This Duchess of Mine by Eloisa James
This Duchess of Mine (finally) tells the story of Jemma, the Duchess of Beaumont, and her husband Elijah, the Duke. The two entered into an arranged marriage at a young age and while Jemma was infatuated with Elijah he did not return the sentiment. This was brought home all too abruptly to Jemma when she walked into Elijah's offices in Parliament to find his mistress, Sara Corbett, bent over a desk with her husband behind her. Jemma ran off to Paris hoping that Elijah would follow and bring her back, but he waited 3 years to come to her rescue and even then he didn't take her back. He had felt so bad over the way things with Jemma had played out that he believed he didn't have the right to bring Jemma home and that it was her choice to go and have affairs and risque parties because he no longer deserved her. Despite the incredible rumors circulating around London Jemma wasn't quite as brazen as many had been lead to believe as she only took two lovers while in Paris and she apparently learned more about sex and love from the other women in Paris then from anything she did in the bedchamber. After 8 years Jemma finally came back to London with Elijah as both agree that it is past time for them to beget an heir but both are a tad bit unsure of how to go about with the other.
Jemma decides, oddly enough, that part of Elijah's problem is that he never had any fun and has been haunted by his father's exceedingly scandalous death many years before. Therefore she sets up her "friend" a French marquise to flirt with Elijah, perhaps in an attempt to get him to realize how harmless and fun it can be. This attempt kind of backfires when Elijah seemingly takes the bait and the two engage in a bit of back and forth. Elijah knows he made a terrible mistake all those years ago and although he knows that he can no longer expect the tender feelings that Jemma once had for him he wants to make her happy in the short amount of time he believes he has left. His father expired at a young age due to a heart problem and Elijah finds himself experiences erratic, slow, and rapid heart rhythm so he is convinced that he too will die young. When Jemma finds out she is horrified and determined to find a cure for the heart problem and she is aided in this endeavor by Elijah's childhood friend and her own one-time possible lover, the Duke of Villiers. Villiers is also engaged in an attempt to round up all six of his illegitimate children, an activity made incredibly difficult as his solicitor has disappeared after lying about the children's whereabouts. Our ending is a sweet little happily ever-after when James brings in a real-life doctor who real-life did find a cure for some irregular heart rhythms.
I thought James did an excellent little explanation of Elijah's affair with Sara- she doesn't just write it off as just a random affair and, although it doesn't entirely excuse his cheating on Jemma apparently hours after they had been together, it was certainly a new and interesting excuse/ explanation. In the same vein James did a great job redeeming Elijah by showing that he is sorry and deeply regrets what he has done and offers as proof his celibacy during the entire time Jemma was gone, although apparently he managed to take care of things himself (something that seems to be popping up in romance novels all over the place. The book was plenty hot- although the chess game didn't exactly get me going as I find chess to be boring, long, and basically everything not sexy. It seems odd to me that there is an entire romance novel series that deals so much with chess. It was interesting and fun to read about these two learning how far to push each other and what to do with each other now that there wasn't a sea in between them. James gave the reader a great perspective from both Jemma and Elijah's point of view as they navigated their newly developing relationship. We also got a bit from Villier's POV, which was nice, but also made me a little wary of reading his novel as he seems to have absolutely no feelings for anyone besides himself- maybe interesting.
I still am very unsure what Jemma really hoped to accomplish by having Elijah flirt with the French marquise. Wanting him to have fun and loosen up seemed a little too far fetched a reason for having your husband flirt with another reason. And then that of course led to both of them trying to make the other jealous at a party and that just strikes me as so childish and immature- especially when she was the one who had instigated it! The marquise struck me as a complete moron as I could not understand why she would accept advice on marriage from a woman who ran away from her own marriage for 8 years. I enjoyed how James used real-life doctors and events when "curing" Elijah's heart problems instead of having a random magical cure come into being. I think that Jemma kind of lost a lot of the risque-ness she was portrayed as having in the previous books in the series; she was always the wild one with the reputation but here we learn that she actually isn't all that wild and just pretends to be. It seemed sort of a cop-out as if James couldn't deal with a heroine who actually had had multiple lovers and enjoyed them too. I found myself liking the characters and rooting for them but I could never really figure out quite why as they seemed so unappealing. Last but not least I think that the cover got messed up at the printers as it looks like a picture that has been overexposed with another picture. Or it was just poorly designed.
Rating: The entire Duchesses series is a good one, but some have been better than others with "Duchess by Night" being by far my favorite. An above average book, but not all that inspiring and memorable.