The Ugly Duchess by Eloisa James

October 16, 2012
Two days of bliss, 2,550 or so days of separation followed by two days of no grovel. Something doesn't calculate here!

Yes, Virginia, there are spoilers.  The Ugly Duchess by Eloisa James is a hard book to review because I had different reactions to different things. And let me say right up front that a couple of my pet peeves/hot buttons were in this book... we will get to those later.

Let's start with the happy couple, James (hero) and Theo/Daisy (heroine), shall we. When this story begins, these two are teenagers. She's 17, he's 19, and they grew up together. They also had a strong friendship, treating each other as brother and sister. At least on Theo/Daisy's part. James had a bit of a problem focusing on the sister part when Theo/Daisy developed a chest. It isn't too far into the book that these two friends are forced to marry. There are a lot of issues that will interfere with a blissful marriage, but I will only mention two major ones: Theo/Daisy is painted as unattractive, an ugly duckling and has a complex to go with it. James is hiding the fact that he is entering this marriage to save his father from financial ruin. So, we have Theo/Daisy's insecurities and James' guilt over his deceit. Then entering the picture is love. It doesn't take this couple long to come to the understanding that there is more in their relationship than just friendship. They are in love with each other. They have two wonderful days together. I loved this part of the book, from the awkward stumbling first night together to their confiding their hopes and dreams together. In this part of the book I liked James; he was a true hero and never saw Theo/Daisy as the ugly duckling. And then disaster strikes. Theo/Daisy overhears something that breaks her heart and she kicks James and his awful father out of the house. 

And, what does James do? Well, he's nineteen, so he leaves, he sulks, he pouts... he doesn't fight for the woman/girl he loves. Nope, he becomes a pirate, ur, privateer. Not the dirty smelly kind with the rotten teeth, nah, the Johnny Depp/Errol Flynn/Gene Kelly kind. He's a good deed doer kind of pirate, sailing the ocean blue with his long lost cousin (insert suspend disbelief here), whom he runs into and also happens to be a pirate/privateer. Now, here is where the book lost me for awhile. He's gone for seven years cavorting around the world. In the beginning he had thoughts of Theo/Daisy, but then she just sort of vanishes out of his head. Hardly ever does he think of all the things that his friend, his wife, his love may be going through. He never ponders the humiliation his leaving must have done to her. He never gives a thought for what kind of hard life she must be living. Oh sure, he's fighting other pirates, but he's still free to indulge in what he wants. And, he does indulge in three mistresses during this time period. Now, we have arrived at two of my hot buttons: long separations and infidelity. Let's look at the infidelity first.

When he leaves Theo/Daisy he is nineteen, and his hormones are racing, so I actually expected him to have affairs. He waits two years to indulge his appetites, and I kept thinking that Ms. James might show us more insight into James' head. I also thought that maybe when the couple were reunited again there would be a good explanation for his behavior, even some major groveling, so at the time the mistresses were introduced I wasn't too upset. And, by the way, might I ask why three? Is that a magic number? Less then three makes the other women special and more than three makes him a horndog? Is that like kissing on the third date? Three, the magical proper number.

I mentioned the other hot button: long separation. This is the what disturbed me the most in The Ugly Duchess. I felt this separation was way too long. The couple were apart for way too much of the story. Maybe, if the last part of the book had been longer it would have made the separation palatable. It's not as if I didn't enjoy watching each of the characters develop into their own person, but they grew into two different people than the two who were in the beginning. Then they are together again and it only takes two days for them to forget/forgive and move on with their lives. I had a problem with this. Theo/Daisy was hurt deeply by James' actions or inactions and she deserved more from him than what she received. I feel more time needed to be dedicated to the reunion part of the book. So, I was disappointed in the way their reconciliation was handled. I really wanted more of a grovel from James; even if he hadn't committed adultery, he left his wife, never contacted her for seven years. She could have been dead for all he knew. I just thought there was too much of a rush toward the happy ending in this book. Maybe I would have been more satisfied if Theo/Daisy had given James a harder time getting back into her good graces and her bed. 

But, in the end, I found The Ugly Duchess hard to put down. I was really interested in what was going to happen to this couple. I was eager to see how Ms. James would resolve their problems. I loved the beginning, the young couple were a joy, I didn't care for the resolution to Pirate James/Jack's homecoming...he had it way too easy. And, the resolution of the many issues that seven years' separation created deserved more time. In the end it's given a rather cavalier treatment. So, I did like a lot of this book, just wish there had been a more satisfying ending.

Time/Place: Regency England/the ocean blue
Sensuality Rating: Hot!!


Melissa said...

I agree with both hot button issues yet I finished the book as well. And please tell me the pirate cousin is not getting his own story.

SidneyKay said...

OK, I won't tell you. Yes he is. I can't remember right now if it's a short story or full length.