I must admit that I had a certain expectation as I began reading Desperate Duchesses. I expected to be charmed by Eloisa James’ characters and entranced by the thought of a new series. After all, she rarely disappoints her readers.
About halfway into the book, I started to feel a little ridge of dismay forming in the space between my eyebrows, and by the end of the novel, I think I was actually frowning. It is not that there was no “happily ever after”, there was, and it was not because I was upset by the outcome of the novel, I wasn’t. It was more a feeling of discontent in the structure of the book.
Ms. James has one too many heroines elbowing each other for space in this book. It is not merely character introduction for subsequent novels, but an all-out attempt to draw our attention away from Lady Roberta St. Giles, the man she wants to marry, and the other man who is the one she should marry. While all my attention should have been focused on Roberta, her affianced Duke of Villiers, and the Earl of Gryffyn, it was constantly being kidnapped by the Duchess of Beaumont. Her oddly estranged marriage and her cadre of friends repeatedly broke my concentration and diverted me from the romance at hand.
By the end of the novel, when Roberta has discovered who her soul mate is, and has settled into domestic bliss, I just wanted to throttle the rest of them. Beaumont needs to give his impertinent wife a sound spanking ~ which she would probably enjoy ~ and then take her to the country for a second honeymoon where they can concentrate on each other and not the rest of the world. I was however, quite impressed with some of the other secondary characters and look forward to seeing them again.
I continue to be a fan of Ms. James’ work, however, and believe that this was a momentary aberration. I look forward to the next installment, Affair Before Christmas.