My review for this month is the audio book of Desperate Duchesses by Eloisa James, the first book in the Desperate Duchesses series.
Here’s the tagline from the Amazon description:
Welcome to a world of reckless sensuality and glittering sophistication . . . of dangerously handsome gentlemen and young ladies longing to gain a title . . . of games played for high stakes, including—on occasion—a lady’s virtue.
Desperate Duchesses is a delightfully bawdy Georgian romance (1783) with a fairly complicated plot and a large cast of characters.
The protagonist/heroine is Lady Roberta St. Giles, only daughter of the “mad” Marquess of Wharton and Malmesbury. The marquess is notorious for both his florid poetry and his scandalous behavior, including living openly with his mistress, a former actress. Worse, the marquess loves Roberta so much that he hasn’t made any provisions to give her a London season and a chance to marry.
A chance encounter at a country New Year’s ball with the equally scandalous Duke of Villiers convinces Roberta that she’s madly in love with him and no other husband will do. Two years later, still pining for him, she packs herself off to London to impose on a distant relative on her mother’s side: Gemma, Duchess of Beaumont.
Gemma has just returned to her husband after eight years in Paris where she was free to take lovers and focus on her obsession with the game of chess. Gemma’s husband Elijah, a member of the House of Lords, worries that Gemma will bring scandal down on his head and ruin her political career.
Also in the house is Gemma’s brother, Damon Reeve, the Earl of Earl of Gryffyn, and his illegitimate son Teddy. He’s determined to protect his virginal cousin, Roberta, who isn’t as sophisticated as she thinks she is.
All the Duke of Villiers wants is to beat Gemma at chess and then bed her. (Chess plays a large part in the book and was apparently all the rage at the time.)
The Mad Marquess and his poetry add a lot of comic relief, as does Teddy.
Of course, nothing goes as planned, except perhaps for Damon, our hero.
I loved the characters. Roberta isn’t your typical virginal heroine, being familiar with the seamier side of life through her father’s mistresses. Damon is deliciously manipulative, and Teddy is a charming six-year-old rascal. Gemma is a brilliant and strategic thinker, who could have run the country had she not been born female. The dialogue is intelligent and witty. I loved this book. Five Stars.
Rosalyn Landor’s narration is pitch perfect. She’s one of my favorites.
All in all, Desperate Duchesses is a delight to read or listen to and highly recommended to all fans of sensual romance.
This will be the last Book Review Club review until September.
Click on the graphic below for more great reviews in Barrie Summy’s Book Review Club.
Dear FCC, I purchased the audio book from Audible.com.