When the Duke Returns by Eloisa James

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When the Duke Returns by Eloisa James

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Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Magda Healey
Reviewed by Magda Healey
Summary: Witty, sparkling, irreverent and sexy; a frothy read that continues the regency celebrity romp of Desperate Duchess series and will cheer up and happily occupy a gloomy winter afternoon.
Buy? No Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: November 2009
Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks
ISBN: 978-0340961100

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When the Duke Returns, the newest volume in the Desperate Duchesses series, continues the regency celebrity romp saga where Duchess by Night left off.

The focus, this time, is on Isidore, the Duchess of Conway: hot-headed, hot-blooded and Italian to boot, she was married by proxy at the age of sixteen and is still a virgin seven years later. Isidore's cunning plot to entice back the husband she has never seen from his travels in Asia and Africa works perfectly and Simeon, His Grace Duke of Conway is now back in England, ready to claim his estate and, as Isidore presumes, ready to claim his beautiful wife.

But things are not as simple as that (or we wouldn't have a novel). Simeon is eccentric, if not downright mad, with his unpowdered hair, addiction to running in short trousers, knowledge of exotic habits and - most startlingly - a virgin himself. A follower of the Middle Way, learned from a guru in the Far East, Simeon wants to be in control of his life, his passions and his wife. Isidore is, however, as far from the idea of a biddable, timid wife as one can possibly get. Isidore and Simeon are, quite clearly, not compatible, despite, or maybe because of, the sizzling physical attraction between them. Annulment seems the only way, but Isidore is not sure she wants to be free of Simeon after all. Will she manage to seduce him into consummation? And will this change things or will their character differences prove irrevocable?

The sexy romp of When the Duke Returns rolls along briskly, with plenty of sparks and a lot of humour. It's all rather anachronistic and with no pretences to depth whatsoever, but nobody demands a strict accuracy or psychological depth from a historical romance: perfectly balanced for the genre.

As an added bonus, there is more than just a romance in When the Duke Returns. A significant sub-plot is connected with Simeon's return (his character is apparently based on a real 18th century gentleman-explorer and adventurer) to the family estate, run-down and mis-managed since his father's death or even before then, with unpaid bills going back ten years, the local village almost a ghost-town and a grand house smelling of poo due to blocked water closets (in fact, the water-closet saga is itself a substantial sub-plot).

I liked this secondary plot as much as the love story: it fleshed the background out in an amusing way and added some social context (as much as it befits such a frothy novel), although readers expecting pure sexy romance might be put off by this rather extensive 'return of the prodigal duke' sub-plot.

Witty, sparkling, irreverent and sexy, When the Duke Returns is a thoroughly entertaining, light and easy read which will cheer you up and occupy a rainy afternoon.

Eloisa James is a worthy heiress to Georgette Heyer, writing - updated with a significant dose of rumpy-pumpy but essentially the same - timelessly entertaining tales of feisty, intelligent females looking for their match in True Love.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If this book appeals then you might also enjoy The Loveday Conspiracy by Kate Tremayne.

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Buy When the Duke Returns by Eloisa James at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy When the Duke Returns by Eloisa James at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy When the Duke Returns by Eloisa James at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy When the Duke Returns by Eloisa James at Amazon.com.


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