Series: Desperate Duchesses by the Numbers #3
Published by Avon on January 31st 2017
“‘This conversation has gone from improper to obscene,’ she observed. He shook his head. ‘Haven’t you noticed, Eugenia, that almost all of our conversations start at improper?'”
FINAL DECISION: Incredibly lovely story of two people quietly falling in love despite their best intentions. The story gently pulled these two characters together and I loved every moment of them falling in love with one another. As a fan of James’s work, this book was immensely satisfying as it pulled so many other books together.
THE STORY: Eugenia Snowe is a widow who owns a elite agency for governesses. She has shocked the aristocracy by taking on a profession but has managed to keep some standing with the ton. Edward “Ward” Reeve is the son of an earl and needs a new governess for his wards (his half-siblings) and comes to Eugenia’s offices in order to get a replacement. Ward desperately needs a governess to help shape up his siblings in order to fight for guardianship of them. Although Ward is the son of an earl, he is illegitimate. He also doesn’t realize that Eugenia is actually a “lady”. Eugenia and Ward immediately are in a contentious relationship and yet the two are attracted to one another. When Ward ends up kidnapping Eugenia to help in his cause, the two begin an affair that neither intends to lead to anything more.
OPINION: Some books are fun one time reads where the entirety of the book occurs on the surface of emotions, and some books urge you to sink deeply into the emotions of the characters, their lives and their romance. This book is the latter.
Nothing in this book turns on quick resolutions, excessive drama or quick action. I loved how I got to know the strengths and weaknesses of these characters.
Ward is a self-made man who has accomplished so much and yet has his own insecurities. A true gentleman, Ward is smart and talented, but entirely willing to give up his life for his half-siblings. Ward’s life has changed dramatically after his engagement to Mia in FOUR NIGHTS WITH THE DUKE. The events in that book left Ward more cynical, with phobias and PTSD from his imprisonment. He is also remarkably clueless about social conventions and doesn’t realize that Eugenia is the daughter of a marquess. He is, however, determined to save his half-siblings from the tender mercies of his material grandmother. For that, Ward needs to turn two unschooled “small devils” into model children so that he can keep guardianship. I loved the balancing of Ward’s human foibles in this book. He is imperfect and thus fascinating because of it. When he makes the “almost” unforgivable mistake with Eugenia, he takes well to the groveling required in those circumstances.
Eugenia is a woman who controls her own destiny. She is strong and an entrepreneur long before women were accepted in such roles. A widow, she thankfully deeply loved her husband (which is a nice change from women who seem to only have terrible first marriages). True, she might look back on her marriage with too much nostalgia, but the death of her husband and the years, changed Eugenia and made her more independent and stubborn. After years of being alone, she is shocked out of her widowhood by Ward. Attracted to him physically, she considers the possibility of an affair. I liked that Eugenia is not afraid of her sexuality even as she initially wants to linger in her memories of her husband.
For me, this book was a treat because it brought back two precocious children from James’s Desperate Duchesses series. Bringing back children is often tricky because, of course, those with happy stories usually are not good subjects for books of their own. James has managed to provide the right amount of angst but focusing not only on their very early days of unhappiness, but also pivotal moments each experienced as adults which brought them moments of darkness. This makes the characters more interesting (because hey, who wants a story about well adjusted, perfectly happy and normal people without any flaws or painful pasts?).
This book made me fall madly in love with it as each page turned. Ward and Eugenia are smart and banter with one another as adults. They are completely willing to enjoy a sexual affair, but can’t help but become emotionally entangled with one another. I only took a small amount off my rating because I couldn’t help but feel that Ward should have been smarter to realize he was being a jerk with regards to Eugenia and, if nothing else, should have realized her origins long before he did. But that is just quibbling. This book is a joy to read and what it made me want to do is start reading the prior series over again because there is so much good stuff in this one.
WORTH MENTIONING: Fans of James’s Desperate Duchesses series may remember both Ward and Eugenia as children who appeared in her Desperate Duchesses series (DESPERATE DUCHESS and DUCHESS BY NIGHT).
CONNECTED BOOKS: SEVEN MINUTES IN HEAVEN is the third book in the Desperate Duchesses by the Numbers series. (This series is a spin off of the Desperate Duchesses series). This book can be read as a standalone although there are overlapping characters that make the book better having read the other books in the series (actually both series).
STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book in order to provide a review. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.