Wednesday, 17 February 2016
#CBR8 Book 13: "My American Duchess" by Eloisa James
Rating: 4 stars
American Miss Merry Pelford has infamously broken two betrothals already and her aunt and uncle have taken her to England, where her reputation is slightly less well-known. She's convinced she's finally found the man for her when dashing and handsome Lord Cedric Allardyce proposes to her, while quoting poetry. No longer will gossip about her fickle and flighty heart be all that she hears whispered when she enters a room.
Cedric's twin, the Duke of Trent, shows up to the ball where he's heard rumour that his brother will propose, wanting to stop his brother from using the diamond ring traditionally meant for the Duchess. He can't find his brother, but runs into a refreshingly plain-spoken and forthright young lady on the balcony, feeling such a strong attraction that he's beginning to consider taking a wife himself. Then, to the surprise of absolutely no reader ever, he discovers that the beguiling young lady is to be his sister-in-law. The relationship between the brothers is already tense, with Cedric generally jealous of Trent because he had the title, wealth and property, due to being lucky enough to be born first. Trent is worried because Cedric has inherited their father's drinking problem and doesn't want him to act rashly. While his brother resents him, Trent does love Cedric and much as he yearns for Merry, he can't steal his brother's intended away from him.
Merry is determined to keep her word and marry Cedric, even though she feels a strong attraction to Trent and comes to discover that Cedric isn't exactly the man she believed him to be initially. He seems to think she needs to change the way she dresses, moves, speaks and acts to be a truly suitable wife to him and gets a bit weary of always being told to improve herself. She also believed that the brother of a duke would have no need of her generous dowry, but comes to discover that Cedric is quite the spendthrift, with debts all over town that he's all too happy to have her rich uncle pay. Although she thinks Trent is exaggerating when he warns her to keep an eye on Cedric's alcohol intake, after all, he doesn't slur when he speaks or stagger when he walks, in time Merry sees the truth. While she comes to see that marrying Cedric would be a huge mistake, she won't allow herself to even contemplate Trent as a prospect. What man would marry a woman who's thrown over three fiancees, including his own brother?
While Eloisa James' writing can be a bit hit and miss for me, I do tend to really enjoy her writing. While I didn't entirely warm to her previous novel, Four Nights with the Duke (even though the heroine was a romance novelist - it should have been better!), this was a lot of fun. Apparently, Ms. James had intended for the story to just be a novella, but the story kept expanding and she needed to do it justice with a full novel. As such, this book is not really connected to any of her other ones in the Desperate Duchesses series, or the ones where she retells fairy tales.
Merry is an American heiress in London before inter-marriage between British aristocrats and Americans really became common. This book is set in the Georgian era, pre-Regency, not all that long after American gained its independence. Merry's mother was English, but she's not overly impressed with titles or aristocrats, holding to the democratic ideals of her homeland that men should earn their respect and position in society through deeds and action rather than by being born into privilege. She's far more outspoken and impulsive than the English debutantes and doesn't understand why wearing bright colours or drinking wine or speaking honestly to gentlemen is seen as so shocking and inappropriate. In keeping with making it painfully obvious that she's ill-suited for one brother, but perfect for the other - Cedric thinks she needs to be given a total make-over, while Trent finds her refreshingly different and wants her exactly the way she is.
Of course Merry and Trent end up together, through quite a complicated set of events. Due to issues surrounding his upbringing and his relationship to his parents, Trent is one of those heroes who believes that actually loving his wife is a bad thing. He enjoys her company and greatly desires her, but believes romantic love is fleeting and uses Merry's previous three engagements as proof that only a companionate union can be truly successful. So Trent's road towards the realisation that he truly loves his wife takes a while and things get a bit melodramatic in the last third of the book. Overall, though, I really enjoyed the book and can recommend it to anyone wanting a light read with some melodrama.
Crossposted on Cannonball Read.