Duchess in Love

Duchess in Love

(The Duchess Quartet, Book #1)

by Eloisa James
narrated by Justine Eyre
โ“… 2012, Harper Audio, Inc.
12.30 hours
Cam & Gina, The Duke and Duchess of Girton were married when they were eighteen and eleven respectively. An illegal marriage to begin with (because of Gina’s age,) it was never consummated and; Cam fled England for the warm and friendly environs of Greece. While Cam pursued his avocation of being a sculptor, Gina remained behind under the cold, unfriendly guardianship of her father-in-law, learning to become a Duchess. Twelve years later, Cam returns to England to annul their marriage so that Gina can marry a Marquise.
Romance novels are unique in that before you read the first sentence, you know how it’s going to end: The genre demands that the two principals end up together and live “happily ever after;” so it’s the story of how that HEA happens, that is of principal interest to readers. Eloisa James has chosen the historical curiosity of pre-Regency annulment to drive this novel: It is the reason Cam returns to England; that which creates complications as their mutual attraction for each other exacerbates and; ultimately, what triggers the end sequence. This is all very well and good; but the reader/listener may be challenged by everything else that’s going on as well: There’s an illegitimate brother, a blackmailing letter, psychological damage inflicted by parents, and Gina’s friends, each of whom has a soap opera of their own playing out. Oh, yes, there’s also a Shakespeare skit, a plunge bath, a ship, what everyone is wearing and, of course, sex thrown into the mix as well. The author tries to pack a lot into the story and often the various elements simply do not segue well. The last chapters of the book in particular seem to fall apart: A scene on a boat and another in Greece are odd drop-ins, without solid transitions from the surrounding passages and; the actions of the character of the Marquise (Gina’s finacรฉ when Duchess in Love opens), while meant to tidy things up, well.. the contrivance is lame.
There are sex scenes that cover all the bases: from kissing to “home runs.” Overall the sex scenes are descriptive without being pornographic (i.e. overly detailed and using crude terminology) and make good use of place (e.g., in front of the fireplace, at the plunge bath, on a staircase, etc.) and mood (lust, attraction, love.) Though some of the couples exhibit emotional awkwardness, the sex scenes are devoid of pain or clumsy choreography. Maybe not believable; but joyfully presented ๐Ÿ™‚
Duchess in Love is read by the British female narrator, Justine Eyre. Clearly, she had a lot of fun narrating this book! There is an ebullience to the reading that underscores the love and laughter of the story and; carries us through the morass of characters and subplots. There was not a high degree of definition between the female characters (with the exception of a nameless servant who was voiced with an Irish accent and with such a natural ease that it “popped” from the narrative๐Ÿ˜‰ but the dialogue was written well enough that it sorted itself out without having to replay any sections. The male voices were denoted by dropping JE’s vocal register and, interestingly were more delineated than the females (e.g. Cam’s tenor vs the London solicitor’s.) JE also handled the sex scenes with nary a pause, meaning that you couldn’t detect any subconscious hesitation in handling the material.
Other Stuff:

Duchess in Love (The Duchess Quartet Book #1; by Eloisa James; narrated by Justine Eyre) qualifies for the:

I received a digital dnload edition of Duchess in Love (The Duchess Quartet, Book #1; by Eloisa James; narrated by Justine Eyre) from Harper Audio, Inc. under reviewer auspices. I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

His Mistress by Christmas

His Mistress by Christmas

by Victoria Alexander
narrated by Susan Duerden
โ“… 2011, Brilliance Audio
9.50 hours
When Jane Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice in 1813, she created a template for many future romance novels: The male lead would be wealthy, powerful, respected/feared and, would be eventually brought to heel by someone beneath him socially; and the female lead would be a person whose attempts to cultivate a shred of dignity would be humbled. Somehow, defying accepted social norms and taking each other down a peg in the process leads to a HEA ending :-/
This romance novel differs from the P&P template in that the author has chosen instead to model the tone of His Mistress by Christmas on the 1777 Sheriden play, A School for Scandal. In fact, the farce is mentioned in the context of the story, foreshadowing the comedy of the scenes leading up to the denouement. Lady Veronica Smithson is a wealthy, sexually savvy widow who wants to be a mistress, not a wife. Her intended protector however, is Sebastien, the fourth son in a respectable family. Sebastien craves credibility in his family’s eyes and one way to get that is to get married. Having met Lady Veronica, and liking what he sees, he decides that he would like to marry her. Set in 1833 and in London, His Mistress by Christmas features characters who are socially progressive which sets the stage for interesting discussions on the changing roles and identities of the early Victorian woman. The female characters are strongly opinionated and vocal while the men in the story tend to more reserved; but steadfast.
Susan Duerden gives the female characters clear, distinct voices; but the men are less carefully delineated. There is one scene in particular, between Sebastien and his best friend, the American Sinclair, where the listener may be uncertain as to whom is talking. Also, there is not a significant parenthetical drop in tone (or textual indicators like: “he thought to himself”) that differentiates between interior thought and that which is spoken aloud. Susan Duerden, does however, pull off the sex scene without any noticeable self-consciousness or hitch; But the passage does use the word “cock” rather artlessly which is a slight jolt to the listening experience.
Other Stuff: I purchased this book through iTunes. I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing this product and/or mentioning any of the persons, companies and/or challenges that are or may be implied in this post.