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.
THE UGLY DUCHESS is a book I was looking forward to. Not as much as THE DUKE IS MINE, but still I thought it would be interesting to see how James re-imagined the Ugly Duckling as a romance. Unfortunately the execution wasn't what I had hoped for. Almost immediately I began to question James, not because it was obvious he was manipulating Theo and honestly I wasn't really sure if I wanted Theo to forgive him. Its not as if this trope is anything new to the romance genre, but something about it this time left a bad taste in my mouth. Maybe because this was based on a story about an 'ugly' duckling, who clearly stood out amongst his peers in every way, but Theo's gets the moniker mostly for reasons out of her control.
But you know that's okay. I would have forgiven that. Not all fairy tale re-imaginings are to my taste (GRIMM for instance needs to just...go away), but I by in large enjoy Eloisa's writing and I did like Theo. Maybe not so much James, but he was young and struggling in his own ways so I could have come to like him if his choices had been...different.
I think my main problem lay in the fact that Theo and James marry--for a variety of reasons, some real and some not--but it was utterly useless except as a means to drive them apart. Eloisa could have easily had them get engaged, anticipate their wedding night if she REALLY needed them to give in to their carnal desires and passions, then have Theo overhear the discussion between Father and Son, have Theo cry off, James run off to be a pirate and THEN had a reunion. Seriously, if they had been engaged instead of married, a lot of James' choices and Theo's tstl moments would have been more palatable.
Instead Eloisa has them married and separated within a week, pops back in 7 years later after Theo has turned herself around, and James has become a swashbuckling womanizer. I don't know how Theo forgave him--I wouldn't have. Never mind leaving her behind, he also sleeps with every Mary, Sue and Jane that flounces their skirts at him. And yet (and I can't really remmeber if this came up at any point because my rage at James blinded me somewhat at times) he seems to think that because there was no communication between them (hard to communicate when your husband leaves you without a word or forwarding address) all can be honky-dory cause he's back now.
Worst older Theo 'became a swan' by cutting out everything interesting about her. While still not the most conventional person on the planet, this older Theo lacks the character that younger Theo had. She may have no confidence in her looks at all, but younger Theo was confident in her worth. She knew she was better then to put up with James'. She knew she could make herself someone people wanted to know. She knew all this and yet older Theo pretty much just shrugs her shoulders and accepts James' excuses that because she threw him out it gave him license to sleep around.
I'm not saying it would have been better if they had merely been engaged instead of married and he slept around on her, but it certainly wouldn't have made me as quesy feeling knowing that he broke their vows so blithely. I hate adultery almost more than anything else in a romance. At least if Theo had taken a lover she could have had the excuse that her husband was missing and likely dead for all the communication they had. HE HAD NO EXCUSE. None. At all.
So really this comes down to two things: 1) lack of communication. No one had any at all in this series. 2) lack of consequences. No one seems to care about consequences as long as the other party is attractive.