Plot (from avonromance.com)
He is a duke in search of a perfect bride. She is a lady-but a long way from perfect. Tarquin, the powerful Duke of Sconce, knows perfectly well that the decorous and fashionably slender Georgiana Lytton will make him a proper duchess. So why can’t he stop thinking about her twin sister, the curvy, headstrong, and altogether unconventional Olivia? Not only is Olivia betrothed to another man, but their improper, albeit intoxicating, flirtation makes her unsuitability all the more clear. Determined to make a perfect match, he methodically cuts Olivia from his thoughts, allowing logic and duty to triumph over passion…Until, in his darkest hour, Quin begins to question whether perfection has anything to do with love. To win Olivia’s hand he would have to give up all the beliefs he holds most dear, and surrender heart, body and soul… Unless it’s already too late. Don’t miss a new version of The Princess & the Pea, asking an age-old question: What is a perfect princess?
Things I Loved
This is probably my favorite book in the series. Like its predecessors, it’s a loose retelling ofa fairy tale–in this case, The Princess and the Pea–set in Regency England. It’s also a bit of an homage to Cotillion by Georgette Heyer (mostly in that Rupert, Olivia’s fiancé in The Duke is Mine, is quite similar to Dolph in Cotillion).
I love Olivia. She’s been betrothed to a duke since birth. Her parents have raised Olivia and her twin sister, Georgiana, to be duchesses. Georgiana is pretty much perfect at everything. Olivia likes bawdy limericks and making fun of her mother’s favorite etiquette book, The Mirror of Compliments. Olivia’s fiancé, Rupert, has an intellectual disability. She’s not thrilled about marrying him, but she’s fond of him and always treats him with respect and kindness.
After Rupert joins the army and leaves for France (following a failed attempt at consummation that Olivia lies about to protect Rupert’s feelings), Olivia and Georgiana are sent to stay with Tarquin, the Duke of Sconce, whose mother is the author of the detested Mirror of Compliments. Tarquin is a widower and a brilliant mathematician (possibly with an autism spectrum disorder; yay diversity).
Tarquin’s first wife did a number on him, so the prim and proper Georgiana seems like the perfect choice for his second wife. But the totally inappropriate Olivia and her large bottom (did I mention that Olivia is fat? I love awesome, confident fat heroines) arouses his interest.
I love, love, love that this romance features a virgin heroine who does not have a magical first time. Tarquin doesn’t realize that Olivia is a virgin, so she doesn’t have an easy or pleasant time of it at first. James handled it sensitively and realistically, which made me really happy.
Also: house parties, crazy trips to France, emotionally wounded heroes, Sir Justin Fiebvre (yes, there is a fictional version of Justin Bieber inserted into the house party just because).
Rupert is mortally wounded after winning a major victory for the English in France, so Olivia and Tarquin set out for France to reclaim his body. This whole subplot was, frankly, a bit weird. James’s portrayal of Rupert is a little bit problematic overall, and the trip to France didn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense; it was more or less there to fit with the fairy tale plot. This is also probably the loosest retelling of the series.
And, of course, those of you who like your historical fiction rigorously accurate and your romances sex-free may want to skip this series. (Not that James is that inaccurate, but these are more fantasy-ish than strictly historical. Which is how I like my Regency romances, but I know other people who find factual inaccuracies really, really annoying.)
2 out of 4 chili peppers (1 being a step above a sex-free gentle romance, 4 being an all-sex-and-no-plot romance). Proceed with caution if you’re more Georgette Heyer than Ellora’s Cave.