Friday, July 31, 2009


A DUKE OF HER OWN by Eloisa James (Published by Avon Books, July 28, 2009)

If you are a fan of Eloisa James' "Desperate Dutchesses" series, RUN, DO NOT WALK, to pick up "A Duke of Her Own."

Throughout each one of Ms. James wonderful "Desperate Dutchesses" books, set in the Georgian era England, one character has tantalized and teased her readers from the beginning. Sometimes poignant, sometimes tragic, but always outrageous and irreverent, Leopold, The Duke of Villiers has been a character who has impacted, either directly or indirectly, each storyline and character in this incredible series.

How to describe the enigmatic Villiers? One of the top chess players in England (indeed, it seemed his one true love), famous for drifting from one woman to another in countless affairs resulting in six illegitimate children, one of the wealthiest men in England, certainly not known for his beauty, his looks were more akin to a buccaneer - very male and virile looking - yet his very presence and attitude proclaims him a Duke. His contemporaries wear powdered wigs, while Villiers does not. Always impeccably dressed, his cravat perfectly tied and formed, lace always just so, Villiers is refined and extremely intelligent. Villiers was once involved in a duel defending his fiance's honor. He lost both the duel and his fiance and then almost his life as a result of his wounds.

For years, Villiers had been paying his solicitor to make sure all of his six illegitimate children were educated and well cared for. After an attack of conscience, he decides to collect them all and bring them to his home. Then, he will marry and provide a mother for his children. Being Villiers, of course, he has certain standards for the mother of his children. One of those requirements is that she be a daughter of a Duke. However before he can begin his search for a wife, he is horrified to learn that all these years his solicitor has been keeping the money designated for his children's welfare and had disbursed them to places unknown. After investigating and searching, he thinks he has finally located the last of his two children, twin daughters. Just before leaving to seek out his last two children and investigate a potential mate, Lady Lisette, he meets another Duke's daughter, Lady Eleanor Lindel.

Lady Eleanor Lindel once proclaimed that she would only marry a Duke. Hiding behind frumpy dresses and with little or no care to her appearance, Eleanor is really hiding a broken heart. For it was years ago, she lost her heart to her childhood friend, Gideon, Duke of Astley, when he married another. Resigned not to become an ape leader and spinster, she resolves to marry and agrees to meet the Duke of Villiers. Intelligent and spirited, Eleanor is a match for Villiers' rapier wit and lively repartee. Intrigued by Villiers, she agrees to meet him again at the home of another of her childhood friends, Lady Lisette, with the full knowledge that he will be scoping out the reclusive Lady Lisette as a potential mate. However, Eleanor is not worried because she knows a secret about Lady Lisette that she believes Villiers will discover himself. And, so, the story begins.

The Duke of Villiers' story has been highly anticipated throughout Ms. James' "Desperate Dutchesses" series. IMHO, Ms. James surpassed every expectation I could have had for his story. The romance between Villiers and Eleanor is touching and endearing, but one fraught with several bumps in the road. I was so happy to see, and it was very satisfying to watch, Villiers find the love he never sought, but found. As always, Ms. James writing style is extraordinary, combining style and wit with grace. Her books are always a treat, but I believe her "Desperate Dutchesses" series will shine as one her greatest works for a long time to come. On the one hand, I was sad to see the series end. But, on the other hand, I can savor each delicious book in this amazing series again and again. Thank you, Ms. James, for creating such a memorable, heartwarming and wickedly entertaining series. They are keepers, one and all. ;)

If you haven't read Eloisa James' the "Desperate Dutchess" series yet, they are, in order: "Desperate Dutchess," "An Affair Before Christmas," "Dutchess by Night," "When the Duke Returns," "This Dutchess of Mine," and "A Duke of Her Own." Do yourself a great favor and pick them up. You will soon become ensconced in hours of heavenly reading and will come to treasure these books as I do.

Monday, July 13, 2009


DON'T TEMPT ME by Loretta Chase (Published by Avon Books, June 30, 2009)
Lucien de Grey, Duke of Marchmont, cared about very little in his world. A man much admired in the ton, he harbors no deep thoughts or allows no emotion to play a part in his life. Nothing phases him, nothing disconcerts him and he takes nothing seriously. Nothing, that is, with the exception of his former guardian Lord Lexham. For Marchmont owed a debt to Lord Lexham that could never be repaid. At the age of ten, Lucien had lost his parents to a fever. He and his older brother, Gerard, unable to express their grief, angry and brooding, had been taken in hand and gently guided by Lord Lexham. It was while spending his summers with his guardian that Lucien, the future Duke of Marchmont, met the irrepressible hoyden, Zoe Octavia Lexham, Lord Lexham's youngest daughter. When tragedy strikes again in the loss of his beloved older brother Gerard, Lord Lexham once again steps in and helps the young man grieve and heal. It was when Lucien loses Zoe, however, that he closes the door on his emotions and on his heart finally and irrevocably. Losing the last person in a long line of people who were important to Lucien is too much for his young heart to bear. For it was from that point forward that the Duke of Marchmont becomes a man oblivious to any type of emotion or care or worry.

Known at a "bolter," Zoe Octavia Lexham is a free spirit who despises being confined. She begins, at the age of four, running away at every opporutnity. Growing up the youngest girl in a brood of eight, Zoe delights in breaking rules and doing the unconventional. Whether it is learning Latin and Greek, typically a boy's doman, associating with children she shouldn't or riding horses she is not allowed to ride, Zoe seems to enjoy doing just the opposite of what she is supposed to be doing. Zoe was what the family considered "the problem child." But, it is Zoe who enchants the young Lucien. Only Lucien can find her when she runs away. And, Zoe is the only one who can make him laugh. Zoe becomes the only bright spot in the young Lucien's sad life. At the age of twelve, Zoe accompanies her parents on a tour of Greece, Egypt and the Holy Land. It was during this tour, that Zoe disappears. Frantic, her parents institute a search, to no avail. Lord Lexham and his wife never stop searching and keep hope alive in their hearts. It is twelve years later when Zoe appears on her parents' doorstep in London that the story begins.

When I first began this book and discovered that Zoe had been held in a harem, I was worried where this might lead. However, as the book progressed and the storyline and characters developed, I was very pleasantly surprised. I'm never surprised at the caliber of writing and/or character development of Ms. Chase. She is one of my favorite authors and has proven, time and again, to be an exceptional storyteller. I was suprised at how she deftly wove Zoe's experiences, knowledge and wisdom gained (yes, she learned a lot in that harem, more than you would surmise), into the story and how well it worked. Zoe's strength of character, intelligence and her convictions have a tremendous impact on Lucien's seemingly shallow, rakish character. Zoe's observations of the ton are hysterical. Watching her slowly chip away at Lucien's defenses and his closely guarded heart, combined with a sizzling attraction between the two is a treat to observe. Lucien is a charming hero whose world and belief system are shaken and re-evaluated by Zoe's reappearance into his life.

As in all of Ms. Chase's books, the dialogue is snappy, clever and witty and the characters are passionate and endearing. I have a short list of authors whose work I buy without question each and every time they publish a book. Loretta Chase is an author on that list. Her work never fails to enchant me and, more often than not, she makes me laugh with her clever dialogue and/or the situations she places her characters in. Ms. Chase's "Carsington Brother" series is a classic and not to be missed. DON'T TEMPT ME appears to be the beginning of another wonderful, engaging series. This book is a keeper and I highly recommend it. ;)