Duchess by Night (Desperate Duchesses Series #3)

( 50 )

Overview

A Mischievous Charade . . .

Harriet, Duchess of Berrow, is tired of her title and the responsibilities that come along with it. Enough with proper tea parties and elegant balls; what Harriet really wants is to attend an outrageous soiree where she can unleash her wildest whims and desires. But to attend such an event—especially if the event in question is Lord Justinian Strange's rollicking fete, filled with noble rogues and rotters, risqué ...

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Duchess by Night (Desperate Duchesses Series #3)

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Overview

A Mischievous Charade . . .

Harriet, Duchess of Berrow, is tired of her title and the responsibilities that come along with it. Enough with proper tea parties and elegant balls; what Harriet really wants is to attend an outrageous soiree where she can unleash her wildest whims and desires. But to attend such an event—especially if the event in question is Lord Justinian Strange's rollicking fete, filled with noble rogues and rotters, risqué ladies and illicit lovers—would be certain scandal. That's why she must disguise herself . . .

Looking forward to a night of uninhibited pleasure, Lord Strange is shocked to discover that beneath the clothes of a no-good rake is the most beautiful woman in the room. Why is a woman like her risking her reputation at his notorious affair? And can he possibly entice her to stay . . . forever?

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Harriet, the young widowed duchess of Berrow, longs to escape the elaborate wigs and skirts of Georgian society and have a true adventure. Opportunity arises when friend Isidore wants to lure her long-absent husband back from his Far East explorations with a grand scandal. Accompanied by the trusty duke of Villiers, the two women visit the home of the scandalous Lord Strange whose home is (gasp!) regularly filled with actors and actresses. Though it's Isidore's plan, it's Harriet who flirts with real danger: dressed in breeches, she poses as Harry, a mama-protected young relative of the duke's. With her characteristic wit, James details Harry's bravado as "he" rides without a sidesaddle for the first time, learns to fence with the formidable Lord Strange and fends off the amorous advances of an actress. Harriet revels in the freedom offered by her male identity, but her heart remains traitorously female, especially in the presence of Lord Strange, who finds himself uncomfortably attracted to the beautiful young lad. James delights with seduction, surprise and humor on every page. (July)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Widowed and bored, dispensing her version of justice in the Shire Court and thinking she's missed out on life's adventurous side, Harriet, Duchess of Berrow, decides some changes are in order and sallies forth disguised as young Harry Cope to a rather disreputable house party. The problems arise when her host, the scandalous rake Lord Strange, is attracted to "Harry." With a nod to Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and other classics, this insightful, bawdy Georgian escapade is filled with memorable characters (including a meddlesome yet precocious eight-year-old) doing outrageous things and is the third title in the author's "Desperate Duchesses" series. James (An Affair Before Christmas), a Shakespearean scholar in her other life, lives in the New York City area.


—Kristin Ramsdell
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061245572
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/24/2008
  • Series: Desperate Duchesses Series , #3
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 296,908
  • Product dimensions: 4.10 (w) x 6.70 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Eloisa James

Eloisa James is a USA Today and New York Times bestselling author and professor of English literature, who lives with her family in New York but can sometimes be found in Paris or Italy. (Her husband is an honest-to-goodness Italian knight!) Eloisa's website offers short stories, extra chapters, and even a guide to shopping in Florence.

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Read an Excerpt

Duchess By Night

Chapter One

In Which Cinderella Dresses for the Ball and Her Fairy Godmother Brings a Goose Instead of a Pumpkin

January 6 (Twelfth Night), 1784
A Costume Ball
The Country Seat of the Duke of Beaumont

Nursery tales are full of fascinating widows, although they aren't always the nicest characters. Cinderella's stepmother likely put on a dazzling gown for the prince's ball, even if her daughters did inherit her big feet and sharp tongue.

Harriet, Duchess of Berrow, realized soon after her husband died that there are glamorous widows, and then there are widows who live in shoes with too many children, like poor Loveday Billing. There are widows who dance all night with younger men, and then there are dowdy widows who are offered only pinched smiles.

Harriet had no illusions about what kind of widow she was. She was the kind who lived in a shoe, and never mind the fact that she had no children and her estate was much larger than a shoe.

Her husband had been dead for two years and no younger—or older—men were lining up to ask her to dance. Most of her acquaintances still got a tragic sheen in their eyes and promptly moved away after greeting her, as if sadness was catching.

Apparently, if one's husband committed suicide, one automatically became the unappealing type of widow.

Partly it was her fault. Here she was at the Duchess of Beaumont's impromptu costume ball—but was she dressing as a glamorous character? Or even an evil one?

"Who are you?" her friend Jemma (the aforesaid Duchess of Beaumont) asked.

"A nursery rhyme character. Can you guess which one?" Harriet was wearing a motherly nightgown of plain cotton that her maid had recruited from the housekeeper. Underneath she had three petticoats, as well as four woolen stockings in her bodice. Just to show off a bit, she arched her back.

"A nursery rhyme character with big breasts," Jemma said. "Very big breasts. Very very—"

"Motherly breasts," Harriet prompted.

"Actually you don't look motherly as much as wildly curvaceous. The problem will be if one of our houseguests lures you into a corner and attempts a cheerful grope. Wasn't there some nursery rhyme about lighting the way to bed?"

"I'm not on my way to bed," Harriet said, somewhat deflated. "And no one ever tries to grope me. What character are you?"

Jemma's gown was made of a clear pale pink that looked wonderful with the dark gold color of her unpowdered hair. There were small silk poppies sewn all over her skirts, and poppies tucked in her hair. She managed to look elegant and yet untamed, all at once.

"Titania, Queen of the Fairies."

"I'm Mother Goose. Which fairly sums up the difference between us."

"What are you talking about!" Jemma scolded, wrapping an arm around Harriet. "Look at you, darling. You are far too young and fresh to be Mother Goose!"

"No one will know who I am," Harriet said, pulling away from Jemma and sitting on the bed. "They'll think I'm a fat white ghost."

Jemma started laughing. "The ghost of a murdered cook. No, all you need is a clue to your Mother Goose status, and people will admire the cleverness of your costume. Wait until you see Lord Pladget as Henry VIII: he has a hearth rug tied around his middle and he looks as big as a barn." "I already look as big as a barn, at least on top."

"A goose!" Jemma said. "Of course, you need a goose and I know just the one!"

"Oh, but—"

Two minutes later, Jemma was back. With a goose.

"Is that real?" Harriet asked warily.

"In a matter of speaking. I'm afraid it's a little stiff. It usually flies along the wall in the south parlor. My mother-in-law has a morbid attitude toward decorating that involved arranging all kinds of dead animals on the walls. You can use the poor goose tonight, darling, and then we'll set him free to fly to a better place, if you understand me."

Harriet took the goose in her hands rather dubiously. It was stuffed so that its neck stayed stiff, as if it were in flight.

"Just tuck it under your arm," Jemma said. Harriet stood up and tried it. "Not like that. Here, turn his head upright so he looks like a friend whispering in your ear."

Harriet stared down at the bird's glossy eyes. "This is not a friendly goose." It looked ready to lunge from her hands and peck someone.

"There is no such thing as a friendly goose," Jemma said. "I must go see how Isidore is coming with her costume. I checked on her earlier and her maids were frantically tearing apart two dresses. She says she's going to be a queen, but I'm afraid she's going to enter the ballroom wrapped in a handkerchief."

"Why doesn't Isidore go by her title of Duchess of Cosway?" Harriet asked. "Last night she was announced as Lady Isidore Del'Fino."

"I don't think she's ever met the duke. Her husband, I mean," Jemma said. "Or if she did, it was for five minutes years ago. So she uses her own title, although for tonight she's the Queen of Palmyra."

"If you had told me that you were planning a Twelfth Night costume party," Harriet said, putting the goose down, "I could have been a queen as well."

"Apparently queens don't wear much clothing, so you'll definitely be more comfortable this way. And I'm sorry about not warning you, darling, but it's so much fun doing it last minute. You should see people rushing about the house looking for costumes. The butler is going mad! It's wonderful."

And with that, Jemma sailed out of the room leaving Harriet with the goose.

It was absurd to feel so sorry for herself. Every time she walked into Judge Truder's court she heard of people whose lives were far more desperate. Why just last month there was a girl who stole half a jar of mustard and six oranges. Truder had actually woken up and wanted to give the poor child hard labor, fool that he was.

Duchess By Night. Copyright © by Eloisa James. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 50 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 50 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 6, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Lots of Action!

    Harriet--an adventure seeking woman who disguises herself as a man--well there's definitely some amusing drama here.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2010

    Duchess by Night

    Eloisa James is one of my favorite historical romance writers.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 28, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A Lady In Disguise

    Harriet, the Duchess of Berrow, is bored with her privileged life. She needs a challenge. Thus begins her elaborate plan to disguise herself as a notorious rake at one of Justinian Strange¿s unique parties. Lord Strange entertains actors and actresses, rakes, scoundrels and ladies of questionable character. His parties are lively, scandalous and the talk of the town. Harriet is both shocked and intrigued.

    Jem Strange watches his new arrival with curious interest. Although the gentleman seems but a pretty youth, he is unaccountably attracted to him. Steeling himself against the young man¿s charms, he tries to distance himself, but is thrown together with Harriet repeatedly. How long can Harriet maintain her disguise before Jem¿s probing eyes?

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 26, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Good Story

    I found this story to be very entertaining and endearing. Essentially, you have a bored female socialite who decides along with her friend to cause a bit of a scandal by going to a notorious rake's home for a few weeks. Between the overly touchy actresses taking up residence in the home, one stubborn male, and the sweetest little girl on earth, you have strength, passion, and the protection of love. It was a quick read for a Sunday afternoon and one that I will probably repeat again in the future. If you're looking for other interesting historicals, check out some of my recommendations.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 16, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Good One

    I really liked this story. Harriet and Jem were a great couple of characters. I also like how the author doesn't drag out her sickbed/deathbed scenes too long.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 30, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    This one was touching.

    To really have never known your husband but you thought you did. Oh this was sad at the beginning when she found out stuff that she did not know. An for Harriet to dress up as a guy. WOW that was wild. Strange and Harriet are a well matched pair in this book. I enjoyed reading about his daughter and how he tried everything in his power to keep her safe. They go through an awful lot in this book. But in the end it pays off and this is my third fav book out of this series. I enjoyed reading their story and will likely just pick this book up again without reading the 2 in front of it..

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Amazing!

    I love romances and for years I made fun of my mother for reading historical romances. When she gave me this book I laughed at her and told her there was no way I was actually going to enjoy this. I was WRONG! This is one of my favorite books of all time. I love the secrets and the lies. It's a great read. More Eloisa James!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 21, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Duchess Series

    I loved this book. All of the Duchess series has been wonderful. My first Duchess book was in the middle and I had to go back and then forward to make sure I got all the books. Absolutely wonderful! It would be great to have more of the Duchess series. I recommend all of Eloisa James' books, especially this series. She is a wonderful writer and had me engrossed in her books just by the cover and her name.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2008

    Very good read

    A little slow moving in the very beginning, but once the characters have been established and story line set: EXCELLENT. I giggled through most of the chapters where Jem attempts to make a man out of Harry. I'm anticipating the next release.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 27, 2008

    A reviewer

    This book is my favorite book so far in the Duchess Series. I loved Jem and Harriet two fun characters that you can't help but love. This book is a great summer reading.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2013

    Hard to get into...

    It took awhile to get into and then slowed down in the middle. It was hard to care about the main characters!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2013

    Liked it!

    I like this series, and this book is a good entry. Liked the main characters, liked the peripheral characters, good storyline. I'm looking forward to the next one in the series!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 31, 2013

    Highly recommended

    I enjoyed it

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 27, 2012

    Good

    Again i enjoy this author.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 17, 2011

    Really disappointed

    After I read the reviews,I thought this would be a really good book, but it disappointed me, it was boring, slowly and the plot the same in the beginning until the end. I barely could get the end.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2008

    Better than the first two

    I personally like this novel better than the other two in the Desperate Duchesses series. I felt like James gave us more of the personalities and fears of the characters. I liked and understood the heroine but I never really appreciated the hero. I'm sure others would find him charming and redeemable but I thought him a bit of a jerk and a terrible father. I can forgive a fictional hero a lot of things but not neglecting their children. Oddly, I found his attraction to her before finding out she was really a woman a little off-putting. I'm sure there's more free-spirited people out there who accept this without a raised eyebrow. Since there are people who work hard at cross-dressing and never pull it off, even with drugs, in the 20th century, I have to think that Harriet was a little more masculine than most! The love scenes are steamier than the other two in this series. You don't get any of the Duchess of Beaumont's certain resolved issues with her duke or their continuing story line.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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