Leopold Dautry, the duke of Villiers, has a serious problem. He’s just realized that his six bastard children are not in the reliable schools that he thought, but rather shoved off into the cheapest places possible so that his soliciter can keep all his money. While he sets about finding his children, he knows that he needs a noble wife to help him introduce them into society and keep them in his house. He needs the daughter of a duke, which leaves him two choices, Eleanor, the daughter of the duke of Montague, and Lisette, the daughter of the duke of Gilner. Eleanor is beautiful and makes him laugh, but Lisette, while considered mad, cares nothing for society’s dictates and adores children. Villiers must make a difficult choice between them in order to find the woman who will not only be the mother of his children but the companion of his dreams.
This is the sixth entry in Eloisa James’s Desperate Duchesses series, and while knowledge of what’s gone before would help, I think this one actually does a great job standing on its own. This is because it’s focused directly on the couple at hand and their relationship is all new. While Villers’ character has been brilliantly developed over the course of these six novels, this one builds enough on that to make it stand alone, particularly when he finally falls in love. And it’s all done in Eloisa James’s witty, clear prose, which immediately draws me in and won’t let me stop reading.
I hestitate to spoil exactly which woman Villiers falls in love with, although it is somewhat obvious from page one. If you’d like to read this without any indication of what’s going to happen, please stop reading now! The back cover is right in that he chooses between logic and passion. He believes for a while that Lisette would be a perfect choice for his children. She likes to play with them and she ignores society completely; but what he doesn’t see (and what is fairly obvious to the reader) is that she is like a child herself and as such would be completely incapable of caring for them. I’m not sure what’s meant to be wrong with her, but it certainly doesn’t make her an appropriate mother and wife.
Eleanor, on the other hand, is an amazing heroine. Having set her heart aside for her childhood love, who also happens to be a duke, Eleanor declared long ago that only a duke would do. If her love was forced to marry someone else, she would remain true to him. After a number of years, however, Eleanor is lonely, and wishes she hadn’t issued that silly statement. At this point, a duke appears on the horizon, searching for a wife, and almost immediately Villiers and Eleanor strike a deal. Watching them become friends after that and then fall in love is a beautiful thing. It’s made even more so by the fact that Eleanor believes – and at times I believed even though I knew this had to have a HEA – that he is going to choose Lisette. They can’t help loving each other because they genuinely like each other, and in my opinion the fact that they have both this and the chemistry going on is a wonderful achievement.
This book was for me the capstone on a series that has turned out to be wonderful. At first consumed with too many secondary characters, by the fourth book they begin to come into their own and steal the show. Over the series, I have grown to love Villiers most of all, and this is the perfect ending for him. I can’t recommend A Duke of Her Own enough. I kind of wish I could read it for the first time all over again.