Duchess in Love, by Eloisa James

>> Wednesday, September 03, 2003

I finally got my box full of books, and of course, I've already dived into it. The first book I read was Duchess in Love, by Eloisa James.

Cam Serrard, the duke of Girton, leapt out of a window and ran off to Greece immediately after being forced into wedding 11-year-old Gina. Instead of resenting him, however, Gina spends the next 12 years sending him friendly letters. When Cam finally returns to England to grant Gina an annulment so she can marry a marquess who loves her, the warm easiness between the childhood friends doesn't surprise them, but the flare of desire does. Before long, Gina starts to wonder if being the wife of a nude-sculpting, frequently absent and socially careless duke might not be such a bad future.
In spite of some flaws, I liked this very much: a B+.

Eloisa James has a highly individual writing style, and Duchess in Love feels different to most romance novels. I'm not even going to try to describe the prose, but I'll just say it reminds me a bit of those old commedies of manners.

DIL is very definitely not recommended for those people who don't like multiple storylines, á la Brockmann. While Gina and Cam are the protagonists here, there's a fair number of pages devoted to Gina's friends, Esme and Carola, who are in troubled marriages themselves.

The only problem was that, as with Brockmann, the secondary storylines were much more interesting that the main one. I wanted to see more about Carola and Esme, especially about the latter. She and her man gave off an almost "Sam & Alyssa" vibe, if you know what I mean. Apparently, from what I've been able to find out, they get their ending in the sequel, Fool For Love, but this one doesn't sound too good, chock-full of stupid misunderstanding and idiotic plot contrivances (and I looked at quite a few reviews). Oh, who am I kidding? I know I'll end up buying it anyway, because I need to know what happens to Esme and Sebastian.

I loved Esme. I especially liked that, unlike Gina and Carola, she hadn't "preserved her chasteness" while her husband ran around cheating on her. I thought her relationship with her husband was fascinating, the way they were fond of each other anyway, and that tantalizing glimpse into their past. And the things that happened between them! I didn't think she would be allowed to do what she did in a romance novel, for heaven's sake! Sebastian was a bit less interesting, at least the times we went inside his head, so I really wanted to see his rationale for the things he did later on. These two would have definitely deserved a book of their own!

See the problem I meant? Writing about Esme, I haven't even started to discuss them main storyline. It was much less compelling, even though it had the potential to be interesting. Gina and Cam were just ok, though some things about them irritated me, like Gina's sometimes' wide-eyed innocence (which tended to disappear, to be fair) and Cam's irresponsability.

Other notes: I loved that there wasn't a villain, this was a good character-driven book. I also enjoyed the setting, a house party. I can't think of why authors don't use this more. On the "dislikes" column, the irritating matchmaking solicitor, manipulating Cam and Gina to defend the Girton lineage. Idiot man.

Finally, I adored the cover on this one. It was one of the runner-ups in AAR's Cover Contest last year, and I'm pretty sure I voted for it.

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