There are six books in Eloisa James\’ Duchess sextet (pun intended?). I\’ve had the opportunity to read the third and fourth in the series: Duchess by Night and When the Duke Returns. These are both classic romance novels and I didn\’t mean to but I loved them. In fact, I can\’t wait to get my hands on the others.
The first story, Duchess by Night, is about Harriet, Duchess of Berrow, a dowager duchess (widow) in Georgian England (late 1700\’s). She is young and has been in mourning long enough â€“ she is lonely. Her circle of friends provides her with an opportunity to visit the estate of a man who throws marvellous parties with a hint of social impropriety and all the elements of shocking fun. Tired of being the duchess in mourning, she decides to chaperone her fellow duchess friend (so many social protocols to follow) BUT disguised as a man.
With the full support of a duke\’s valet, the game is on. Harriet arrives at Lord Strange\’s estate only to find, of course, that the lord of the manor is utterly handsome, arrogant and aloof. As a man, she is free to get to know Lord Strange. Harry (aka Harriet) and Lord Jem Strange spar heatedly with rapiers and wit. The meaningful friendship that results creates an interesting exchange of feelings because there is a confusing and dangerous spark that flickers between them. I fully expected the story to culminate in Harriet being unmasked with Jem feeling betrayed and sulking about it. But that\’s not quite how it went â€“ it was much more fun than that.
The second novel, When the Duke Returns, is about the lovely Isidore (featured in the last book as a minor character). She has been married for 11 years. At 23, she still has not met her husband. Simeon, the Duke of Coswell, married Isidore by proxy when he was 18 and she was just 12. Since then, he has been on an endless adventure abroad. When he finally arrives home, the marriage is expected to begin. They are attractive and very attracted to each other â€“ they just don\’t know it yet. And to add a little extra excitement, they are both virgins.Â Isidore is considering his suggestion to have the marriage annulled based on non-consummation but isn\’t quite ready to give up on it.
Isidore goes to Simeon\’s estate where the pair comes to the realization that they are not suitable partners. Meanwhile, Simeon\’s estate is in appalling condition and falling apart. He has some serious work to do in his duchy and finds out that Isidore shines as the duchess of a large estate. Living in the same troubled space, Isidore and Simeon are drawn together. Quite unintentionally, they fall in love and eventually consummate their marriage. I do love happy endings.
Duchess by Night and When the Duke Returns have interesting characters and a good dose of social history alongside carefully planned and brilliantly executed sexual tension. Â Both stories will meet your expectations and likely leave you wanting more â€“ more duke, that is!
Visit Eloisa James\’ website for more at www.eloisajames.com.
PS: You might be surprised as I was to find that the covers of the American books are quite unlike the UK covers. I thought it gave the book a very different appeal.