason of all. Absurd as she knows it to be, she may have fallen utterly in love . . .
The rules of marriage . . . according to Miss Annabel Essex
A husband must be:
Make that very rich. She's had enough of leaky roofs and thread-worn clothing.
London is the center of the civilized world, and Annabel has a passion for silk and hot water.
Good-looking would be nice, but not necessary. Same for intelligent.
Isn't she lucky? She's found just the man! And her chosen spouse is nothing like the impoverished Scottish Earl of Ardmore, who has nothing but his gorgeous eyes, his brain—and his kisses—to recommend him.
So what cruel twist of fate put her in a carriage on her way to Scotland with just that impoverished earl and all the world thinking they're man and wife? Sleeping in the same bed? Not to mention the game of words started by the earl—in which the prize is a kiss. And the forfeit . . .Well. They are almost married, after all!
Imogen, Lady Maitland, has decided to dance on the wild side. After all, she's in the delicious position of being able to take a lover. A discreet male who knows just when to leave in the morning.
But Lady Maitland is still under the watchful eye of her former guardian, the wildly untamed Rafe, the Duke of Holbrook. He believes she is still in need of a "watchdog." She laughs at the idea that someone so insufferably lazy and devoted to drink can demand that she behave with propriety.
It's Rafe's long-lost brother, a man who looks precisely like the duke but with none of his degenerate edge, who interests Imogen. To Imogen, he's the shadow duke . . . the man who really should hold the title. But when Imogen agrees to accompany Gabe to a masquerade...whose masked eyes watch her with that intense look of desire? Who exactly is she dancing with? The duke or the shadow duke? Rafe . . . or Gabe?
Fueled by the knowledge that notoriety is better than failure, witty, unconventional Josie does what no proper young lady should--she challenges fate. She discards her corset and flirts outrageously. She attends the horse races and allows an arrogant rakehell to whisk her behind the stables for a surreptitious kiss . . . and is caught!
She doesn't want to marry the young hellion--but who's to help? Her chaperone keeps disappearing for mysterious appointments; her guardian is on his wedding trip; and his friend the Earl of Mayne is too busy staring into the eyes of his exquisite French fiancEe.
Can a marriage forced by stuffy convention and unwilling desire become the match of the season?
Personal Notes About the Series:
- My favorite of the series is book 3, The Taming of the Duke, mostly due to the hero and the side romance.
- Like the rest of Eloisa James's backlist, there is a distinct Shakespearean tone to these books that can sometimes venture into the absurd.
- Each of these books can be read as a stand-alone, but I think the series is enhanced by reading in order especially in regards to the development of Imogen and Josie.