The Ugly Duchess – Eloisa James

I have only done it maybe…I don’t know…3 times before – I reread a book.  I realized I never wrote a blog entry about this book and well, it deserves one!  I’m a HUGE Eloisa fan and this book did NOT disappoint in the least.  A spin on the Ugly Duckling tale, it’s a beautiful story of friendship, trust, betrayal, and everlasting love.

James Ryburn and Theodora Saxby (Daisy or Theo for short) have been friends since childhood.  In fact, when Theo’s father passes, he entrusts his wife and daughter in the care of James’ father, the Duke of Ashbrook, who houses them and oversees their finances and Theo’s investments and dowry.  But the old Duke falls on hard times…he recklessly gambles away properties, takes “loans” from Theo’s dowry, and tries to invest in the most ill fated of schemes.  Disgusted with himself and desperate, he finds a solution penned by the Devil himself…he suggests that James marry the less than lovely Theo to gain what’s left of her sizeable dowry to bail them both out.

James is repulsed by his father’s unsavory actions and would do just about anything to protect Theo, who was raised like a sister to him.  Well…not exactly a sister.  Since she turned 16, he didn’t think of her as a sister at all – ogling her breasts at the dinner table and covering his, er, lustful reaction with his napkin is not brotherly at all.  He honestly cannot understand WHY society, or his father for that matter, finds his dear Daisy as anything less than beautiful.  Lithe and graceful with an aristocratic bone structure, he cannot help but find her perfectly to his taste!  Marrying her would be NO punishment for him, but convincing her to see him as anything other than a brother might prove a challenge and keeping the secret of the pretenses of their marriage could very well destroy any happiness they might find together.

Theo (Daisy…confusing, I know), finds James to be border line ridiculously handsome.  A true friend and older brother figure, she knows his popularity and support will help her easily win the man of her dreams, Lord Geoffrey Trevelyan.  But then James does something completely ridiculous – he proposes right in front of the Prince Regent and she suddenly realizes that she doesn’t seem him as a brother at all…but as a red blooded and handsome romantic that she cannot wait to spend the rest of her life with.  So long Lord Trevelyan!

Life is great – wedded bliss, in fact, at least for a couple of days until Theo learns the ugly truth about the basis of her marriage.  She immediately evicts the old Duke and James from her house and her life.  James knows Daisy and he knows she was serious when she said she never wanted to see him again.  He boards his last remaining unentailed piece of property, a ship, and heads off in an effort to prove himself worthy of Daisy’s respect and love.  Someday, he will return and he will prove his undying love for his swan.  But when he returns, a hardened pirate who nearly lost his life several times over at sea, he doesn’t get the warm and fuzzy reception he was hoping for.  Worst of all, his sweet swan has changed…although even more lovely in his eyes, she’s become chilly and hardened and certainly NOT receptive of his hot “advances.”  How will he ever get his Daisy to find comfort and love in his arms again?  And can she ever trust the very man who made her lose all faith in the sentiment?

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