An Affair before Christmas (Desperate Duchesses Series #2)

An Affair before Christmas (Desperate Duchesses Series #2)

by Eloisa James

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061797637
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/13/2009
Series: Desperate Duchesses Series , #2
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 25,467
File size: 944 KB

About the Author

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. She is the mother of two and, in a particularly delicious irony for a romance writer, is married to a genuine Italian knight. Visit her at

Read an Excerpt

An Affair Before Christmas

By Eloisa James Avon Copyright © 2007 Eloisa James
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-06-124554-1

Chapter One Four years later

An excerpt from The Morning Post,

April 22, 1783

The buzz of the past few days amongst the ton has been the challenge that the Earl of Gryffyn offered the Duke of Villiers. It seems that the earl has stolen away the duke's fiancé. We cannot comment on the veracity of this report, but we would note that dueling has been strictly prohibited by our gracious sovereign ...

Townhouse of the Duke and Duchess of Beaumont A morning party in celebration of the Earl of Gryffyn's victory in a duel

"The Duchess of Fletcher," the butler announced with a magnificent bellow. When he said nothing about the duke, Poppy looked behind her ... but Fletch was gone. He had drifted away to some other part of Beaumont House without bothering to be announced. Or inform her of his intentions.

She could feel her smile turning rigid so she picked up her skirts and edged down the three marble steps into the ballroom. Side panniers made it difficult enough to negotiate doorways and stairs, but this morning her French maid had outdone herself. A veritable cascade of frills, curls and bows towered over Poppy's head, the whole of it draped with strings of small pear-shaped pearls. Walking was challenging; stairs were truly dangerous.

Not that it wasn't worth it. She was fiercely determined to achieve an elegance to match her husband's. Fletch and his costumes were the toast of London; she would never allow it to be said that his duchess shamed him. She didn't want anyone to be sorry for her. Ever.

Naturally Fletch hadn't said a word about her costume in the carriage, though he must have realized that her gown was new. Perhaps he thought its embroidery (in shades of gold and pearl) was too formal for a morning occasion. Poppy took a deep breath. If she'd learned anything from her four years of marriage, it was that one cannot guess what a man is thinking.

She revised that thought. Certain male thoughts were crystal clear.

"Your Grace," came a deep voice at her ear. "May I escort you to the other side of the ballroom, where there is less of a crush? The Duchess of Beaumont is to be found there."

"I'd be honored," Poppy said to her host, curtsying just deeply enough to acknowledge his rank without disbalancing her hair. The Duke of Beaumont was attired in a simple coat of dark green velvet with turned-back cuffs of sage green. Of course, men rarely dressed as formally as women. She placed her hand lightly on his arm and they strolled through the ballroom, nodding at acquaintances. "I hadn't thought to see you this morning," Poppy said, before she realized that was rather impolite.

The duke-a consummate politician known jointly for his disdain for infamy and his infamous duchess, Jemma-gave a rueful smile. "Undoubtedly this party will be the scandal of the week, since it is held to celebrate a duel. To be quite truthful, in the normal run of events I would likely avoid this particular gathering. But as it is my own duchess holding the party, and in my own house, more commotion would result if I did not attend."

Poppy felt a rush of sympathy for the poor duke. He was one of the most important men in the House of Lords, a man whose conviction, eloquence and power were known all over England. The last thing he needed in his life was scandal. And though she dearly loved Jemma from their days together in Paris, she had to admit that gossip-mongers adored the Duchess of Beaumont for good reason; everything Jemma did seemed to cause a sensation. It must be difficult to be married to her.

Almost as difficult as being married to Fletch.

She froze for a second. "Are you fatigued, Your Grace?" Beaumont asked, pausing. "Would you prefer to sit down?"

"Oh no," she said, pushing thoughts about her marriage away. "I am so looking forward to seeing Jemma. I haven't seen her since before I married, when we both lived in Paris. She must be happy to find that her brother won the duel."

"Naturally we are all relieved that the occasion ended without undue bloodshed," Beaumont said evenly, his voice showing how much he disliked the idea of celebrating his brother-in-law's illegal foray into dueling. "And here is the duchess herself."

He bowed, and left. Jemma looked even more elegant than she had four years ago in Paris. Though she was wearing panniers too, her skirts weren't stiff like Poppy's but soft and flowing. And whereas Poppy's hair was curled into rigid little snail shells, Jemma's hair was shaped into soft curls, so lightly powdered that its natural gold color shone through. Her beauty had deepened; the sensual air that Poppy remembered was even more pronounced.

"Jemma," Poppy exclaimed. "How lovely you look!"

Jemma turned and gave a little shriek of welcome. "It's Poppy!" she cried, snatching her into a hug. Then she backed up and narrowed her eyes. "What has happened to the little mademoiselle I knew so well in Paris? You are exquisite! You put us all to shame. Look at us, three duchesses, and you are the only one who looks the part."

Poppy had already realized that she had grotesquely miscalculated the formality of the party. No wonder Fletch said nothing of her gown. Poppy smiled apologetically at the lady standing beside Jemma. "I'm sorry, but I don't think-"

"We've never met," she said, dropping a curtsy. "Jemma is engaging in hyperbole. I am no duchess. My name is Lady Isidore Del'Fino." Lady Isidore was wearing a gorgeous costume of soft rose-colored crêpe-de-chine. If Jemma was all sleek perfection, Lady Isidore looked like a ripe cherry, seductive and delicious. Poppy's heart sank even deeper.

"Isidore, this is the Duchess of Fletcher. Isidore is almost a duchess," Jemma said, giving Poppy's arm another affectionate squeeze. "She married by proxy and is just waiting for her duke to return from his travels."


Excerpted from An Affair Before Christmas by Eloisa James Copyright © 2007 by Eloisa James. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Affair before Christmas (Desperate Duchesses Series #2) 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 73 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Eloisa James is a fabulous writer, but this book is just tedious in the extreme. There are flashes of brilliance in her characters, but the plot -- if you can all the varied threads she tries to weave together a plot -- is weak and thin. If you've never read her before, try another of her titles. Even a loyal reader cannot find something nice to say about this one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I HAVE READ ALL OF HER BOOKS (SOME OF THEM REPEATEDLY) BUT I HAVE TO SAY I WAS NOT A FSN OF THID ONE. IT HAD TOO MANY CHARACTERS AND THE STORY DIDN'T STAY FOCUSED ON ANY ONE PAIRING. ALSO, IF A PERSON HAD NOT READ HER OTHER DESPARATE DUCHESS SERIES THEY WOULD HAVE BEEN LOST. THere were even inconsistencies with how these characters acted or with their fate than in the other books in the series. Overall disappointed and would not recommend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Your halfway through the book before it gets interesting.
ReadingRaven More than 1 year ago
An Affair Before Christmas by Eloisa James was not that intriguing. It was totally unrealistic and I wanted to put the book down and stop reading throughout the whole novel, but I have a strict rule against it. The main characters, Poppy and Fletch, are holding on to their marriage based on the fact that they were once head-over-heels in love; however, Poppy has NO personality and Fletch is trying to win her back.WHY?? After 4 years of being a limp noodle with her husband, Poppy is having so much fun seeing how it would be as an independent woman; then, she has this epiphany that it was HER that makes sex unsatisfying.whatever. I enjoy the writings of Eloisa James, but this novel is hollow in both plot and character depth.
Daphsmomma More than 1 year ago
I of course read this book bc it is part of the Desperate Duchess series. Though if I could have skipped it I would have. This book was very hard to get into. And was very boring. I have never read a book that I hated so much. The only part that I enjoyed reading was prob chapter 45 (which btw is page 314)to the end! It was just not her best at all. And for me it was my second book to read by her. It really put me off. But I read it as quick as I could to get to the next one. And if you're going in order I'm sorry but you really must read this book bc it tells about the other characters! Sorry:(
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am only half way through this book but wanted to check the reviews to see if it was only me who is being bored to tears. If you've read her previous Desperate Duchesses title, you'll find this one parallels the other. I thought it helpful at first, but now I feel as if she's squeezing two novels from one as she has poorly characterized the protagonists of this book. I have learned very little about Poppy & Fletch thus far and have no real connection to or concern for them. I usually enjoy Ms. James's books, but I find myself 'desperate' for the end of this one. Please don't let this review discourage you from buying any of her other titles.
momuv4boyz on LibraryThing 11 months ago
I read this over the week of Christmas and it was quick and quirky read that had me laughing out loud at times.
phyllis2779 on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Charming historical romance. Part of James' Duchess series. The prose is excellent, the characters are interesting, and the historical accuracy seems pretty good. This is the Georgian period, not regency, but James seems spot on.
kayceel on LibraryThing 11 months ago
This is the first time that a couple started out truly disliking each other. Most romances begin with that "you annoy the heck outta me, but gosh, golly, how I lust for you" theme, but Poppy and Fletch have been married for four years, and their feelings for each other are nearing disgust and contempt. James takes them on an interesting route to figure out what went wrong, and she manages to get the characters to change enough to fall in real love.Though I care more for the peripheral characters in this one (love Charlotte Tatlock and the Duke of Villiers), I did enjoy this one! (Especially loved the glimpses into Georgian life - descriptions of Poppy's duchess level hairstyles and the effort - and gross additions - that went into them were fascinating!)
veevoxvoom on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Summary: Poppy and the Duke of Fletcher met in Paris and fell madly in love. However, thanks to Poppy being conditioned to think that women can never enjoy sex, relations between them have grown cold and frigid. It¿ll take a special Christmas to bring them back together again.Review: After the disappointment that was Desperate Duchesses, I thought that Eloisa James would improve if I gave her another chance. I have enjoyed some of her books in the past and she has a knack for amusing subplots and great secondary characters, not to mention an eye for historical detail. But what I¿ve come to realize is that whenever I pick up one of her novels, I look for those things and practically ignore the main romance. Which, for a romance novel, is probably not a good sign.Why do I dislike many of her romances? Mostly, the genre cliches. The excessive sentimentality, the sideline homophobia (because men and women! come together like cookies and cream! so there can't possibly be any alternate sexualities that matter!), the creepy idealization of French culture, the naive heroines, the hyper manly heroes, the requisite ¿aww, aren¿t we happy with our brood of five million children?¿ epilogue. Yeah. You¿ve seen it before and you see it again. Poppy had her decent moments, such as her interest in the natural sciences, but her overwhelming naivete and sweetness was too much for me to stomach, especially when James tried to give her some forward-thinking, modern qualities as well. There are authors who can combine these two sets of qualities together and make it work (that is, create a 3D character), but James isn¿t one of them. At her worst, Poppy seemed like a case of trying to have your cake and eat it too. Look, she¿s smart and strong and operates on some feminist ideals sure to appeal to the modern reader! But look, she¿s also demure and shy and easily convinced by everyone around her! She has no dark moments, only angelic ones! Weird.It¿s a shame that Poppy and Fletcher¿s romance bored me to tears. Because James really is good at constructing other types of stories. I absolutely loved the plot with Villiers, Charlotte, and Dautry. The interaction between Villiers and Charlotte fascinated me, and I would have loved to have seen an entire book revolve around them instead of boring old Poppy and Fletcher. Villiers himself is a great character, both cynical and dark but with sartorial elegance, hooray! He isn¿t afraid that liking fashion means he¿s a woman (which, gods forbid, is the Worst Thing Ever).So I will continue reading this series, mostly because Eloisa James continues to draw me back with her intriguing secondary characters that I want to see appear in future books. It's funny, but I think I would appreciate her in a different genre. Maybe more of a comedy of manners? I would love her romance novels as long as she left out the romance, haha. No, really, I'm serious.Conclusion: Poppy and Fletcher who?
Anniik on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is actually three stories - Fletch and Poppy's, Jemma's, and Charlotte Tetlock and the Duke of Villiers'. Unlike in her other books, it's hard to say which one is really dominant - they're given close to equal time. The main story - Fletch and Poppy's - is, in my opinion, the weakest, replaying parts of "Your Wicked Ways" that were done better there - the innocent bride who finds sex horrible and it tears apart their relationships, but they actually still love each other...blah, blah. Read "Your Wicked Ways" - it's better. However, the Duke of Villiers is a fantastic story, and his story - even though he's in bed the whole time, recovering (very slowly and painfully) from a sword wound he received in a duel in "Desperate Duchesses" - it's the part that captures you and keeps your interest.
amf0001 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Eloise James is surprisingly hit or miss for me, but this is her worst book by far. I found the plot tedious and the characters annoying. After 4 disappointing years of marriage, Fletch is on the verge of having an affair but learning of his disappointment, his perfect wife leaves him instead, and finds herself. Then they reconnect and fall in love. Actually that makes it sound far better than it did. It could have been one of those serious, makes you cry and think romances, but it tried to keep it's fluffy/bright aspect and instead the whole thing became leaden. I might have liked a seroius, passionate exploration of marriage and the delusions we have before going in and what is love anyway, but this is not the book for that conversation. Instead it was just the annoying Poppy, cutting off her itching hair and discovering her inner French woman
cylence on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a very different story because it involved a married man and woman in england after the marriage. It basically picked up where all of the storybook "we fell in love, got married, and then..." leave off. A woman and her husband dont' enjoy enjoy sex together, and it's the story of how they ignite the flame of their marriage and it also shows a little more of the first of the duchess books. Not bad at all!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ibthink you still need to read this one to stay current on all the character development of the secondary chatacters. If you like Leopold Villier, you should probably slog through the Duke of Fletchers romancecwith his wife to stay updated. While John and what was her name? (I just read it & have already forgotten - oh yeah, some silly name like Poppy)'s romance is cute & I loved the historical information regarding the hair, I thought the characters were dull after a while. Not Miss James's best story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really liked this story! I was happy with the ending too!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So sad ): grr
ReadMe11 More than 1 year ago
First and foremost this book is part of a series, and absolutely CANNOT be read as a stand alone. None of the story would begin to make sense. This is the second in the Desperate Duchesses series and continues the storyline started there while settling the pairing of Poppy and Fletch. That being said, this did start off slow, but began gaining momentum. I feel this series is a build up for Jemma & Elijah. And I cannot wait to see how Villiers pans out. In that respect I was more interested in secondary characters and their futures than the "main" characters. However Poppy and Fletch had a wonderful scene at the Inn which was the turning point for their relationship. All in all, a good story. But definitely the next step in a story started in the previous book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
AustenStudent More than 1 year ago
After reading the first book in the Desperate Duchesses series (of the same name, too) by Eloisa James, I was a little disappointed. It isn’t an historical romance and, after reading this second installment, it still isn’t. But I find that’s okay. Once I kind of knew going in what I would expect I enjoyed it very much and I very much like Eloisa James’ sparkling writing style, colorful characters, and witty dialogue. This is a novel of manners set in Georgian England, a departure from James’ usual Regency era. There is a romance in An Affair Before Christmas, but it’s very secondary to the many characters here and their own faults, foibles, and plots, many of which are carried over from the first book. There’s a lot of crisp repartee, fashionable, elaborate, and excessive style, and the lovely setting of Christmas here. There is a love story with Poppy and Fletch, a young duke and duchess whose lack of communication, desire, and expectations in the bedroom have wreaked havoc on their four year marriage. Their estrangement and eventual reunion are a small part of the story. There are also two ongoing and notorious chess games (carried over from the first book) between Jemma, the independent and outspoken Duchess of Beaumont, and her estranged husband, Elijah, and Jemma and the rakish Duke of Villiers. The winner, society intimates, will spend a night in Jemma’s bed. The machinations of Jemma’s marriage continue to play out in this novel as they did in the first. In between, there are other stories, too: an excessive melodrama with Poppy’s domineering mother, Lady Flora, that veers into incredulity; hints of a possible future love story for lonely and quiet spinster Charlotte Tatlock—who is carrying on a flirtation with Jemma’s husband—with her growing friendship with both the Duke of Villiers and his ruggedly handsome heir, Miles Dautry. As for the Duke of Villiers, he is recovering from a critical wound suffered in a duel at the end of Desperate Duchesses. As you can see, it’s not an historical romance, but it is a fascinating look at Georgian society.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I do agree - there are too many characters (very hard to keep up with who is who); however, this is a well written, interesting book. I love Eloisa James. One of our most talented historical authors.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sweet story about a couple that drift apart and then find each other.