THE DUCHESS OF COSWAY YEARNS FOR A MAN SHE HAS NEVER MET... HER HUSBAND.
Married by proxy as a child, Lady Isidore has spent years fending off lecherous men in every European court while waiting to meet her husband. She's determined to accept him, no matter how unattractive the duke turns out to be. When she finally lures Simeon Jermyn back to London, his dark handsomeness puts Isidore's worst fears to rest -- until disaster strikes.
The duke demands an annulment.
Forsaking his adventuresome past, Simeon has returned to London ready to embrace the life of a proper duke, only to find that his supposed wife is too ravishing, too headstrong, and too sensual to be the docile duchess he has in mind. But Isidore will not give up her claim to the title - or him - without a fight.
She will do whatever it takes to capture Simeon's heart, even if it means sacrificing her virtue. After all, a consummated marriage cannot be annulled.
Yet in forcing Simeon into a delicious surrender, will Isidore risk not only her dignity - but her heart?
"If you love your sewer, it'll love you back."
Instructive words of wisdom from an expert to the Duke of Cosway who, among other things, is preoccupied with getting rid of the stench of uncleaned sewers from his ducal estate. That's not the only thing he's trying to get rid of.
As I began to read this Georgian romance, fourth in the Desperate Dutchesses series, I never would have imagined I would learn so much about eighteenth century water closets and who cleans them! I learned what the Dead Watch means and all sort of interesting things about hygiene - or lack thereof. In fact, for a part of the book, I became so preoccupied with Simeon's water closets, they became more important to me than the actual story itself between the hero and heroine! I'm not so sure this is such a good thing or what the author intended. So romantic and sexy!
There is more to the story than just the elimination of bathroom stench. Italian born, Isidore has been married to Simeon, the Duke of Cosway since she was a young teenager. He's been off in Africa for ages and they haven't met in years. Married by proxy, he has no idea what a beautiful young woman she has grown up to be. Saving herself and her reputation for the day her duke finally returns, she grows desperate waiting, waiting and waiting. She spreads some scandalous stories about herself that she is certain will eventually get back to her wayward husband in Africa, and sure enough they bring him home. He is remarkably handsome and a virgin - very different than what she imagined. Living in Africa and India he has picked up their customs, he's a runner and wears shorts to run in - highly unusual! In fact, his own mother, the dowager duchess is aghast by his behavior, referring to him as running around in "nappies!"
Simeon is inundated with unpaid bills that his mother had not taken care of while he has been out of the country, though there is no shortage of money - she just didn't pay for anything, so there is tons to do to fix up the place. Meanwhile, his young wife is determined to seduce her husband and help him with the estate. She wants to consummate their marriage. He has this mixed up notion that they'd be better off getting an annulment. I didn't quite understand his reasoning, why didn't he just go for it with her? He's put off by her beauty, so he avoids her as much as he can. Eventually, they give in and consummate the marriage, but it still doesn't solve their marital problems, there's the usual misunderstanding though they are falling in love, she leaves him, etc., but it was a fun read to see how everything was resolved - especially the water closets! Still, I didn't bond with either one of their characters which were one-dimensional. I've noticed that Ms. James' books have a lot of different characters in them, to the point where they're spread too thin, hence, none of them get the attention and character development they deserve.
As in her other novels, another side story is going on in addition to the main one in regard to Isidore's friend, Jemma, the Dutchess of Beaumont and her husband, Elijah, the Duke. As compelling as their story is, in fact it was better than the main story, I found it detracted from the story of our main hero and heroine, Simeon and Isidore. I wished Jemma and Elijah would just have their own book, rather than living on the outskirts of Isadore and Simeon's. Looks like I'll get my wish in the next book in the series. Jemma and Elijah and their mutual good friend, the Duke of Villiers are the most interesting part of this book!
Overall, this was not bad, but not great. A diverting read, it had it's hot and sexy moments, but I didn't find much chemistry between the hero and heroine, and I found it tiresome after a while that the Duke of Cosway was constantly running away from his wife, especially since I didn't quite buy his reasoning behind it. I didn't have much sympathy for him, except - ahem - in regard to the water closets *cough*