The Ugly Duchess by Eloisa James
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
The Duke of Ashbrook informs his son, James, that James must woo and marry the duke's ward, Theo, or they will lose everything. The duke has already embezzled a sizable amount of Theo's dowry, and if her mother finds out, she will have him arrested. James is livid but is forced to agree to the plan, on the condition that upon their wedding day, his father signs the entire estate over to him to prevent any more financial disasters. James and Theo have been raised as siblings and are best friends, so when he begins to court her, both are shocked to discover their feelings are deeper than either knew. Two days after the wedding, however, Theo learns the truth and banishes both James and the duke from the house. She never hears from her husband again until the day of the formal ceremony in the House of Lords to declare him dead.
I was going to give this one five stars...until the last third of the book after James returns and is a total jerk. 1 star for that section. He's known all along that he betrayed his best friend and will have to work really hard to rebuild her trust in him and convince her he actually does love her, not her dowry, yet when he finally bothers to come home, all he does is humiliate her and run roughshod over her life, stripping away her freedom and autonomy. I HATED him for that. For not listening to her. For not ever really apologizing or demonstrating that he understood the vastness of her pain. James swaggered in and treated Theo like a possession, not a person, and never ever truly LOOKED at her to see the person she had become or what she had accomplished during those long years alone. Even while he was working to overcome her revulsion at all things sexual, all he did was lie to her and trick her. (And really, under the circumstances, she re-learned to enjoy sex WAY too quickly.)
This book made me so very very angry. I have enjoyed Ms. James' books in the past, but this one.... James (the author as well as the character!) needs to attend some of Alison Armstrong's workshops, especially the one called "Understanding Women"! Particularly the part about The Rage Monster and the proper (and only effective) method of apologizing to a woman.
Oh, and it's loosely a re-telling of the Ugly Duckling fairy tale.
For readers' advisors: story, character, setting doorways. Steamy sex scenes.
View all my reviews