Title: This Duchess of Mine
Author: Eloisa James
Genre: Historical (Georgian) romance
Publishing Date: May 26, 2009
Paperback: 384 pages
Stand Alone/ Series: Book 5 in the Desperate Duchesses series, it can be read as a stand alone but it would NOT have the same effect.
Summary: Wedding bells celebrating the arranged marriage between the lovely Duchess of Beaumont and her staid, imperturbable duke had scarcely fallen silent when a shocking discovery sent Jemma running from the ducal mansion. For the next nine years she cavorted abroad, creating one delicious scandal after another (if one is to believe the rumors).
Elijah, Duke of Beaumont, did believe those rumors.
But the handsome duke needs an heir, so he summons his seductive wife home. Jemma laughs at Elijah’s cool eyes and icy heart—but to her secret shock, she doesn’t share his feelings. In fact, she wants the impossible: her husband’s heart at her feet.
But what manner of seduction will make a man fall desperately in love…with his own wife?
Why did I read the Book: this is my top 1 historical series and this book, this book I have been waiting for a long, long time. You can read more about the series here
Warning: some spoilers ahead.
This Duchess of Mine was one of my most anticipated reads for 2009. This is book five in the Desperate Duchesses series and it is Elijah and Jemma’s book. For those not in the know, Elijah and Jemma are the couple that stole every single scene in which they appeared in the past four books. Their story is a most interesting one: 9 years ago, Jemma and Elijah got into an arranged marriage. A young Jemma went into the arrangement completely besotted with her handsome husband, who in turn hardly ever spared one moment of thought for her. A serious, steadfast statesman trying to make a name for himself in the House of Lords, Elijah spent as little time as possible at home, bedded his beautiful wife under the blankets with little care for her pleasure. One day, Jemma decides to surprise her husband at his offices and walks into Elijah and his mistress having sex at his desk. In the fight that ensues, Elijah proclaims that he loves his mistress and Jemma flees to France where she spends the next 9 years creating quite the reputation until Elijah summons her back to England to beget a heir. Her return happens in the beginning of book 1, Desperate Duchesses. For the next year – for this is the amount of time taken in the 4 books – Elijah and Jemma gravitate around each other. Jemma is changed from the ingénue she once was and has become a scandalous, sophisticated woman , all the rage in Paris. Elijah is a most important honourable politician.
Their story is not simple or straight forward. Because Jemma is also an accomplished Chess player – something she shares with Elijah. Upon returning to England, Jemma meets the reprobate , seductive, Duke of Villiers, a champion of the game. Villiers was Elijah’s best friend in childhood but they become as estranged as Elijah and Jemma. The three of them become entangled in an evolving relationship which move around games of chess : Jemma is playing both Elijah and Villiers in a set of three games and the last game is to be played in bed and blindfolded. As the story progresses, Villiers and Jemma become friends, Elijah and Villiers rekindle their friendship and Jemma and Elijah fall for each other and in the previous book of the series, When the Duke Returns, Jemma makes her choice, forfeits the game with Villiers and decides that Elijah is hers to take.
This Duchess of Mine starts at the King’s party that took place at the end of When the Duke Returns. Jemma is there waiting for Elijah in what will be the first night of their lives together. He had been away for a couple of weeks in one of his political recesses and is dying, positively dying to see Jemma. But the boat where the party is being held is attacked by a mob and Elijah plays the hero and saves Jemma. The first pages of the book are exciting as much as the remaining of the book is heart-warming.
This is a story that is 10 years and 4 books in the making. At the start of the series, I briefly rooted for Villiers to win Jemma (specially considering that Elijah was a cheating bastard!) but the more I got to know the three characters, the more I wanted Elijah and Jemma together. BUT there is a HUGE obstacle in their way to their happiness: Elijah is dying. He has a heart condition, the same ailment that killed his father at 34 and Jemma doesn’t know about it. Elijah knows they have little time to be together and Jemma thinks she has all the time in the world to woo her husband. Until she finds him in one of his fainting spells right at the start of the book and her heart nearly breaks with the truth. A truth that the readers have known for a few books, and which in turn have caused our hearts to break.
Elijah and Jemma’s book is everything I could have hoped for (with one or two small caveats).
My main concern was that Eloisa James would de-fang the scandalous, intelligent Jemma and yes, she somewhat does so. We learn Jemma was driven to become scandalous because of her husband and her broken heart and not because this was who she was (although that is quite, possibly who she eventually became) and she had a reputation that was not really based in true facts. As I feared, Jemma’s reputation was grossly overestimated. In all her years in France, she took only two lovers and she didn’t care much for the physical aspect of their relationship . Eloisa James goes as far as having Jemma being strange to the elusive orgasm. (at least Eloisa James is fair to Jemma by making Elijah choosing celibacy as a self-punishment. )
Taking into consideration that within the novels themselves, Jemma never wanted to have an affair and that the woman she became was indeed to incite a reaction from Elijah, it actually makes sense and it doesn’t feel like a cop-out. I love that all the public façade disappears , Jemma’s mask falls and all there is left is a woman with a broken heart. A woman who was capable of living gloriously and yes making the most of her life but still at the end of it, Jemma was a vulnerable woman who wore her heart in her sleeve when it came to Elijah and she was all too aware of this unfashionable fact.
The thing is , in This Duchess of Mine, all play, all matter of pretending HAS to be quit, because they have no time. Elijah is dying. They have only but little time and they must make the most of it. What ensues then is a sequence of events, in a matter of few days (11) in which the Duke and Duchess of Beaumont bridge the gap between them. In which they talk, they discover things about each other they did not know.
They are also driven to be completely honest and they speak things that are hurtful to the other : Jemma still does not understand why Elijah lives the way he does or why does he care about saving the world; he thinks she wastes her days away in trivial pursuits. Both claims are as hurtful as they are true. It means, although they have been married for ages and although they have fallen in love with each other since reunited, they still have a ways to go in actually knowing each other. They also become re-acquainted with each other’s bodies and with the subject of sex. And it is with great aplomb that it happens; I don’t remember the last time I read sex scenes that work so well, even the numerous ones here. And the sexual tension that led to them left me tingling with anticipation.
What happens then is absolutely gut wrenching because you have two people that have wasted years, who are absolutely in love with each other and who can’t see a future ahead of them. There is happiness and utter despair. And I cried, I cried a lot reading this book.
These are two characters that I LOVE. I am invested in their story 100%. It is a story of two deeply flawed characters, that have made HUGE, stupid mistakes in their lives. That have allowed, guilt, shame, pride to lead them away from each other and throughout the first four books, or the 1st year of their coming together again, we read about pain, and how this same guilt and pride kept being obstacles to their coming together.. And jealousy, and misunderstanding of how the other thinks have made them play a game of cat and mouse for far too long. No more. Eloisa James can write amazing stories about married couples and the problems they face. She added to this one the tension of Elijah’s condition and without spoiling too much, I was completely satisfied with the way things worked out and with their HEA.
Although I regret that Jemma lost some of her allure ,I am happy to report that I was completely satisfied with Jemma and Elijah’s book. It is safe to say I have waited for This Duchess of Mine with unabated anxiety , I have known these two characters for a while now, and I had high hopes for their happiness because I cared a great deal about them. Their book was heart-tugging, romantic and intelligent as we have come to expect from this series. After all, this is Elijah and Jemma. Elijah and Jemma. If you follow these series you know exactly what I am talking about.
Notable Quotes/ Parts: Elijah and Jemma in the scene where Jemma finds out that he is dying.
“Have you seen a doctor?”
“There’s no point to that”
“I don’t agree!” she said hotly.
“No one’s found a cure for a broken heart,” he said. “Not in any sense of the word”
She did cry then, and he found himself cursing his heart, not for the fact that it was broken, but for his ability to break other hearts.
Additional Thoughts: In about a month, the final book in the series comes out. The Duke of Villiers book.
The man that cares only about chess and his appearance, who has bedded countless women and sired 6 illegitimate children. After having a close encounter with his own demise in the first book of the series, Villiers has started to look at his life. This is making me…anxious. I am torn about his book. It seems his way to redemption and love will be via his children. In This Duchess of Mine we see the start of this process as he searches for them. Although his encounter with his first son is absolutely hilarious (you need to read this for yourself) , and I can see the potential to more hilarity ensuing, I had rather hoped that his story would be more poignant than funny. Although, in This Duchess of Mine there is a very deep, sorrowful conversation between Elijah and Villiers in which the latter say that all he wishes is for a woman to look at him the way Jemma looks at Elijah. Plus, in the end of the book there is a small teaser about his book that says “how to choose a wife, in five lessons. Advice gleaned by Shakespeare for the benefit of the Duke of Villiers” Eloisa James is a Shakespeare professor and to have Villiers+chess+Shakespeare sounds like a potentially good equation to me.
Verdict: This Duchess of Mine brings Elijah and Jemma’s story to a perfect ending. It is a sad book, a happy book, but most of all, a GREAT book.
Rating: 8 – Excellent
Reading Next: Frederica by Georgette Heyer.