Tuesday, November 1, 2011
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 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.
Last of the Desperate Duchesses' series, this is Villiers' much awaited story. The Duke must choose a wife. It's obvious to the reader who he should choose (Eleanor) but I found it hard to believe he took so long in figuring it out for himself, since her rival, Lisette, was so obviously unstable. How could Villiers have even considered her? Despite this obvious flaw of logic, it was a good story and it ended well - for once an epilogue I liked!
Leopold has been a favorite of mine throughout this entire series. He's not your run of the mill duke. In the previous books we learn of his obsession with the game of chess. Considered one of the greatest chess players in England, chess is a main thread through the whole series. Not only is chess an obsession, he's a clothes horse as well. But he's no effeminate dandy. He has fought duels (and nearly died from them), loved other (duke's) wives and fathered several bastard children - hence his need to settle down with a wife that can help corral his unwieldy brood.
Eleanor, daughter of the Duke of Montague is no slouch when it comes to noble birth. But unfortunately, it wasn't good enough for the one man she loved and gave herself to (in the bibilical sense) thinking they would marry. Things didn't go the way she'd hoped and her love had to marry another. Since then, she has been pining for the man she lost. A duke himself, he was forced to marry another woman in an arranged marriage.
Now, several years later Eleanor is being considered by the Duke of Villiers. With six illegitimate children he needs a firm and feminine hand in his household. Basically, he needs someone to oversee their upbringing. Not an easy task, but as we learn very soon Eleanor would be perfect for the role. Unfortunately, it's not as obvious to the duke who is considering another woman as his wife, the daughter of a duke, Lisette. On the surface it looks as if Lisette loves all children and would make a wonderful mother. She has no preconceived notions about bastards and what have you. Yet, Lisette is a wild sort of creature, careless, flighty and unconventional - a little off balanced. My gripe about the gist of the story is, it's seems so obvious to us that Lisette is unbalanced. Why would Villiers even consider her? Particularly if he plans on having more children and an heir to the dukedom, does he want his future heir to have a mother who isn't completely all there? Eleanor in comparison is strong, sensible and beautiful in her own right. Villiers is attracted to her yet his prime reason for a wife is for his children. His dilemma? Choose for love and his undeniable attraction to Eleanor, or choose a wife that will be a good mother to his brood? It took the stupid idiot forever to realize Eleanor could be both!
Meanwhile, to further complicate matters, Eleanor's old love comes back onto the scene. Now a widower, he has come to declare his love to Eleanor and beg her to be his wife (of course after his mourning period is over.) But... but... Eleanor is not so sure about him now. He pales in comparison to Villiers. Her old love has lost his lustre. Should she step aside, leave Villiers to Lisette or stay in the game? As she gets to know Villiers and his children the decision becomes harder for her to make and she finds it impossible to let go - especially when she sees for herself how unsuitable a bride Lisette would make for him.
Although I really enjoyed this romance, it did not live up to my expectations. I was a bit let down that Villiers came across as such a clod when he had always been so charismatic in the previous books. The old Duke of Villiers stole every scene he was in! He was too smart a man to have been so dense when it came to choosing between Eleanor and Lisette. I felt he was behaving uncharacteristically here, although maybe you can chalk it up to the fact he was in love and wasn't thinking clearly, having to choose between passion and duty. Still, I don't buy it. Where was the shrewd and calculating duke from the previous books that could have figured this dilemma out in a matter of minutes?
Despite his density in personal matters I was glad to see that when it comes to good taste, no one can match him. This is the same man after all, who buys his bride-to-be a simple yet elegant engagement ring. He knows instinctively this would appeal to her un-ostentatious desire to remain in the background. Yet - he is a duke after all. His future duchess must have nothing but the best. There's more to the ring than meets the eye - and I loved it! Who would have known?
Although the book has it's flaws, it's a good story and I enjoyed it very much. Villiers is a fascinating character and deserving of a happy ending! This should be called "A Duchess of his Own" for it's really his story and a nice wrap up to the series!