Sunday, 5 June 2011

When the Duke Returns by Eloisa James

GENRE: historical romance

The Duchess of Cosway yearns for a man she has never met . . . her husband. Married by proxy as a child, Lady Isidore has spent years fending off lecherous men in every European court while waiting to meet her husband. She's determined to accept him, no matter how unattractive the duke turns out to be. When she finally lures Simeon Jermyn back to London, his dark handsomeness puts Isidore's worst fears to rest—until disaster strikes.

The duke demands an annulment. Forsaking his adventuresome past, Simeon has returned to London ready to embrace the life of a proper duke, only to find that his supposed wife is too ravishing, too headstrong, and too sensual to be the docile duchess he has in mind. But Isidore will not give up her claim to the title—or him—without a fight.

She will do whatever it takes to capture Simeon's heart, even if it means sacrificing her virtue. After all, a consummated marriage cannot be annulled. Yet in forcing Simeon into a delicious surrender, will Isidore risk not only her dignity—but her heart?

When the Duke Returns is the fourth book in the Desperate Duchesses series, but it can easily be read as a stand-alone novel. Taking place in Georgian England, it is a romantic story with intriguing characters and lovely period details.

Isidore was only a child when she was married – by proxy – to Simeon, Duke of Cosway. Now that she is a grown woman of twenty-three, she thinks it is high time she has met her husband, but he is still roaming the wilderness of Africa, so she must lure him back to England with a trick. All those lonely years, Isidore has been faithful to her husband, saving herself for the man she created in her head – a handsome, fashionable youth of the day. Instead, when she first sees her husband, who is anything but a proper duke, she receives a great shock, but Isidore is determined – she wants to be a duchess and she wants her husband to be exactly as a husband should be, as well as to assume the proper role of a true duke. Yet Simeon is so different from anyone she’s used to that Isidore is in for a lot of unexpected things, and the same can be said for Simeon. He expected to find a wife that was an epitome of grace, docility and virtue. Instead, he gets a spitfire of a woman who is intent on changing his ways.

Simeon Jermyn, Duke of Cosway, is a male protagonist I haven’t read about before reading this novel. He is so different from all the dashing, rough heroes of romantic novels that sweep their heroines off their feet. He is based on James Spruce, an 18th-century Scottish traveler, who spent most of his life in Africa, where he found the origins of the Blue Nile. Simeon is such an explorer as well and as he has spent more time in India and Africa than he has in England, he is quite unused to the ways established in Georgian England. He does not wear a wig, he does not powder his hair and he prefers trousers to breeches. He adheres to the so-called Middle Way, which means that he is always in control of himself, even when seeing his beautiful, enticing wife. In fact, he is even a virgin at twenty-way, which shocks his wife furthermore. Needless to say, many things irk Isidore to no end.

Yet their love story is delightful to explore and is really quite beautiful. It shows that acceptance goes hand in hand with love, and that differences between two people can actually bring them closer to one another. The story of Isidore and Simeon is interesting, witty and romantic, and in the second part of the novel it even becomes seductive and just a bit steamy.

Isidore and Simeon are both delightful characters that I found myself caring about during the course of the novel, and good characters are always a plus. They are both educated, yet innocent in many ways, and with all their differences, they manage to complement each other quite well. I also enjoy the fact that other characters present in the novel – Simeon’s family and Isidore’s friends – were explored and not just inserted into the story for the sake of helping the plot develop. A subplot of another couple is present, a story equally enjoyable, but it is further explored in another novel from this series, which I will happily discover and read in the future.

Period details and the etiquette of Georgian England are observed. In historical romances, such elements tend to be overlooked, but James balanced them well with the romantic portion of the novel. The sole focus is not on love, although it is prevalent, but on other matters as well, and that made this novel enjoyable to me.

The ending is a bit flamboyant for my taste (flamboyant in the sense that it borders on something that is a bit over the top and consequently slightly far-fetched), but I liked it nonetheless and I think it is a fitting finale for a couple who have had their fair share of struggles to overcome.

I definitely recommend this novel to all lovers of historical romances.



Peppermint Ph.D. said...

I'm not a big romance fan but I do enjoy historical fiction...may give this one a try :) I'm a series-a-holic :)

Peppermint Ph.D. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Insouciant Sophisticate said...

I think I've read some other books in this series but not this one which sounds really cute. I just read a collection of three romance novellas and am in the mood for more romance so I might check this out. Thanks for the review!

Blodeuedd said...

I have read a book by her..might even have been a part of this series and I did enjoy it :) So I think I would enjoy this one too

Jo K said...

This would be something for me to read. I like a god romance with well-developed characters. Great review!