Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Review: My American Duchess by Eloisa James

As much as I love reading historical set romances, I am so very glad I didn't live back then when the pressure to marry, and to marry quickly, was so high. At least as romances posit, for the women who had a choice in the matter, they were still choosing a spouse from amongst men they didn't know or had just the merest of acquaintances with and they had to rely on their male relatives or the whispers of society to vet their choice. There was little room to make a mistake without either marrying the mistake and being trapped for life or ruining your reputation and your chances at another match (which was, of course, the ultimate goal). Love may or may not have played a role in the matches but when you barely know someone, how can you possibly love them, no matter how romanticized? If I think back on all the times I was in love, right back to Philip Kistler in preschool (he came to my birthday party and gave me a ring so I think we're still engaged, right?), I am more than grateful that I had the chance to make mistakes and then find real love without suffering any social fallout as a result. (This is in no way implying that there's anything wrong with Philip but we were only four and marrying at such an age is to be frowned upon. Since we didn't go to kindergarten together and promptly lost touch, I can only say that as a preschooler, he had the potential to grow up and be a lovely human being. He would only have been a mistake for me. Here ends my stab at forestalling a libel lawsuit.) Although historically women didn't have to worry about their preschool loves, they did have to do their best to choose the right person, the person they might come to truly like and maybe even love over the course of their lifetime, without really knowing enough about that person to make an fair and informed decision because broken engagements were unacceptable and plain old unhappiness was no reason for marital dissolution. American Merry Pelford, in Eloisa James' My American Duchess has already made some mistakes and has to learn just what true love is, compared to the tepid feelings she's felt before but can she do that without making yet another, potentially irreparable mistake?

Merry and her aunt and uncle have come to London for the season. Behind her, in Boston, she leaves two broken engagements and she knows she cannot afford a third jilted fiance to her name, despite her sizable inheritance. She accepts the proposal of Lord Cedric Allardyce, the good looking, fashionable younger brother of a duke. But at the very ball where she accepts Cedric's suit, she meets and is attracted by a brooding and powerful man she meets out on the balcony. This unnamed man is equally enchanted by Merry and her American forthrightness and instantly determines to marry her. Each of them are horrified to discover the other's identity. He is the Duke of Trent, Cedric's older twin and she, of course, is Cedric's newly minted fiance. Although it is quickly clear that Merry and Cedric are mismatched in every way, they are yoked together (and in fact, Cedric could really use her fortune). That Cedric and Trent have spent their whole lives competing makes the situation that much more untenable. As the older brother, Trent received the dukedom but Cedric was the twin loved by their mother.  Both Allardyces lost out on something they dearly desired.  Now Cedric possesses Merry, the woman his brother wants, and Merry cannot allow herself to contemplate jilting a third fiance.

Merry is a fun heroine. She knows she is a bit of an awkward American, ignorant of English society ways but she's only willing to change so far. She has her own value system and being in England is not going to turn her into a less democratic person. Her habit of dropping little snippets of knowledge into the conversation when she's nervous or filling a silence is endearing. That she is trapped in an increasingly terrible situation because of her full speed ahead personality and her naivete serves to make her just that much more sympathetic to readers. Cedric is a spoiled baddie of a character but he's not as entirely awful and unredeemed as he might be, though the reader, like Merry, certainly prefers the solid and kind Duke of Trent. The chemistry between Merry and Trent is pretty steamy and satisfying indeed, and the story line centered on learning to recognize and cherish real love over the superficial is well done. All in all, this was a charming and entertaining read, just as I've come to expect from James.

1 comment:

  1. I'm not a huge historical romance fan, but the fact that the main character is American in the midst of English society definitely appeals to me!


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