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The Ugly Duchess

por Eloisa James

Outros autores: Ver a secção outros autores.

Séries: Happily Ever Afters (4)

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When she discovers that her husband, James, married her only for her dowry, Theodora Saxby, known by the town as the Ugly Duchess, is devastated until James launches a campaign to prove that he really loves her.
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Mostrando 1-5 de 44 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
THE UGLY DUCHESS is a book I was looking forward to. Not as much as THE DUKE IS MINE, but still I thought it would be interesting to see how James re-imagined the Ugly Duckling as a romance. Unfortunately the execution wasn't what I had hoped for. Almost immediately I began to question James, not because it was obvious he was manipulating Theo and honestly I wasn't really sure if I wanted Theo to forgive him. Its not as if this trope is anything new to the romance genre, but something about it this time left a bad taste in my mouth. Maybe because this was based on a story about an 'ugly' duckling, who clearly stood out amongst his peers in every way, but Theo's gets the moniker mostly for reasons out of her control.

But you know that's okay. I would have forgiven that. Not all fairy tale re-imaginings are to my taste (GRIMM for instance needs to just...go away), but I by in large enjoy Eloisa's writing and I did like Theo. Maybe not so much James, but he was young and struggling in his own ways so I could have come to like him if his choices had been...different.

I think my main problem lay in the fact that Theo and James marry--for a variety of reasons, some real and some not--but it was utterly useless except as a means to drive them apart. Eloisa could have easily had them get engaged, anticipate their wedding night if she REALLY needed them to give in to their carnal desires and passions, then have Theo overhear the discussion between Father and Son, have Theo cry off, James run off to be a pirate and THEN had a reunion. Seriously, if they had been engaged instead of married, a lot of James' choices and Theo's tstl moments would have been more palatable.

Instead Eloisa has them married and separated within a week, pops back in 7 years later after Theo has turned herself around, and James has become a swashbuckling womanizer. I don't know how Theo forgave him--I wouldn't have. Never mind leaving her behind, he also sleeps with every Mary, Sue and Jane that flounces their skirts at him. And yet (and I can't really remmeber if this came up at any point because my rage at James blinded me somewhat at times) he seems to think that because there was no communication between them (hard to communicate when your husband leaves you without a word or forwarding address) all can be honky-dory cause he's back now.

Worst older Theo 'became a swan' by cutting out everything interesting about her. While still not the most conventional person on the planet, this older Theo lacks the character that younger Theo had. She may have no confidence in her looks at all, but younger Theo was confident in her worth. She knew she was better then to put up with James'. She knew she could make herself someone people wanted to know. She knew all this and yet older Theo pretty much just shrugs her shoulders and accepts James' excuses that because she threw him out it gave him license to sleep around.

I'm not saying it would have been better if they had merely been engaged instead of married and he slept around on her, but it certainly wouldn't have made me as quesy feeling knowing that he broke their vows so blithely. I hate adultery almost more than anything else in a romance. At least if Theo had taken a lover she could have had the excuse that her husband was missing and likely dead for all the communication they had. HE HAD NO EXCUSE. None. At all.

So really this comes down to two things: 1) lack of communication. No one had any at all in this series. 2) lack of consequences. No one seems to care about consequences as long as the other party is attractive. ( )
  lexilewords | Dec 28, 2023 |
This is more of a 3.5 for me, but I didn't like it enough to elevate it to 4 stars. There was just something off about it. The unexpected kept happening, but not in a good way. The pacing was weird with the first half being the "before" which is to say before the hero and heroine's big fight. The last half was all over the place. Some scenes were years apart with the last bit only encompassing about 2 days.

The POV would also switch at odd times, making it difficult to discern who was actually in control of the narrative. Not only that, but they would switch when I didn't care what that character was thinking. When I wanted to know what possessed the heroine to finally forgive her husband, we were in James's head. When I wanted to see James fighting to control his love for Daisy/Theo, I was in her head. Their declarations of love just came off as disjointed and cheesy. Now, I love impassioned declarations of love, but I also find it distracting when the characters are talking too much when they should just be loving each other, if you take my drift.

Not the worst, but not the best. A little all over the place. Pretty middle of the road. If you love Eloisa James no matter what she does, you'll probably enjoy this. ( )
  readerbug2 | Nov 16, 2023 |
A regency romance retelling of The Ugly Duckling.
I made it through this one, but only barely. I’m generally willing to look the other way at a bit of misogyny here and there in the genre, but I draw the line at writing toxic possessive behavior as romantic. The heroine is put forth as one who rises from trauma to make herself into a strong and independent woman, but all that character growth is abandoned when she gives in to the hero’s (who, of course, caused the trauma in the first place) gaslighting and sexist behavior. Gross. ( )
  electrascaife | Sep 12, 2023 |


Eloisa James’s Fairy Tales series began with a Cinderella re-telling, moved on the Beauty and the Beast, then a re-telling of The Princess and The Pea. This latest book, out August 28th, is a re-telling of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Ugly Duckling. In The Ugly Duchess the heroine, Theodora also known as Daisy but prefers to be called Theo and a somewhat peculiar seventeen year old, is making her debut into London society. Her best friend is 19 year old James, Earl of Islay and son of Daisy/Theo’s guardian the Duke of Ashbrook. We learn in the very beginning that the Duke of Ashbrook mismanaged his household funds, including the dowry of his ward. In order to rectify the situation and to keep himself out of trouble, the Duke believes James should wed Daisy/Theo. James does not want to as he feels it would ruin her chances at happiness. Eventually, however, James does propose marriage and declare his ‘love’ for Daisy/Theo albeit drunk at a musicale attended by the Prince Regent. But the wedding goes on and everyone is happy. For about two days.

The impecunious Duke disrupts James and Daisy/Theo engaging in a intimate act. As Daisy/Theo runs off to hide in embarassment, the Duke runs off at the mouth. In a sad attempt to congratulate or possibly even relate to his son, the Duke blurts out the mismanagment of funds, the embezzling of the dowry and the need to marry Daisy/Theo t to protect the Dukedom. Of course Daisy/Theo hears everything. In probably one of the more emotional moments that I’ve ever read in a historical novel, Daisy/Theo tells James and the Duke exactly what they can do and where they can go. Away from her.

After Daisy/Theo dismissed James and the Duke, all the characters (except the Duke b/c he really isn’t that important, apparently) go on a journey of self-discovery. James runs off to become a privateer while Daisy/Theo becomes an accomplished businesswoman. James runs off and has mistresses while Daisy/Theo becomes a fashion plate in society. James runs off to wait the requisite seven years before he can be legally considered dead while Daisy/Theo deals with the death of the Duke, her mother and her missing possibly dead husband.

Mechanically, this book is perfect. The construction of the book, meaning the characters’ introduction and setup, the betrayal and heartbreak, and the journey to adulthood is exactly what we’ve come to expect in a well written historical novel.

However, I did not like this book. For multiple reasons: no actual redemption of hero, reconciliation between hero and heroine seemed forced in order to end the book with a Happily Ever After, the reason/passion dichotomy didn’t really play out as well as it could have.

I was unimpressed with this book and it is hard to analyze the characters when most of their actions were either mundane or offensive. The hero’s infidelity and the casualness in which James and Daisy/Theo handled it really bothered me. He just said, “they were mistresses, not lovers.” I’ve read enough historical novels to know that infidelity created havoc in even ‘ton’ marriages. In my view, James did not do enough to atone for his actions and thus that attempt to have him redeemed was not satisfactory.

The second problem with James’s character was that he left for seven years, returns, and expected his lame attempts at reconciliation to work. Even his GRAND PLAN to reconcile with Daisy/Theo was lacking. James was the worst sort of selfish jackass. He sees no need to ask for forgiveness but sees his attempts at returning to his marriage as more of a sea battle. Really, he comes across as concerned about his own selfish desires more than concern for Daisy/Theo. In other words, the attempts to regain Daisy/Theo are like James’s attempts to regain stolen pirate treasure. It isn’t really the treasure (or as a privateer) the owner that he cares about, its about what can HE do with it once HE has it. Daisy/Theo becomes HIS. And not in the everlasting love kind of way but in the I’m-A-Total-Asshat-I-Own-You kind of way. In my opinion, James’s lack of serious attempts at gaining forgiveness combined with a selfishness that was very off putting does not allow me to grant him the redemption necessary to make this book worthwhile.

The heroine, Daisy/Theo is written to seem as initially passionate but eventually frigid and overly regimented. We’re supposed to believe, I think, that the frigidity is caused by the interruption of intimacies by the Duke. She continually tells her returned pirate husband James that she is disgusted by sex.

Why would an author do this to a character? Daisy/Theo, the seventeen year old, was cute and funny and passionate. Why not just admit that Daisy/Theo used passion for business as a substitute for other passions? OR, even better, why not have Daisy/Theo be as amazing as an adult as she was when she was seventeen? As an adult Daisy/Theo comes across as skittish and nervous all the while trying to hide behind this world of business and fashion she has created. A Daisy/Theo who actually blossomed and flourished (not this facade we see in the book) while James was off privateering would have made more sense in a re-telling of the ugly duckling. It also would have made for a much more interesting conflict when James returned from privateering.

Sadly, the author cuts off Daisy/Theo’s passion as soon as it is beginning to flourish. The author has her become the business woman & fashion icon, two things that replace her passion for life.

And really, I didn’t see the whole Daisy/Theo is grossed out by coitus until after I was told. Upon reflection, this is probably the most annoying thing about the book. Are we as readers supposed to believe that this disgust is the reason why Daisy/Theo didn’t really try to find someone else, because we don’t. Obviously Daisy/Theo needed to be the opposite of James in every way. James was too passionate while Daisy/Theo was too reasoned.

Maybe the reason/passion argument is what we’re supossed to take away from this piece. But I didn’t. Eloisa James’s writing is, as usual, eloquent and descriptive and firmly places us into the world of The Ugly Duchess. Having read all of Eloisa James’s previous works I know that this is an anomaly and remain positive about her next book.

Grade: D

arc provided by avon ( )
  aeryn0 | Jul 23, 2023 |
I was pretty excited about this as the premise is a big favorite. But, while I liked it well enough, it wasn't a favorite. There was angst but not my usual favorite sort. James and Theo's relationship is complicated and (to be honest) rather inconsistent. And, I just do not like infidelity in my romance. Even though it was pretty forgivable, I just don't really like it.

I felt like it got resolved a little to simply and quickly, and to be honest I disliked both James' and Theo's character developments during their estrangement but I really enjoyed the beginning! ( )
  Rhiannon.Mistwalker | Aug 19, 2022 |
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Nome do autorPapelTipo de autorObra?Estado
James, Eloisaautor principaltodas as ediçõesconfirmado
Duerden, SusanNarradorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Griffin, JamesArtista da capaautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
HarperAudioPublisherautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Lavigne, PatriciaTraductionautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado

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This book is dedicated to the wonderful poet and storyteller Hans Christian Andersen. His plots have given me obvious inspiration, as in this version of his fairy story The Ugly Duckling, but more than that, his ability to weave together joy and philosophical thought inspires every novel I write.
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When she discovers that her husband, James, married her only for her dowry, Theodora Saxby, known by the town as the Ugly Duchess, is devastated until James launches a campaign to prove that he really loves her.

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