The Ugly Duchess by Eloisa James
Series: Fairy Tales #4
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Theodora Saxby is the last woman anyone expects the gorgeous James Ryburn, heir to the Duchy of Ashbrook, to marry. But after a romantic proposal before the prince himself, even practical Theo finds herself convinced of her soon-to-be duke’s passion.


Still, the tabloids give the marriage six months.


Theo would have given it a lifetime… until she discovers that James desired not her heart, and certainly not her countenance, but her dowry. Society was shocked by their wedding; it’s scandalized by their separation.


Now James faces the battle of his lifetime, convincing Theo that he loved the duckling who blossomed into the swan.


And Theo will quickly find that for a man with the soul of a pirate, All’s Fair in Love — or War.

Seriously – what the hell? Eloisa James is writing truly contemptible characters in this series. The only book I remember not despising the main characters was When Beauty Tamed the Beast.

Warning: I pretty much summarize the book to the 60% mark.

Here, we have James Ryburn, soon to be Duke. His father has – through a series of unsound investments – frittered away the entire estate. To top it off, he’s managed to embezzle money from his ward. His solution? Make James marry the ward, Theo, so they get the inheritance properly. That’s bad enough, but my bigger problem? JAMES DOES IT!!!!

Apparently, at the same time, he’s come to some sort of realization that he loves Theo. That she’s always been his, and he truly wants his marriage. Wants to be happy with Theo. But the guilt. It’s eating at him. And then the truth comes out.

Just a day after being called “The Ugly Duchess” by (nearly) every paper in London, Theo finds out that James married her for her money, that he was coerced into it by his father, and believes that everything, everything was a lie. Her solution? Kick James out, tell him she never wants to see him again, don’t listen to his protestations of love or feelings. And I get that, I do. She also kicks his father out.

James solution? Run away to become a pirate. For SEVEN YEARS. The entire time he’s out there he thinks of Theo, of his love for her, his missing her. But also of his resolve to obey her wish that he never return. So he resolves to stay gone, and in seven years time he’ll be declared dead, his wife can remarry for happiness, and the Dukedom will go to his cousin (or some such) – he cares naught about that at least. What else does he do? Bed SO MANY prostitutes. I mean, his marriage is over, right? After telling Theo she was the “second, and the last.”

Theo, for her part in these seven years, makes herself over. She becomes confident and successful and fashionable. And she continues to believe that James never wanted to actually marry her, so she never wishes he were back. Four years in, she starts to realize it’s a bit ridiculous. But it’s been FOUR years….and it’s harder than she could have imagined to find a single person (who resolved to disappear) in the wide world. Still, it wasn’t quite regret that made her do it, so there wasn’t the need to worry overmuch about it. Near the end of the seven years, she finally starts to worry that something might have happened to James….

“He is dead,” she told herself, trying the words aloud in the chilly morning air. It was a painful thought, but not an overwhelming one.

Seven years it took her to realize that James actually did love her. Seven years he stayed away out of a desire to do as she asked – he’d told her once he’d do anything she told him to, and so he did. Then he’s attacked and realizes exactly what is important…

Just as he’s about to be declared dead he returns, and wants his wife, his life, back.

And I skimmed through most of that (the seven years between him leaving and coming back). But it’s more than enough for me to not really care if they make it work. I don’t like either of them.

It’s funny, I’m not sure why this bothers me so much. I take the abuse and hurt that the main characters throw at each other in a series like the Immortals After Dark and don’t bat an eye – in fact it’s one of the things that I love about that series. But the hurt these two impose on each other, themselves, and continuously, over and over again…pisses me off. I can’t even deal with it. I think I’ve had enough of this series now.