Thursday, March 1, 2012

Duchess in Love

Duchess in Love
(The Duchess Quartet, Book #1)
by Eloisa James
narrated by Justine Eyre
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 finacé 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 :-)

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 narrative;) 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.

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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.


  1. I'm not really into romance novels, but it almost sounds like it is worth listening to for Eyre's joy in narrating.

  2. I had been reading Romance novels for over thirty years before I declared myself "read out" in the genre; but I decided to check out a couple of Romance titles in the audio format to see what's what. I picked this title specifically because Justine Eyre narrated it and, while I would gladly listen to other Justine Eyre-narrated audiobooks, I think I'll leave the Duchesses to their own devices :-)