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review 2017-06-26 06:53
Just odd
Desperate Duchesses - Eloisa James

I've been intermittently reading James's novels as the mood strikes me for historicals, and it always seems to go thusly: one novel that's cute and light, followed by one (or even two) that are too douchey or dumb. I first hit James because she's the daughter of Robert Bly, a local poet of some note. I pretty much live to hate read Bly's stuff, which I have the occasion to do because my dad thinks he's awesome. So there's this tangled web of fathers and daughters and reading and whatnot. 


Though James is a romance novelist, she's also a Shakespeare scholar and Robert and Carol Bly's kid. (I like Carol better than Robert as a writer; Carol's essays are aces.) So sometimes James writes a nice little ditty, and sometimes she goes too far up her own thing referencing Elizabethan poets. I adore Donne, but seriously, there's a limit. It just feels douchey at a point in Georgian romantic smut. And it's not as if I oppose some literary gilding in ur romance fiction, but just that it was excessive here. For sure the main character's dad DID NOT write the Christopher Smart poem to His Cat Joeffry, which is a great poem, and the misattribution annoys me some, even though it's fully acknowledged in a preface. 


This was not bad, just .. odd as a romance novel. It took me ages to sort the primary couple, which can be fine, like in Talisman Ring, but here just felt diffuse. Maybe it's the Georgian setting, which is historically less, ahem, straightlaced than either the Recency or the Victorian periods, but the open fuckery sometimes felt forced. Even set now, where fuckery is not entirely unexpected, I find the easy acceptance of marital affairs, especially by women, not precisely believable. Women have always been under the thumb.


Anyway, this was fine, but clearly the start of a series, so it feels like set dressing more than playing. I'm sure I read a later book in this series at one point, and while are nods to all kinds of shit that happened in previous books, which I find irritating, the book itself was well richer for the personalities laid down earlier. Alas, early and later have their issues. 

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review 2016-08-01 23:57
Love it! Love it! Love it!
Three Weeks With Lady X (Desperate Duchesses) by James, Eloisa (2014) Mass Market Paperback - Eloisa James

Three Weeks With Lady X by Eloisa James is fantastic!  Ms James has delivered another awesome book.  Thorn and Xenobia's story is well written and fast paced and before you know it you're at the end of the book pouting for more.  The characters are amazing and my favorite part of the book.  There's plenty of drama, humor (I loved the notes) and sexy bits to keep a reader entertained.  I think this is my favorite Eloisa James book so far.  Three Weeks With Lady X is book 1 of the Desperate Duchesses By Numbers Series and book 7 of the Desperate Duchesses Series but can be read as a standalone.  This is a complete book, not a cliff-hanger.

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review 2016-07-25 02:27
Desperate Duchesses - Eloisa James

What a joy to read! Full of humour, fun, interesting characters (especially Jemma and Villiers), fabulous clothes (especially Villiers' and Jemma's), fabulous parties, amazingly good writing about chess as a metaphor for life, sex, everything. And hilarious, brilliantly written secondary characters - Teddy, Damon's six-year-old son; Marcus, the versifying Marquess of Wharton and Malmesbury and Roberta's excruciatingly embarrassing father; Fowles, the imperturbable butler; Caro and Brigitte - Jemma's French secretary and dresser. Even the Prince of Wales puts in a very funny appearance in the hilarious river cruise scene. 


Some reviewers have not appreciated that the primary love story in the book, between a young ingenue named Roberta and Jemma's brother Damon, the Earl of Gryffyn, actually takes second place in the book to the setting up of the story of Jemma and her husband. For me it didn't really matter, because the book as a whole is wonderful and filled with the author's love for her characters, the Georgian period and literature, and Roberta and Damon's love story is just fine as it is. 



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text 2015-12-09 15:54
Checkmate: Chess in Romance Novels
The Eight - Katherine Neville
Desperate Duchesses - Eloisa James
Pawn (Ironclad Bodyguards Book 1) - Molly Joseph,Annabel Joseph
You're the One: a Bistro La Bohème novella - Alix Nichols
One Night Is Never Enough - Anne Mallory
Queen's Gambit - Marie Treanor
74 Seaside Avenue - Debbie Macomber
Game of Kings: A Thrilling Modern Reimagining of Pride and Prejudice - Anthea Carson,D.J. Natelson,Jane Austen
Miss Gabriel's Gambit - Rita Boucher
Finessing the Contessa - Wendy Soliman

At a family birthday party this week, I looked across a room filled to the brim with people to see my son not engrossed in a hand held device but playing chess with his uncle's best friend. 


A love this quiet fierce game that spans generation, place, time, and culture.  


I will admit to sucking at it myself but I don't have to be good at something to like it. 


Here is a list of wonderful Romance Novels featuring chess, chess players and chess sets.


My lists are never in any particular order. Enjoy!


1.  The Eight by Katherine Neville


Computer expert Cat Velis is heading for a job to Algeria. Before she goes, a mysterious fortune teller warns her of danger, and an antique dealer asks her to search for pieces to a valuable chess set that has been missing for years...In the South of France in 1790 two convent girls hide valuable pieces of a chess set all over the world, because the game that can be played with them is too powerful....


2.  Desperate Duchesses by Eloisa James


A marquess's sheltered only daughter, Lady Roberta St. Giles falls in love with a man she glimpses across a crowded ballroom: a duke, a game player of consummate skill, a notorious rakehell who shows no interest in marriage—until he lays eyes on Roberta.


Yet the Earl of Gryffyn knows too well that the price required to gain a coronet is often too high. Damon Reeve, the earl, is determined to protect the exquisite Roberta from chasing after the wrong destiny.


Can Damon entice her into a high-stakes game of his own, even if his heart is likely to be lost in the venture?


3. Pawn by Molly Joseph


High stakes chess competition has always been a man’s game—until Grace Ann Frasier topples some of the game’s greatest champions and turns the chess world on its ear. Her prowess at the game is matched only by her rivals’ desire to defeat her, or, worse, avenge their losses. When an international championship threatens Grace’s safety, a bevy of security experts are hired to look after her, but only one is her personal, close-duty bodyguard, courtesy of Ironclad Solutions, Inc. 

Sam Knight knows nothing about chess, but he knows Grace is working to achieve something important, and he vows to shelter her from those who mean her harm. When she leans on him for emotional support, attraction battles with professionalism and Sam finds his self-discipline wavering. Soon the complexity of their relationship resembles a chess board, where one questionable move can ruin everything—or win a game that could resonate around the world.


4. You're the One by Alix Nichols


When schoolteacher Natalie meets chess grandmaster Adrien at the Bistro La Bohème, the connection is immediate and real. Romance is in the air -- until life makes a move to test how well they know their hearts...


5. One Night Is Never Enough by Anne Mallory


From the first glimpse he knew he must have her — even if only for a single night . . .

Powerful, ruthless, seductive—the lord of London’s underworld—Roman Merrick gets anything he wants . . . and he burns for Charlotte Chatsworth, a polished jewel in the glittering ton. So he engages her debt-ridden gambler father in a game of chance, wagering ten thousand pounds against one night with the man’s exquisite daughter. And Roman Merrick never loses.


But one night is never enough . . .


Charlotte is devastated to learn that her reprobate father has lost her in a card game to the most dangerous man she’s ever met. With the threat of ruin behind every corner, Charlotte embarks upon a perilous path with the man she cannot forget. But in truth, it’s Roman who has everything to lose—for a game undertaken for pleasure alone soon has him gambling his heart. And love and passion unleashed could bring his great, dark empire tumbling down . . .



6. 74 Seaside Avenue by Debbie Macomber


Olivia Lockhart-Griffin 

Cedar Cove, Washington 


Dear Reader, 

Do you remember Teri Miller? She works at Get Nailed, the beauty salon here in town. Well, Teri got married a little while ago—to Bobby Polgar, the famous chess champion. They've moved into a beautiful house, 74 Seaside Avenue, which has a spectacular view of Puget Sound. 


Teri's my hairdresser, and she confided that something seems to be worrying Bobby. When she asked him about it, he told her he was "protecting his queen," and she got the oddest feeling that he wasn't talking about chess, but about her. 

Rachel Pendergast also works at Get Nailed, and I've heard that she has two men seriously interested in her. I also wanted to tell you that Linnette McAfee, who's Roy and Corrie's daughter, recently left town because her love life fell apart. We all know about that kind of trouble. 


Oh, by the way, Teri says we should come in soon for a manicure and a chat…. 




7. Queen's Gambit by Marie Treanor


The Grand Master of her body—and her fate.


Ever since a jealous wife cursed her, Christi Blythe has lived seven hundreds years of a half life, trapped by day in the black queen of a chess set. She lives only between the hours of dusk and dawn, waiting for the one true love who is willing to sacrifice a vital game of chess to break the curse.


Now, years after she has given up hope, her remote Highland hotel is hosting a chess match between two high-profile Grand Masters of the game. One of them is the brilliant but erratic Russian, Andrei Zuvaran.


Andrei suspects there is something different about the luscious barmaid and her chess set. One hot night with her—and one shocking dawn—confirms it. But he can’t afford to lose this match. Not even to free her.


He’s got more riding on it than money, more than his heart. His next move could cost a life.


8. Game of Kings by Anthea Carson


Something is rotten in the world of chess. Darla Martin is perfectly content to live in Denver, work at a library, and play chess every night. That’s before she meets Mikhail, a mysterious and proud Russian grandmaster. And Maxwell, who is charming and handsome and speaks of dark things. And Fred, who warns her not to look into his eyes. Before she knows it, Darla’s comfortable world is turned upside down.


9.  Miss Gabriel's Gambit by Rita Boucher


Beautiful Sylvia Gabriel has more cause than most to despise the Game of Kings. Chess has been the ruination of her life—ending her engagement, filching her fortune and reducing her to poor relation. But when she finds herself falling in love with chessmaster David Rutherford, the new Lord Donhill, Sylvia stakes her heart, her future and her reputation on the riskiest gambit of all


10. Finessing the Contessa by Wendy Soliman


Lord Robert Forster hopes to meet his match—on the chessboard. He jumps at the chance to cross rooks with the renowned Sicilian widow Contessa Electra Falzone. However, the lovely foreigner's bold opening gambit raises concerns about her politics when she finds her way into his bedchamber, not with seduction in mind, but to steal state secrets.


Electra Falzone has always avoided scandalous liaisons, until blackmail forces her to turn thief and risk her reputation in the arms of the handsome Lord Robert. If her manipulators were threatening only her, she would confess all to her fellow strategist. But given who will suffer if she fails, she can't afford to take that risk.


Drawn to the exotic contessa, Rob won't allow her to be used as a pawn by an unscrupulous schemer. But if Electra is determined to play this dangerous game for reasons of her own, nothing Rob can do will stop her.



Let me know if I missed a Chess Romance you love!


Vote for the best of the best on my Goodreads list: Checkmate: Chess in Romance Novels

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review 2015-04-19 02:52
#CBR7 Book 44: Four Nights with the Duke by Eloisa James
Four Nights With the Duke - Eloisa James

Emilia "Mia" Carrington's father created a scandal by openly romancing the Duchess of Pindar, while her husband was locked up in an insane asylum. Her father's affair brought Mia frequently into the company of the Duchess' son, Evander Septimus Brody, who young Mia developed a crush on. One fateful afternoon, having overheard Evander and some of his school friends ridiculing a foolish love poem Mia had written, she furiously declared that she would rather marry any man in the world before she chose him - words that would come back to haunt her.


Thirteen years later, Mia desperately needs a husband, because while she is unwed, she can never be granted guardianship of her young nephew, whose maternal uncle she deeply distrusts. Jilted by her fiancee at the altar, she only has a few weeks left to find someone, and resorts to blackmail to achieve her goal. While she may have sworn to marry anyone in the world rather than Evander Brody, now the Duke of Pindar, she has in her possession documents that accuse his late father of treason, which could lead to him being stripped of his title and most of his lands. She fully intends for their marriage to be in name only, all the needs is a powerful man to act as her husband until her nephew is safe, then she intends to take him far away, to the Continent, where they can live off the money she earns as a successful romance novelist. 


Evander always hated his mother's affair with Lord Carrington, and Miss Mia Carrington is an unwelcome reminder of their shared past. From the prim, unfashionable way she dresses, he assumes she's become a missionary and seeks him out to collect donations of some variety. He's flabbergasted when he finds himself blackmailed, but doesn't really see a way out of his predicament, except by agreeing to her terms. Because Mia doesn't tell him the real reason she needs a husband, Evander thinks she's just become some crazy stalker, nursing her infatuation for him since she was a girl. He reluctantly agrees to marry her, but claims he will only sleep with her four nights every year. 


When the couple actually find themselves married, Mia is shocked to discover Evander, though reluctant to go through with it in the first place, has no intention of seeking an annulment - he considers the union to be for life. Once he meets Mia's crippled nephew, the two get on like a house on fire, and he starts to realise that he may have misjudged his new bride and her intentions somewhat. He's vastly amused at her attempts to persuade him about their unsuitability and soon becomes determined to win her heart, for real this time.


While Three Weeks with Lady X was one of my favourite romances last year, this book just didn't entirely win me over. There was a lot to like about it, like the heroine being a successful romance novelist who has actually made a decent living from her writing. I also liked that each chapter started with notes or drafts from the novel that Mia is working on, a truly melodramatic tale of woe and dastardliness, or correspondence between her and her publisher. I especially liked the names of some of the other romance authors, clearly Ms. James' homage to her colleagues and friends, Julia Quinn and Lisa Kleypas. I loved Evander's interactions with Charles Wallace, Mia's nephew, (who despite James' efforts to the contrary remains a bit of a plot moppet) in particular the mocking nicknames he makes up to ensure that the boy will be prepared for the cruelty of his future school mates. I liked that Evander seemed to be a fairly decent and responsible aristocrat, trying to maintain his fortunes by horse breeding. He doesn't want to lose the title because he takes his position seriously.There was a lot that I liked about Mia and Evander, but also quite a lot that annoyed me about this book.


Mia's completely baffling body image issues really got on my nerves. I like that Eloisa James tries to make sure her heroines aren't just the same cookie cutter template, but she could have given Mia a bit more confidence. Just because one mean boy once called her chubby when she was a teenager, does not explain why thirteen years later she still disbelieves everyone's assurances that she's not hideous, even though she's shorter than the beauty ideal at the time. Though she's described by several others as a pocket Venus, she insists on thinking she's some sort of dumpy hag and dresses appallingly.


The frequent call-backs to the one scene where Mia's poem is read and ridiculed by Thorn, Evander and some mouth-breathing bully Evander went to Eton with got repetitive too. Clearly that poem was burned into the memory of everyone involved, because it keeps being brought up and discussed at length during pretty much every confrontation Mia and Evander have and I just got so sick of the whole thing. 


The villain of this book turned out to be a bit too melodramatically dastardly. I found the sudden reappearance of Mia's fiancee (having escaped false imprisonment in a high security prison in Scotland in order to get back to Mia) interesting, though, and am looking forward to seeing him as the hero of the next James book. This was not one of her best efforts, but I'm hoping a hero with a prison break past will make the next book more entertaining.

Source: kingmagu.blogspot.no/2015/04/cbr7-book-44-four-nights-with-duke-by.html
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