A duke must choose wisely . . .Leopold Dautry, the notorious
Duke of Villiers, must wed quickly and nobly--and his choices, alas, are few. The Duke of Montague's daughter, Eleanor, is exquisitely beautiful and fiercely intelligent. Villiers betroths himself to her without further ado.After all, no other woman really qualifies. Lisette, the outspoken daughter of the Duke of Gilner, cares nothing for clothing or decorum. She's engaged to another man, and doesn't give a fig for status or title. Half the ton believes Lisette mad--and Villiers is inclined to agree.Torn between logic and passion, between intelligence and imagination, Villiers finds himself drawn to the very edge of impropriety. But it is not until he's in a duel to the death, fighting for the reputation of the woman he loves, that Villiers finally realizes that the greatest risk may not be in the dueling field . . .But in the bedroom. And the heart.
After a few "so so" reads Eloisa James has finally delivered a book that I love. For the whole series of The Desperate Duchesses, Villiers has been a secondary character that intrigued me the most. We have seen him change from a jaded rake only interested in chess to a man decided to take responsibility of his 6 bastard children to the point that he will marry the woman who better fits the role of a mother.
With no clue where to start he follows the advice of dear friends, a former h/h, the Duke and Duchess of Beaumont and decides that the best thing is to marry the daughter of a duke whose rank will be high enough to make his children accepted in society. There are only 2 duke's daughters available and one Villiers immediately finds at a society ball, the other lives in the country and he decides to pay her a visit.
Eleanor is the daughter of a duke. Ever since she was abandoned by her first love the Duke of Astley she has vowed not to marry anyone but a duke. When she meets Villiers she is being chided by ~her sister for not taking more care with her appearance but far from being intimidated Eleanor responds to the duke so well that soon they are engaged in a duel of words. Eleanor has a very rational approach to Villiers proposal and decides she will also travel to the country and pay a visit to the other duke's daughter so Villiers can choose between them two.
Lisette is in some ways the opposite of Eleanor; she never follows anyone's lead except her own. Couldn't care less about society and seems to have a strong attachment to children. She is also beautiful and Villiers can't help being attracted. In truth he can't help being attracted to both of them and things get more complicated when, trying to shut up her mother, Eleanor declares herself betrothed to Villiers. One of the funniest things about him must be how he takes everything in stride, especially when women decide to declare themselves betrothed to him. But level headed Eleanor does tell him that if he prefers Lisette she will set him free. Villiers is undecided for much of the book... and if that is exasperating it is also sweet to see that he only has his children best interests at heart. I thought Villiers was interesting, complex, charming and sometimes annoying. Hero material most definitely and much more interesting than all the others in this Duchesses series.
I really can't say more or I'll spoil the surprise of who the heroine is but I'm sure when you start reading you'll see who it is very quickly. The plot thickens before everything is solved and I must say I wasn't expecting the revelation at the end about past events but was expecting and really enjoyed Villiers’s work to win the woman he loves.
I also thought Tobias was a great character and would make great hero material!