Series: Fairy Tales, Book 4
Rating: 2 Stars
Length: 384 Pages
Formats: Mass Market Paperback, Kindle
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Avon Books publisher HarperCollins Publishing via Edelweiss. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.
Didn't Work For Me
Theodora Saxby suffers no illusions. She's heard the whispers, knows very well what she looks like. Theo has no qualms about acknowledging that her profile is mannish and she does not have the plushest of physical attributes that are gracing the ballrooms this season. She's adjusted as best she can, crafted her wit to snag a husband who could at least find her interesting.
All she needs is a polite introduction to the one on whom she's set her sights. After all, she's not without benefit to a potential suitor. She'll inherit a vast wealth and her dowry will be substantial. And Theo has long-range plans. As soon as marriage has given her some freedom, she'll immediately set about dressing as befitting her form and coloring. That alone should help, though she knows she'll never be beautiful.
She needs the help of her childhood friend, the boy - now a handsome young man - with whom she had been raised. His father the Duke had kindly taken in both Theo and her mother after Theo's father, the Duke's best friend, died. Now, as soon as she convinces James Ryburn, heir to the Duchy of Ashbrook, to introduce her to the dashing man she wants as a husband, everything will be just fine.
Theodora Saxby had no idea that it would be James, her dear, beloved James, the same James who persists in calling her Daisy no matter how hard she tries to get him to stop, who would sweep her off her feet and marry her while her head is still spinning. She didn't know that two blissful days as his wife would be the very best time of her short life. And she could not possibly have guessed, or ever, ever imagined, that it would end in such a brutal fashion, betrayal flaying the heart from her chest, cruelly stripping away everything in her life that she had thought was good, true, and honest.
Leaving nothing in its path but the broken wings and ravaged plumage of one ugly Duchess.
This book gave me fits. Eloisa James is proven in her craft, writing sweeping, emotional historical romance. She can certainly tell a captivating tale. Still, several elements of this story didn't sit well with me at all. There were moments early in the book when I thought it was going to be okay, when I saw James and Theo's relationship as they first married. I felt comforted by the genuine love between them, even knowing it would have to come crashing down at some point.
Of course I loathed the Duke and think he should have been gut shot and left to bleed out slowly, but regardless of the horrendous betrayal that's disclosed in the opening chapter, James did love Theo, and despite his guilt, did marry her with true feelings in his heart. That went a long way with me. And I liked Theo, too. I appreciated her forthright honesty and her sense of humor.
Then it exploded in a hail of emotionally devastating bad choices made by all.
From the moment Theo finds out about the theft of her inheritance all the way through to the end I had my jaw clenched and my hands fisted on my Kindle. And honestly, maybe even surprisingly, not all of my animosity was pointed at James.
Oh, don't get me wrong, quite a lot of it was, but not all of it.
James Ryburn was a hideous emotional coward who lacked the testicular fortitude to stand up for what he believed in or fight for who he loved. He then compounded that egregious character flaw by embracing his inner reprehensible narcissist, spending seven long years gallivanting around the high seas like some hapless cad, thinking only of himself.
Then again, Theo kicked him out and told him quite clearly that she never wanted to see him again, even informed him that he should remove himself from the country. He took her at her word, so she was certainly not blameless. She was also not always a completely endearing character. For all that she felt horrible when labeled rudely for her looks, she was known to be rather sharp-tongued and openly critical of others. After the betrayal her personality often seemed unappealingly cold and biting.
Of course, James does return to England eventually. Problem is, when he is face to face with Theo again he is an arrogant, contemptible, cavalier ass, lacking in even the merest glimmer of contrition or apology for past bad acts. Sure, he spouts some romantic drivel about Theo being the other half of his soul, but by that point all I could do was gape in astonishment, because he continues to regard his seriously bad judgement and worse actions as inconsequential.
He also seems to suffer from the unconscionable belief that everything will be just fine between him and his wife as soon as he can toss her skirts up once or twice.
For all that I detested the man at that point in the story, there were still moments when Theo and James together was a good thing, even moments (however brief) when their romance worked for me. And honestly, I'm glad they found their way to a Happily Ever After. I'm just disappointed - and in some cases, horrified - about how it all developed. I needed more than what the book provided to help me get over all the horrendously bad choices and actions. Unfortunately, this book just wasn't for me.