Carrying on with her series inspired by fairy tales, The Duke Is Mine puts a twist on the tale of the Princess and the Pea with this historical romance. Tarquin, the Duke of Sconce, is seeking the perfect bride – or at least his mother is on his behalf. Miss Olivia Lytton – not even a lady – is hardly the perfect choice, particularly as she’s been betrothed to another duke since her birth. While Olivia’s sister Georgiana fits the bill, Tarquin can’t take his eyes from curvy, funny Olivia – but how can they surmount her betrothal and his mother’s expectations in order to be together?
I liked the concept behind this book a lot, but it was one of those where too many obstacles fell away from the couple’s feet almost effortlessly so they could be together. In fact, I think it may be the first romance by Eloisa James I’ve had problems with, because I ordinarily love her books.
Let me explain; it’s not that I didn’t have a good time with this book. In fact, I flat out loved the first two thirds. It’s impossible not to feel for Olivia, a girl who describes herself as fat and loud and who tries to suck in her stomach so she doesn’t offend anyone, simply because she doesn’t fit the willow-thin, mouth-shut society-dictated stereotype. To make things worse, she’s not particularly fond of her future husband, but she considers herself resigned to her fate. In Tarquin’s eyes, she is curvy, hilarious, and immediately attractive. She’s a breath of fresh air amidst a crowd of stick-thin debutantes, one of the only romance heroines I’ve read about who does actually have a healthy amount on her bones and is decidedly not a wallflower.
After the couple do fall in love and all secrets are revealed, though, I really started to get frustrated with it. I felt as though all the romantic layers had fallen away so the couple could be together with an incredibly contrived situation to remove any problems. Obviously, many romance novels do this, but good ones shouldn’t make it so obvious. It’s the case of a perfectly good romance spoiled by the addition of a subplot that does incorporate the fairy tale but otherwise seems far, far too convenient. I wanted the couple to face what they’d done and come out stronger, not just escape without anyone ever actually realizing what had happened.
Anyway, if that’s what you go in expecting, I know you’ll enjoy this book; and for what it’s worth, it may have been my mood that made this so irritating to me at the time. But for a book that started out so well, I ended up disappointed. I’d recommend the other two fairy tale books instead, or at least to start, before you venture into reading The Duke Is Mine. Eloisa James really is a fantastic author, and it would be a shame to miss out on the rest of her work.
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