Eloisa James – "Desperate Duchesses"

12 Dec

GENRE: Romance / Historical
PUBLISHED: Avon Books, 2007

The back blurb:
“A marquess’s sheltered only daughter, Lady Roberta St. Giles falls in love with a man she glimpses across a crowded ballroom: a duke, a game player of consummate skill, a notorious rakehell who shows no interest in marriage – until he lays eyes on Roberta.
Yet the Earl of Gryffyn knows too well that the price required to gain a coronet is often too high. Damon Reeve, the earl, is determined to protect Roberta from chasing after the wrong destiny. Can Damon entice her into a high-stakes game of his own, even if his heart is likely to be lost in the venture?”

I had fun reading Desperate Duchesses. Its tone reminded me in some parts of Branagh’s movie of the Shakespeare’s play Much Ado about Nothing, in other parts of Stephen Frears’s Dangerous Liaisons.

As in the other two novels I read by James, there is a large cast of characters in this novel. A lot of them get their own POV scenes. In that way it’s more an ensemble novel than a novel that’s focused just on the hero and heroine. It seems to be more “real” because the hero and the heroine don’t appear to live in a vacuum. I like that. But I also think it gets distracting, maybe even problematic, when there are characters who appear as POV characters only once or twice because it distances the reader from the story. Coupled with sometimes very short chapters, it makes the story look more disrupted than it actually is. For example, chapter 23 starts on page 230 and ends on page 234, chapter 24 starts on page 235 and ends on page 237. It’s the same evening, there are eight pages, and three POV characters. It’s nothing against short chapters, I even can think of reasons why they were divided that way, it’s that I notice it which indicates that it’s something that distracts. At least for me.

Anyway, apart from a few unnecessary POV characters, James introduced some interesting and troubled characters in Desperate Duchesses and I look forward to read more about them in the next novels of this series. Of course, this did come at the time devoted to this story’s couple, but I think the romance of a fun-loving and easy-going hero and a rather uncomplicated heroine did well for this scenario (perhaps it even needed the extra material). So while I always like to read about a couple getting together I didn’t have the feeling there was something missing. In fact, sometimes this couple’s romance made for a nice contrast to the darker and more complicate characters and relationships.

So while I’m really not so sure about some of James’s writing decisions, I enjoy and admire the way she writes her characters. More often than not they’re not your run-of-the-mill characters from romance novel central.

Would I recommend this novel? Probably yes.

Would I read this novel again? Yes.

Grade: 4 / 5


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