Posted by: Jennifer | July 31, 2009

A Duke of Her Own – Eloisa James

James, Eloisa. A Duke of Her Own. (New York: Avon, 2009). ISBN – 9780061626838.

Main Characters: Leopold Dautry, the Duke of Villiers and Lady Eleanor Lindel

Date: 1784

Related Works: This is part of Eloisa James’ Desperate Duchesses series. Books in the series include the following:

  • Desperate Duchesses– the story of Lady Roberta St. Giles and Damon Reeve, the Earl of Gryffyn (Jemma’s brother)
  • An Affair Before Christmas – the story of Lady Perdita Selby and the Duke of Fletcher
  • Duchess by Night – the story of Harriet, Duchess of Berrow and Lord Strange
  • When the Duke Returns – the story of Lady Isidore and Simeon Jermyn, the Duke of Cosway
  • This Duchess of Mine – the story of Elijah, the Duke of Beaumont and Jemma, the  Duchess of Beaumont
  • A Duke of Her Own – the story of Leopold Dautry, the Duke of Villiers and Lady Eleanor Lindel

Description from Book:

A duke must choose wisely . . .

Leopold Dautry, the notorious Duke of Villiers, must wed quickly and nobly – and his choices, alas, are few. The Duke of Montague’s daughter, Eleanor, is exquisitely beautiful and fiercely intelligent. Villiers betroths himself to her without further ado.

After all, no other woman really qualifies. Lisette, the outspoken daughter of the Duke of Gilner, cares nothing for clothing or decorum. She’s engaged to another man, and doesn’t give a fig for status or title. Half the ton believes Lisette mad – and Villiers is inclined to agree.

Torn between logic and passion, between intelligence and the imagination, Villiers finds himself drawn to the very edge of impropriety. But it is not until he’s in a duel to the death, fighting for the reputation of the woman he loves, that Villiers finally realizes that the greatest risk may not be in the dueling field . . .

But in the bedroom. And the heart.

My Thoughts:

I was a bit surprised at the direction that Villiers’s story was taking in the final chapters of This Duchess of Mine. In them, we learn that Villiers’ has 6 illegitimate children and that he has decided to find those children and bring them to live with him. Because of the scandal this will cause within polite society, Villiers has been told that he must marry – and must marry a duke’s daughter. The problem? There are only two such woman: Lady Eleanor Lindel and Lady Lisette Elys. And, this is where the story picks up in A Duke of her Own.

Fortunately for Villiers, Lady Eleanor Lindel has already declared to the world at large that she will only marry a duke. He thinks this will be easy. After all, he does plan to go meet Lisette, but knows that she is rumored to be mad. He convinces Eleanor to journey to Lisette’s home, and this is where the majority of the story takes place.

Eleanor and Villiers are not too sure about each other. They do find themselves attracted to each other, but each have other, pressing concerns that get in the way. Eleanor believes herself to be in love with Gideon, the Duke of Astley. Gideon and Eleanor grew up together, fell in love and became lovers. Gideon, however, was forced to marry another when his father passed away. Villiers, on the other hand, is primarily looking for a mother figure for his children. While Eleanor appeals to his carnal side, Lisette demonstrates an incredible affinity with his twin daughters.

And herein lies one of the more interesting facets of the story. Neither Eleanor nor Lisette are virgins. While we do not know much about Lisette’s relationship (other than it left her pregnant), we do know that Eleanor had a passionate relationship with Gideon, one that she encouraged. Eleanor enjoyed and embraced her sexual feelings and was happy to act on the with Gideon. Villiers certainly evokes the same feelings, and he and Eleanor do find themselves involved sexually – even as they get muddled about their marital plans. Eleanor is distracted by long-held feelings for Gideon, who is suddenly widowed. And Villiers comes to believe that Lisette would be a better mother.

This is the crux of the issue. Eleanor is the more sexual woman. Villiers can’t stay away from her, even though it seems to be their deep sexual connection that seems to make her a less suitable candidate to be his wife. Eleanor gets to be the whore and Lisette the madonna. I loved the portrayal of Eleanor as a woman who is fairly secure in her sexuality and her sexual needs, but got frustrated by Villiers’ blindness to Lisette’s true character – especially since his oldest son Tobias had no trouble seeing through Lisette.

Both Eleanor and Villiers had their blind spots, but I wanted to smack some sense into Villiers several times. His children got on very well with Eleanor. He was willing to have sex with her even while planning to marry another woman. He did the same thing to her that Gideon did, and I loved that Gideon was the one to point it out to Villiers. Of course, this definitely fit in with the way that James has portrayed Villiers over the past several books.

One odd thing, at the end of the book we learn that Lisette is the mother of the Earl of Gryffyn’s illegitimate son. It seemed an odd revelation. I definitely feel like I need to go back and read all of the books in this series again.

All in all, the Desperate Duchesses series was another wonderful group of books with some wonderful characters who I will never forget. A Duke of Her Ownwas a wonderful book, and a very fitting ending to the series. Villiers is, without a doubt, my favorite Desperate Duchesses’ hero. I am very much looking forward to what comes next.

Read first July 29, 2009

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