Desperate Duchesses (Desperate Duchesses #1) by Eloisa James

9780060781934The Premise: Roberta St. Giles, daughter of the infamous Mad Marquess, is desperate to escape her father’s terrible poetry and somewhat embarrassing mistress. She sets her sights on the devilish chess master Leopold Villiers at a country party. To impress the fashionable Villers, however, Roberta will need the help of her distant cousin Jemma, the Duchess of Beaumont. Once she reaches London, Roberta’s plan to marry Villiers goes off without a hitch–except for the fact that she’s accidentally fallen in love with Jemma’s brother Damon, the Earl of Gryffyn. Damon is convinced that Villiers is the wrong man for Roberta, but Roberta must choose her future for herself. (Cover image from

Bonus Factors: Chess, duels, sex in boats, mermaids

My Reaction: I was pretty much sold the minute I realized that the premise of the Desperate Duchesses series is “Desperate Housewives reimagined in Georgian England.” The nice thing about interrelated series books is that the early books in the series set up the late books in the series. In the case of Desperate Duchesses, the first two books especially set up the second-to-last volume (romance between the Duke and Duchess of Beaumont) and the last volume (Villiers find true love!). Jemma, a chess master in her own right, begins chess matches with Villiers and with her husband–the final rounds of both are to be played blindfolded and in bed. While I liked this first installment and it can certainly be read on its own, I find myself thinking of it mostly in terms of how it sets up Jemma’s and Leo’s stories for later. (Especially Jemma’s crazy Parisian party ideas. Naked ladies and ice sculptures? Of course.)

Rating: 2/4 chili peppers (0 is Georgette Heyer, 5 is Ellora’s Cave)

Buy at: Amazon | B&N | Powell’s

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