The latest in Eloisa James's "Desperate Duchesses" series focuses on Isidore, the Duchess of Cosway, and her husband, Simeon. Theirs
is a rather unusual marriage; despite being wed for eleven years, they have never actually met. They were married by proxy when Isidore was 12 while Simeon was travelling in Africa and India, and he has never returned. In James's previous book in the series we learned that Isidore accompanied a friend to a country-house party in order to try to get some reaction from Simeon. It works - Simeon arrives at the house party and takes Isidore back to London.
Isidore didn't know what to expect in her husband and finds that he
doesn't conform to society's idea of a gentleman in clothing and general dress.
She does find him very attractive and knows that she, herself, has many admirers.
When Simeon's initial plans to have a 'proper' wedding change to suggestions of an annulment, Isidore
must decide whether she wants to continue with her marriage with its many inconveniences
- not the least of which are the problems at the Ducal seat and with his mother
- or whether she wants the freedom she has never really had. And can Simeon, who has learned self-control and calmness on his travels, ever
come to grips with his fiery wife?
Eloisa James writes well and always keeps the level of interest up in When the Duke Returns.
Some unusual plot events (having the water closets cleaned out in the house, for example)
occur, and the side plot of Jemma, Duchess of Beaumont, and her own troubled marriage
is explored further but unresolved. Where the book falls down is in depth of plot (in
this fairly simple story, I wasn't always convinced by the interactions between Simeon and Isidore) and historical accuracy
- characters use American words in the time of George III, such as 'diapers' for 'nappies' and various American sentence structures
not used in England). While I enjoyed the previous book, this one didn't quite satisfy, and some of the improbabilities in the plot
loom too large to ignore.