Desperate Duchesses (Desperate Duchesses Series #1)

Desperate Duchesses (Desperate Duchesses Series #1)

by Eloisa James

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060781934
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 05/29/2007
Series: Desperate Duchesses Series , #1
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 200,839
Product dimensions: 4.19(w) x 6.75(h) x 1.00(d)

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

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Desperate Duchesses

By Eloisa James


Copyright © 2007 Eloisa James
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-06-078193-4

Chapter One

April 10, 1783 Beaumont House, Kensington

"In Paris, a married lady must have a lover or she is an unknown. And she may be pardoned two." The door to the drawing room swung open, but the young woman sitting with her back to the door took no notice.

"Two?" an exquisitely dressed young man remarked. "I gather that Frenchmen are a happy race of men. They seemed so petulant to me when I was last there. It must be the embarrassment of riches, like having three custards after supper."

"Three lovers are considered rather too many," the woman replied. "Although I have known some who considered three to be a privilege rather than an abundance." Her low laugh was a type that tickled a man's breastbone and even lower. It said volumes about her personal abilities to manage one-or three-Frenchmen with aplomb.

Her husband closed the door behind him and stepped into the room.

The young man glanced up and came to his feet, bowing without extraordinary haste. "Your Grace."

"Lord Corbin," the Duke of Beaumont replied, bowing. Corbin was just to Jemma's taste: elegant, assured and far more intelligent than he admitted. In fact, he would make a good man in parliament, not that Corbin would lower himself to something approaching work.

His brother-in-law, the Earl of Gryffyn, rose and made him a casual bow.

"Your servant, Gryffyn," the duke said, making a leg.

"Do join us, Beaumont," his wife said, looking up at him with an expression of the utmost friendliness. "It's a pleasure to see you. Is the House of Lords not meeting today?" That was part and parcel with the war they had waged for the last eight years: conversation embroidered with delicate barbs, rarely with coarse emotion.

"It is in session, but I thought to spend some time with you. After all, you have barely returned from Paris." The duke bared his teeth in an approximation of a smile.

"I miss it already," Jemma said, with a lavish sigh. "It's marvelous that you're here, darling," she said, leaning forward a bit and tapping him on the hand with her fan. "I'm just waiting for Harriet, the Duchess of Berrow, to arrive. And then we shall make a decision about the centerpiece for tomorrow's fête."

"Fowle tells me that we are holding a ball." The duke-who thought of himself as Elijah, though he would be very affronted were any person to address him so-kept his voice even. Those years of parliamentary debate were going to prove useful, now that Jemma had returned to London. 'Twas the reason he'd stayed home for the day, if truth be told. He had to strike a bargain with his wife that would curb her activities to an acceptable level. And he wouldn't get there by losing his temper; he remembered their newlywed battles well enough.

"Dear me, don't tell me that I forgot to inform you! I know it's a bit mad, but the plans gave me something to do on the voyage here."

She looked genuinely repentant, and indeed, for all Elijah knew, she was. The game of marriage they played required strictly friendly manners in public. Not that they were ever in private.

"He just did tell you that," her brother put in. "You'd better watch out, Sis. You're not used to sharing a household."

"It was truly ill-mannered of me," she said, leaping to her feet, which made her silk petticoats swirl around her narrow ankles. She was dressed in a pale blue gown à la française, embroidered all over with forget-me-nots. Her bodice caressed every curve of her breasts and narrow waist before the skirts billowed over her panniers.

By all rights, the way her side hoops concealed the swell of her hips should be distasteful to a man, and yet Elijah had to admit that they played an irresistible part in a man's imagination, leading the eye from the curve of a breast to the narrow waist, and then driving him perforce to imagine slender limbs and-and the rest of it.

Jemma held out her hand; Elijah paused for a moment and then took it. She smiled at him, as a mother might smile at a little boy reluctant to wash his face. "I am so glad that you are able to join us this morning, Beaumont. While I trust that these gentlemen have impeccable opinions"-she cast a glimmering smile at Corbin-"one's husband's opinion must, of course, prevail. I do declare that it's been so long since I felt as if I had a husband that it is quite a novelty! I shall probably bore you to tears asking you to approve my ribbons."

In the old days, the first days of their marriage, Elijah would have bristled. But he was seasoned by years of dedicated jousting in Parliament where the stakes were more important than ribbons and trifles. "I am quite certain that Corbin can do my duty with your ribbons." He said it with just the right amount of disinterest and courtesy in his voice.

From the corner of his eye, Elijah noticed that Corbin didn't even blink at the idea he had just been invited by a duke to do his husbandly duty. Perhaps the man could keep Jemma occupied enough that she wouldn't cause too many scandals before parliament went into recess. He turned sharply toward the door, annoyed to discover that his wife's beauty seemed more potent in his own house than it had been in Paris during his rare visits.

Partly it was because Jemma had not powdered her hair. She knew quite well that the shimmer of weathered gold was far more enticing than powder, and contrasted better with her blue eyes. It was only-he told himself-because she was his wife that he felt this prickling irritation at her beauty. Or perhaps the irritation was caused by her self-possession. When they first married, she wasn't so flawless. Now everything about her was polished to perfection, from the color of her lip to the witty edge of her comments.


Excerpted from Desperate Duchesses 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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Desperate Duchesses (Desperate Duchesses Series #1) 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 87 reviews.
LisaMR More than 1 year ago
I don't feel that the story was scattered at all. I truly enjoy Eloisa's books because there is rarely some big bad monster of a man hiding in the wings. Her stories seem much more plausible for real life and are simply about people. This was a fun story that took a bit to really get started, but once it did it moved quite swiftly. All the characters were overly fun and well developed. I only cried the smallest amount toward the end but most of the time I was smiking and laughing. The story was well wrapped up at the end. To me there were no dangling characters or wayward thoughts. This certainly is worth the buy and tthe whole series is worth investing in.
alias_dw More than 1 year ago
A friend recommended this series to me and this was the first one I read. At first I had a difficult time becoming interested in the plot because the author assumes the reader is accustomed to terms from regency period. I imagine if you have read many historical novels of this period it would easier to dive right into the story. Once I became familiar with the language I found it a fun sexy read. The characters are obviously well suited for each other and the reader is rooting for them to get together. There is a great deal of secondary characters who the author is obviously introducing so that the reader is interested in them. They will clearly be popping up in future installments in the series. I am concerned, yet intrigued, because many of these characters seem to lack character which may make them unsympathetic primary characters in the future.
curlyloulou More than 1 year ago
I actually liked this book. They way she writes took a bit to get used to but by chapter 2 it was all good.
alaskaruth More than 1 year ago
Nice for a long airplane ride-- I don't usually buy romances, but this one was pretty good!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I tend to be a very picky reader and tend to hate romance novels that spend too much time with secondary characters, and this one spends so much time with the secondary characters it¿s hard to call them secondary, but I loved this book. I wasn¿t even finished before I went on-line and ordered every one of the author¿s books. The characters are so complex and engrossing, that they pull you in despite their many, many faults. The lead romance could have used a bit more time to develop, but it was beautifully sensual and lovely. And Bravo to the author for having the courage to write something other than regency.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love Eloisa's books because she never writes down to a reader. They are witty and smart, and you can re-read them and always find something new. Desperate Duchesses is sexy, complex, and the dialogue made me LOL several times. I can't wait for the next one in this series!
Guest More than 1 year ago
James writes the sort of characters that I love, flawed and funny and sexy. I love how she weaves the characters' stories together and especially the women's relationships, to make a big, satisfying story. In DESPERATE DUCHESEES she's done this again. Damon is a sexy, sexy animal and Roberta is his match in wits as well as wants. Unique amongst romance writers.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. The characters felt very 'real' for their time period and the historical detail was rich and layered. The book was very fresh and almost more like an ensemble comedy/drama with a lot of witty banter. My favorite characters were Jemma and her estranged husband and I hope we'll be seeing more of them later in the series.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I could see where the author was going with this series, but honestly, the only characters that I was interested in were the Duke & Duchess of Beaumont. THEIR story was the one I want to hear about and could have been written in one book instead of being drawn out into several in this 'series'. The 'main' characters where uninteresting and I frequently hit skim-mode through out the book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book and it was my first one by this author. I found the characters entertaining and I loved the references to chess. James put a new spin on romance novels and I found it quite refreshing. I enjoyed the fact that she left you hanging with some of the plot because it made me feel as though she's going to write a sequel. Which I really hope she does. I found all the characters to be very flawed which made them very human and many of their reactions were surprising which accentuated their uniqueness. A fun read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Lady Roberta St. Giles wants a husband and her father isn't helping matters any. Known as the Mad Marquess, her father's unusual poetry and unusual lifestyle has scared away any suitors that may have been interested in the lovely Lady Roberta. It is clear Lady Roberta will have to take matters in her own hands. After spying the beautifully proper Duke of Villiers at a ball, Lady Roberta heads to London on a mission to become the next Duchess of Villiers. With the help from a very distant relative, the Duchess of Beaumont, Lady Roberta captures the eye of not only the Duke of Villiers but of the Duchesses brother, the Earl of Gryffyn. Eloisa James writes such smart and witty romances that I can't help but adore them. And I do adore Desperate Duchesses. I was quite desperate myself for Roberta to pick the man I was crazy in love with and my heart would have been broken if she hadn't. With a story that will just suck you right in, Desperate Duchesses has secondary characters that will leave you begging for the next in this series. I am, well, desperate for more Desperate Duchesses! Annmarie reviewed for Joyfully Reviewed
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read several of her books and looked forward to this one as they have all been very good. Ouch! This one is a struggle to get through. None of the characters make you care about what happens to them and the situations are sometimes confusing. Not this authors best work for sure!
Guest More than 1 year ago
DON'T WASTE YOUR MONEY. I think that her editor and publisher were one something to allow this book to be release. There's NO plot development and NO character development. The wording is obscure. I kept having to flip back in order to figure out who was talking. The title is misleading. The duchesses are secondary characters and their relationships are put to the forefront and don't come to completion. The secondary characters are all obsessed with chess, so a lot of the conversations involves A LOT of chess metaphors, which leads to more confusion for the reader. I regret having purchased this book and felt strong enough about it to warn others away from it. Good Luck if you decided to buy it away.
Anonymous 5 months ago
I feel as if James has two different writing styles. I read this series out of order and the last two books of this series is written like a typical historical romance novel. There are two main characters and one or two secondary characters and the book develops around one main love story. This book however is more of an actual novel than a romance novel. There are many characters, all introduced for the following works in the series, but it can be confusing. She switches back and forth between different couples and different singular characters. It can be a lot going from one person to the next, one situation to the next. It was a little annoying for me to read because I wanted to follow one main couples story not a few. There is a lot of chess references, part of the main story so if you don't know about chess or don't want to learn about it then don't read this book. It feels like you are reading the book for a long time, going through multiple situations just to get to the end to see how the characters end up. I am hoping the next book will be better, especially since the very last two of the series are amazing.
lilmo 7 months ago
I've read a few of Eloisa James books and generally found them to be fun reads. However, this one - not so much. It seemed to me that the main story should have been about Jemma and her husband Beaumont, but it wasn't. It was about Jemma's brother and a country cousin. There were also lengthy - and I mean lengthy - passages about chess. Unless you're a chess aficionado - or aspire to be one, I found myself skipping these pages. The same applied to the long game of dominoes - very boring. As you read along through the story, you are introduced to any number of other characters, who seemed to be interesting, and will undoubtedly be returning in future books. Not a bad read - but not a great one either. It'll work for you if you're on a long plane ride with a poor movie selection
thebookbabe on LibraryThing 8 months ago
After reading any number of comments about this author on the Regency list I finally decided to give James a try. I've read that she's a 'love her or hate her' kind author so I started the first chapter with as open a mind as I could. I'm not into chess so I was bored with that aspect, actually couldn't see WHY James decided on that particular thing as the kernel of the story but trudged on. While the actual story covered a very short period of time it felt like I was reading the book for a very long period of time, not a good sign at all, especially since I have the 2nd and 3rd books in this series on loan from the library and will have to renew them. Sometimes an author's voice and I just don't blend very well but I'm hoping the 2nd book will appeal to me more. What started me on this journey is a co-worker gave me one of James' books and it turned out to to be the 4th book in this quartet, so what else could a reader do but start with the first book. I'm just glad I didn't spend money on these books - bless our libraries.
wyvernfriend on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Lady Roberta St Giles is a woman who has lived with the fact that her family isn't in any way normal or ordinary. Her father is a poet who lives with women openly in a way that makes people ask questions about his family. She calls on a relative to try to get herself on the market. When she sees the Duke of Villiers, a notorious rakehell, she decides he is to be hers.Damon Reeve, the Earl of Gryffyn thinks differently, but can he win?It's fun, full of complicated relationships, chess and duels. It was a fun, light read.
crashingwaves38 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
As a general rule of thumb, I greatly enjoy Eloisa James. She has a fun, snappy style of writing, her dialogue is great, and she has plots that aren't the norm. Those three things automatically garner my attention and repeat reading. This book, while I enjoyed it, wasn't quite up to James' standards, I feel. There were a couple of times when she almost immediately contradicted herself (at one point Roberta says that thinking about her prospective fiance's debauched life makes her wince, and at the beginning of the next chapter, she says it doesn't bother her a bit because his indiscretions are nothing compared to the craziness of her father). Things were occasionally confusing, as there were a lot of peripheral characters that only marginally touched on the plot itself. But it was a decent plot, and I enjoyed reading it. It was everything I look for in a romance novel (taking my mind away from this world into a different one and keeping me amused), but it also wasn't as well written as some others.
kayceel on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I loved this! Roberta is a smart character, and though she is a bit naive, she's also refreshingly forthright, and the reader will be almost as charmed by her as is Damon, her very distant cousin, and the man who decides he'll marry, while trying to help her catch the attention of the notorious duke Roberta is in love with.Great characters, sexy and romantic and witty - I plan to read my way through as many of James' romances as I can!
phyllis2779 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I really enjoyed this book. I had not previously read anything by this author and mow I'm going to make up for that and try to get hold of most of her backlist. There's lots of humor but what is even more important to me is that there was no jarring historical inaccuracy and the prose was very readable. The two main characters, Damon and Roberta, were both charming without BEING FOOLISH. The other characters were also important and feel like a tapestry rather than chess pieces (although chess plays a large role in this book).
cylence on LibraryThing 11 months ago
This was a story that dragged at times, but for the most part it flowed decently. I wouldn't say that it was a page turner, because it was rather...annoying at times. A girl falls in love with a duke at a ball while at home in the courntry and then goes to London in hopes of snaring the duke. Her father has money, she has intelligence, but her father has sheltered her from the world and refused to let her live fashionably- even letting his mistresses raise her. The story has 2 parts, one of which bored me to tears about how chess was such a rage and her relation, the duchess, who puts her up in London is having a chess match with the duke that is the heroine's love and the duke that is the duchess's husband. The other story is how the girl wants to marry the duke but is being seduced into loving the duchess's brother, an earl. It's ok, but not worth rereading. The second in the series, An Affair Before Christmas, was MUCH better.
Anniik on LibraryThing 11 months ago
This is one of my favorite of Eloisa James's books. Set in the Georgian period instead of the Regency like most of James's books, this book has a charming story, memorable characters, and a touching love story. Damon is one of my favorite of James's heroes, and Villiers is a fascinating character as well. While James does fall into her traditional trap of not concentrating enough on the main story, it's not as destructive here as usual - probably because the other characters are interesting as well. A good book!
roxiereads on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Taken from the back cover: A marquess's sheltered only daughter, Lady Roberta St. Giles falls in love with a man she glimpses across a crowded ballroom: a duke, a game player of consummate skill, a notorious rakehell who shows no interest in marriage. The Earl of Gryffyn,Damon Reeve, is determined to protect Roberta from chasing after the wrong destiny.From me: As befitting the title, the dukes and duchesses are more interesting than our lead romance most of the way through the book. This book is funny, witty, charming, fun, full of great characters and obviously the setup for the forthcoming series. I can't wait to see how the Duke and Duchess of Beaumont work out their miscommunication. And I am rooting for Villiers (our sort of villian) to make a happy match (male or female I'm not sure). I really enjoyed the book, but do wish I felt more interest in Roberta and Damon.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Second time reading this series after five years! It is a fun comedy just as I believe it was meant to be while introducing new characters that will appear in the rest of tbe series! LORRAINE
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a very strange book for me. I read 3 and 4 of this series and several of James other books and this book was terrible in comparison. The entire first chapter was a sloppy mess, and the rest is so scattered it was hard to follow. I ended up skimming to only focus on Jemma and Beaumont since their story is through several books.