Review: The Ugly Duchess by Eloisa James

Publisher: Avon
Where did you get the book: e-ARC from publisher
Release date: August 28th

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.

*blurb taken from Goodreads*

Hands up on who loves romances featuring married couples?

*raises hands*

I immediately downloaded this for review at Edelweiss because I am a big fan of married protagonists in romances. In the Ugly Duchess, Daisy (James’ nickname for her) and James have been best friends since they were little when James’s Father took over guardianship over Daisy after his best friend, Daisy’s Father, dies. The novel starts when Daisy is 17 years old, and James a few years older. James is told by his Father that he must marry Daisy when it’s revealed he’s gambled away all of the estate’s money on schemes, and he’s also embezzled part of Daisy’s inheritance. James cares deeply for Daisy, and he hates betraying her, but he has no choice in the matter.

Daisy is thought of as ugly and mannish by the rest of the ton (why Daisy was called The Ugly Duchess confused me because she wasn’t even ugly). Her Mother and James has never seen her that way though, so when James kisses Daisy one evening, and she reciprocates, Daisy soon easily falls in love with James. This is the start of my problems that I had with this book. Daisy was determined to catch another gentlemen, and despite her love and care for James as a best friend, she doesn’t think of him in a romantic way. Daisy all too easily falls in love with James when he declares his love for her when they are compromised.

After they marry, Daisy and James explore one another sexually and I did find that very sweet as James was nearly in-experienced as Daisy was. During one of those encounters and an awkward encounter with James’ Father, Daisy overhears the true reason why James married her and orders James out of England so that she can never see him again. And weirdly, James agrees and for the next seven years becomes becomes a pirate along with his cousin.

In a way, I found this book to be a little bizarre in how it was played out. The novel starts off when they were late teens, then a portion of the book takes place when James leaves as a pirate and Daisy is left alone in England. This was a very awkward and jumpy transition and it was all tell and never show which meant there was hardly any emotion shown by the characters. When James learns of the death of his Father, he becomes Jack the pirate and shaves his head, gets a poppy tattoo underneath his eye, and then takes on three mistresses. I hate infidelity in romances, but what annoyed me so much about this was James lack of utter remorse, and the fact that in all these years, Daisy lived as a monk.

I thought James was an absolute bastard. Daisy was immature to order James out of England, but to stay away for 7 years and become a pirate was so incredibly random. There was no depth to this development and when James arrives back, he’s not at all sorry for the pain he caused Daisy.

The other big issue I have is with Daisy/Theo. When she ordered James out of the country and out of her life, she managed to live all these years happy as larry with no great thought to James. She soon becomes an elegant lady with her eye of clothing, and she becomes successful. And this brings on another big issue I have with the book, and that’s the total lack of emotion from the characters. It all felt so clinical – and in a way, I felt that this book had no soul or heart. When James arrives back to England after a near death experience, he assumes that things with Daisy can be resumed as normal. Never mind the supposed heartache she suffered – and I had a hard time believing this because it wasn’t shown at all.

Daisy doesn’t want James back, and she does not give in to him easily. She tells him in no uncertain terms that their marriage is over. I absolutely hated the cavalier way in which James told Daisy about his infidelity, and he’s not even truly sorry for staying away for so long. This book left me with a bad taste in my mouth because as far I’m concerned, this was no real romance. Of course Daisy takes James back without a lot of grovelling from him, and they live happily ever after, the end.

I was disappointed in The Ugly Duchess, and it features one of the most random choices to become a pirate in a romance I’ve read. I’m torn between giving a D and C-, but because I did enjoy the beginning of the book my final grade is a C-.

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7 thoughts on “Review: The Ugly Duchess by Eloisa James”

  1. I really didn’t enjoy this one either, much for the same reasons you talk about. The infidelity was bad enough, but he was so cavalier about it when he got back. He acted like, “Yeah, I slept around, so what?” And then he has the nerve to be all possessive and “no other man will ever touch my wife.”

    Total dick.

  2. @kimbacaffeinate: I’m still waiting for a EJ book to wow me. I’ve liked some of her past titles, but none of them wowed me.

    @Jen at Red Hot Books: I should have put that in my review: Hero = total dick *grins*.

    The character’s didn’t have any emotion, and the hero’s reason to become a pirate was absurd. I

  3. Pingback: Review: Ugly Duchess by Eloisa James | Smexy Books

  4. Pingback: Review: The Ugly Duchess by Eloisa James | Avon Romance

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