Society was shocked by their wedding, but scandalised by their separation. James heads out to sea where he becomes a notorious pirate, and Theo builds their estate into a flourishing concern. Back from the seas, a scandalous tattoo of a poppy under one eye, James now faces the battle of his lifetime: convincing Theo that he loved the duckling who blossomed into the swan. Theo will quickly find that for a man with the soul of a pirate, all's fair in love - or war.
The Ugly Duchess is the first book by Eloisa James, other than The Lady Most Likely that she wrote in collaboration with Julia Quinn and Connie Brockway, that I'd read so I wasn't sure what to expect especially as historical fiction would not be my first choice to read. However, I needn't have worried as it was an easy book to read.
Theodora, Theo as she'd like to be called, had always known that she wasn't a stunning beauty of society but that did not stop her wanting to meet her prince charming and settle down. So when she asks James, her childhood friend who she's been brought up alongside, to accompany her to a ball little does she know what's going to happen to change her life forever.
James has always loved Daisy, as he preferred to call her, for the person she is and not her looks, so completely stuns her by declaring his own love for her and asking for her hand in marriage which she accepts. The whole of society are shocked by this unexpected development especially as they were practically brother and sister as well as her being dubbed 'The Ugly Duchess' by the media.
However, it's only a couple of days into the marriage when she overhears a conversation between James and his father where she learns that he was forced to marry her for her dowry to help clear his father's debts. On hearing this Theo doesn't believe his declarations of love and chucks him out into the night never to be seen or heard of again.
Fast forward a number of years and we learn a little of how James' life has changed dramatically from the privileged life he had led as a child, in fact, it's likely that those who had known him would no longer recognise him.
Theo meanwhile has worked hard to turn around the fortunes of the estate and has built up several prospering businesses. And finally after an absence of nearly 7 years with no news, she decides to go to the House of Lords to have James declared legally dead, so that his cousin can take on the title and she can move on with her own life and perhaps remarry. But she's in for the shock of her life when James turns up very much alive and well...
Although this was an enjoyable book to read I guess there were a couple of minor things that did niggle me though about the storyline though. The first being the fact that one day they were practically brother and sister and then the next they were husband and wife and the second was how rushed the ending seemed, and a tad unrealistic, after a 7 year absence.
I'd like to thank Little Brown Book Group for sending me a copy of this book to review.