Thursday, 22 August 2013

The Ugly Duchess by Eloisa James

The Ugly Duchess
by Eloisa James

Summary: How can she dare to imagine he loves her... when all London calls her The Ugly Duchess?

Theodora Saxby is the last woman anyone expects the gorgeous James Ryburn, heir to the Duchy of Ashbrook, to marry. But after a romantic proposal before the prince himself, even practical Theo finds herself convinced of her soon-to-be duke's passion.

Still, the tabloids give the marriage six months.

Theo would have given it a lifetime... until she discovers that James desired not her heart, and certainly not her countenance, but her dowry. Society was shocked by their wedding; it's scandalized by their separation.

Now James faces the battle of his lifetime, convincing Theo that he loved the duckling who blossomed into the swan.

And Theo will quickly find that for a man with the soul of a pirate, All's Fair in Love — or War.
I loved the first book in this series that I read (A Kiss at Midnight, the Cinderella retelling), and the summary for this one sounded good but it was kind of a let down. I didn't hate the book, it was just okay.

I guess my problem with the book was that I didn't like the romance that much (considering the book is a romance novel and I was reading it mostly for that aspect, well...). It had little moments of okayness but in general it would alternate being being bland and infuriating.

The main female character, Theo/Daisy, is a decent character. She's tough, she stood up for herself and she handles everything life threw at her pretty well--the only times I liked her character less were in the second half of the book, the way she was with James (when she'd be too forgiving of his behaviour and things like that).

James was...well, he had his moments when he wasn't so bad, but in general he was kind of an asshat and a total hypocrite ("Oh, I *only* slept with X women, which isn't nearly as many as people thought so you see I'm really quite a faithful husband. Anyway, I thought you said our marriage was over? So it wasn't really adultery... You didn't sleep with anyone while I was gone did you? I won't have that, because you're MY wife!" Eugh. Infuriating double standard).

He makes mistakes, then expects to be able to waltz back into his old life and have things go his own way. He tries to justify his actions instead of genuinely apologizing and making up for the crap he does. He plays games to try and win her back instead of just being honest. He never really fought for her (seduction does not count) not when it mattered. He was selfish.

Actually, that is probably the problem: James. I didn't think he deserved Theo at all and he did little to redeem himself. It felt like his only redeeming quality in their relationship was supposed to be that he always saw her as beautiful while she was considered ugly* by other people. His "love" for her seemed more like lust the majority of the time, the only moments it seemed genuine were when he was describing their friendship pre-marriage.

So, yeah...while I did want them to get the cheesy Happily Ever After that romance novels are known for, I was never particularly invested in them as a couple because of James. I'd rate the book 2.5 stars out of 5.


*although, the way she's described actually makes her sound more like a model--unusual features, tall, very slim, not very curvy...and I guess there was a time when that would've been considered unattractive.

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