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Duchess By Night by Eloisa James

Posted by Mistress on August 8, 2008

I’ve always loved Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night so upon reading the blurb of Eloisa James’ newest offering, I figured that this book is right up my alley. I’ve pretty much read all of James’ stuff and I find her stuff pretty hit or miss. And as much as I enjoy Twelfth Night, I usually don’t like the tranny stories because it’s so rarely done well. So how does Duchess By Night fare??

The third in her Desperate Duchesses series, Duchess By Night is about Harriet, the Duchess of Berrow, who attends a house party at the scandalous Lord Strange’s estate. At the beginning, Isidore, Duchess of Cosway and friend to Harriet schemes to force her explorer husband home. Estranged from him for 14 years, she’s lonely, pissed, and wants to have a true marriage with the errant duke. The plan is to attend his non-stop hedonistic and notorious house party with pals, the Duke of Villiers and Harriet.

To preserve her unimpeachable reputation Harriet decides to go in drag and masquerade as a dude, Harry Cope, and pose as Villier’s nephew and ward. When Lord Justinian Strange first sets eyes on the group of three, he gets an insta-boner for Harry. Awesome. Blaming his attraction for Harry at Harry’s effeminate nature, Strange sets out to make a man out of him. Unfortunately, this means riding at dawn, rare steaks for breakfast, and fencing lessons for Harry. Except it doesn’t work, he gets more and more attracted to Harry and starts questioning his own sexuality. Priceless! Before too long, Strange discovers Harry’s little secret and goes about exposing her in the most delicious way at their private private fencing lesson. One of the things I love about this book is the fact that James’ does an excellent job of showing how liberated Harriet becomes dressed as a man without shoving it down our throats. Another thing is that fact that Strange is smart, passionate, open, and really loves his daughter. I was really suprised by not feeling even mildly annoyed by her presence in the story cos I usually hate that Mary Poppins shit. The focus on Harriet and Strange and the gradual way in which they get to know one another shows James’ skill. The writing is never heavy handed nor does it ever come across as contrived. The book is narrated from Harriet’s point of view but we get occasional glimpses into Strange’s thoughts which are rather disconcerted at the idea of being in lust with a dude.

All that aside, the writing is engaging and vastly entertaining. The sense of humor is never contrived and the character development believable. The lack of resolution regarding the Beaumonts (Harriet’s friends introduced in the first book in the series, Deperate Duchesses) is my only source of frustration in this book.

The next in the series will be about Isidore and her errant husband. Eventually the Duke and Duchess of Beaumont will appear again, hopefully still together, and the Duke of Villiers with any luck, gets his own happy beginning..


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