My review cross-posted from Joyfully Reviewed: http://www.joyfullyreviewed.com/new-reviews/the-ugly-duchess-by-eloisa-james
James Ryburn, Earl of Islay and son of the Duke of Ashbrook, has a problem. Not only has his father lost their entire family’s fortune, he’s embezzled part of his ward’s dowry. To save his family’s estates and protect his father, James must marry Theodora Saxby, his lifelong best friend. Surprisingly, James finds that he isn’t opposed marrying Theo, as he truly cares for her. But he knows that proposing and marrying her under false pretences will come back to haunt him. And it does.
Theo has held her head high for years when people laughed at her and called her mannish. And when she weds James and the press calls her “The Ugly Duchess,” she finds solace in the fact that her new husband finds her beautiful. She’s known James all her life and there’s nothing better than being married and falling in love with your best friend. At least, Theo thinks that until she learns the truth. Heartbroken, embarrassed, and angry upon discovering why her new husband proposed in the first place, Theo kicks him out of the house and orders him to leave the country.
Will James ever be able to convince his wife of his true feelings? Or was their fairy tale romance destined to end almost as soon as it began?
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder in the charming The Ugly Duchess. Eloisa James masterfully weaves a tale of love and heartbreak in this Ugly Duckling-inspired tale.
James and Theo are two people who are clearly perfect for one another. But trust once broken cannot easily be repaired. The big question in The Ugly Duchess is “Will Theo and James find their way back to each other?” Though this is a romance based on a fairy tale, Ms. James definitely had me wondering at times. Both Theo and James make huge mistakes, but neither of them is a bad person. It’s clear from the very beginning that they do love one another. At the same time, they’re very young — only seventeen and nineteen respectively at the beginning of The Ugly Duchess — so when combined with familial pressure, heartbreak, and yes, love, their brash decisions make sense. Though I was sad to see Theo and James lose their innocence in The Ugly Duchess, watching them mature over their seven year separation and then work through their marital problems made for an engaging story.
The best parts of The Ugly Duchess are when Theo and James are together. Their friendship, shared memories, and the way they truly see each other is simply beautiful. And speaking of beauty, I absolutely loved that Theo was always beautiful to James. Despite all of society making fun of Theo’s looks, James genuinely believed she was lovely — and that was long before he fell in love with her.
The Ugly Duchess is Ms. James’s fourth fairy tale-inspired novel, but for readers concerned about reading out of order, let me assure you that each book in the series is a standalone. Ms. James has masterfully re-imagined The Ugly Duckling in The Ugly Duchess. Theo and James’s book is a vibrant, satisfying romance that will leave you smiling and eager to read another of Eloisa’s Fairy Tales.