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Desperate Duchesses Mass Market Paperback – May 29, 2007

107 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

If Shakespeare had written an 18th-century romantic comedy, it might look something like this novel. In her latest, veteran James offers a larger-than-life portrait of Georgian England, complete with oversexed aristocrats, posturing courtesans and a feuding duke and duchess. At the heart of it all is Roberta St. Giles, an ingenue who's intent on marrying the duke of Villiers, a chess player and notorious womanizer. Roberta, the daughter of the poetry-addicted Mad Marquess, wants nothing more than an unsentimental husband like Villiers. But in her quest to become the sort of woman who would attract the duke, she finds herself falling for Damon Reeve, her tutor in the art of pleasure. James embellishes her tale with a number of characters, each with their own desires, vices and schemes. At times, the profusion of people and plot threads overwhelms the primary romance. Roberta, in particular, pales next to the vivacious but unhappily married duchess of Beaumont, who begs for her own story. Despite this lack of focus, James pulls everything together in the final third, making for a colorful, spirited romance that will leave readers desperate for a sequel.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Roberta St. Giles knows that the Duke of Villiers is the only man for her, but convincing the sinfully sexy nobleman that they belong together won't be easy. Fortunately, Roberta's much-removed cousin Jemma, the Duchess of Beaumont, has just the plan to bring them together. Since Villiers is simply mad for chess, Jemma proposes a series of matches between herself, one of the best players in England, and Villiers, thus creating the perfect opportunity for Villiers to get to know Roberta better. Once Jemma's visiting brother, Damon Reeves, the Earl of Gryffyn, discovers Roberta's intentions of wedding Villiers, he offers his help, never expecting that he would also fall in love with her. Now Damon must find some way to checkmate Roberta's plans to marry Villiers and convince her to choose him instead. The first in a sparkling new series set in the scandalously fun Georgian era by best-selling and award-winning James, this is a gracefully written, lusciously sensual, delectably witty, and exquisitely romantic historical romance. Charles, John
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Avon; 1st Avon Bks Ppbk Print., June 2007 edition (May 29, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060781939
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060781934
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #95,604 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

A reviewer from USA Today wrote that she "found herself devouring [Eloisa's] book like a dieter with a Hershey bar"; People Magazine raved that "romance writing does not get much better than this." Eloisa wrote her first novel after graduating from Harvard, but alas, it was rejected by every possible publisher. After she got a couple more degrees and a job as a Shakespeare professor, she tried again, with much greater success. Over twenty best-sellers later, she teaches Shakespeare in the English Department at Fordham University in New York City. She's also the mother of two children and, in a particularly delicious irony for a romance writer, is married to a genuine Italian knight.

For info about books, visit Or ask a question on Facebook (where Eloisa spends entirely too much time): And then drop in on her very romantic, very Eloisa Tumblr blog, a labor of love:

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

61 of 69 people found the following review helpful By BookWorm on May 30, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
As the reviewer before me just stated, it's clear that this is not meant to be a stand-alone book. There are several plots going on at one time and (of course) not all of them are wrapped up neatly by the end of the novel.

I have to admit, though, that I didn't enjoy it that much for that very reason. Perhaps if I had stumbled upon this series a few years down the line -- after all 4 books were complete -- I would have devoured this book and the sequels in quick succession. As it stands, I feel like I've been given a novel and told I'm only allowed to read the first quarter and I have to wait to have the rest parceled out over the course of another year. That wouldn't be too bad, except James attempts to sell this book also as a stand-alone & that's where it all goes wrong. There are some great characters in this book that are sketched very well -- and I know I'm going to enjoy watching them evolve over the course of the rest of the series. However, the main heroine and hero are not two of them. And that's the pity. In fact, as I type this, I'm having difficulty remembering their names -- even though I remember the names of Elijah, Jemma, and Villiers. I can't even remember the name of the heroine, and I just finished this book last night!!

In short: There is so much time invested in exploring the side characters and setting them up for their own books that the main characters pale in comparison. It's similar to what happened with Esme's character in the "Duchess" series and what happend with Imogen's character in the "Essex sisters" series. The difference, though, is that I liked the main characters in the other series -- in this one, I found the main romance to be quite yawn-worthy. I didn't like the heroine that much and found the hero to be almost invisible.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Mageda Begum on September 6, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I honestly can say that I really didn't really care for Damon and Roberta. They barely got that many scenes in the book because there were so many characters that they were really over looked. I also was way more interest at what was happening between Jemma and her husband Elijah. I really can't wait for those two to have their own book and see how they get back together. I'm really going to get mad if Jemma and Elijah don't end up together.I hope that the author really doesn't kill Elijah off because I really want him and his wife to work things out.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By J. Meegan VINE VOICE on August 21, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
I was pleasantly surprised by this book. Yes, it was a bit chaotic and confusing with all the minor character plots. And yes, I agree there was not a lot of substance to the two main characters, especially the hero (truth be told, from the way the book started out, I had no idea he was going to turn out to be the hero of the story). But it was extremely well written in terms of how she handled the dialogue, especially during the chess and domino games. I found the non-Regency setting a refreshing change of pace (this coming from a huge Regency fan like myself!) and loved the fact that many of the characters were messy, imperfect people with loose ends that weren't tied up by the end of the book. And boy can this lady write some great sex scenes!

I suspect James was mimicking the pace and tone of famous 18th century novels, plays, and operas (Tom Jones comes to mind as do some of Sheridan's plays and Mozart's operas)--all of which are known for featuring bawdy interludes and frequent secondary character side trips before circling back to the main plotline. I think she succeeded nicely in capturing the essence of that particular period in all its energy, earthiness, and color.

My only complaint is I think James is almost too creative for the formulaic historical romance genre. I'd love to see her break out into something meatier--a historical novel with good doses of romance a la Diana Gabaldon, perhaps?--and really let herself go. In the mean time, I look forward to reading her other books and seeing how this series evolves.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Emily in GA on June 12, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I have to agree with the other reviewers who felt that this novel lacked some of the necessary plot and character development needed to make a novel great. First the positives, it is a well-written story, and avid romance readers know that sometimes a story can be poorly written and poorly edited. Additionally, I like the use of chess as a plot element, and I also like how Ms. James pushed the envelop by moving forward into the 1780's and out of the regency period.

Unfortunately, the negatives hurt this book. It is scattered, and I couldn't figure which characters were the leads. Who was this book about-- Jemma or Roberta? Roberta seems to be the heroine, but her character development is far weaker than Jemma. With 3 male leads, I also became confused which character I should care about, particularly as both of Roberta's beaus were developed equally. Plus, there was much more potential for the development of Damon's character. I think that she really missed an opportunity to flesh out Damon's relationship with Teddy. The climax and conflict are so subtle that at the end of the novel, I'm left wondering, "Is that it?"

I am hopeful that this book is meant only to pad the way for the rest of the books in the desperate duchess series (which is confusing since Roberta isn't a duchess), which will be much better! Don't let this be your first introduction into Eloisa James. There are better places to start.
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