As an adult I look back on my high school career and have to admit I had it pretty good. I flew under the radar in a school where it was kinda cool to be smart (the valedictorian did our senior prank) and the jocks were in the AristoCATS (think Glee). I was a band geek, had good friends, and made decent grades; however, my sophomore year I had my first boyfriend and my first bully. This bully was menacingly handsome, a friend to said boyfriend, and most detrimental of all, gave me the name “The Walrus”.
Although this nickname never stuck with anyone except him, it did make an impact on my self-confidence and self-image. I truly hate to admit it, but in my mind I am still “The Walrus”; a name and experience like that doesn’t just leave once you graduate high school. This too handsome boy basically told me I was ugly and fat every day while I was dating his friend and after a while I began to believe him. Today, I have a great boyfriend, a decent job, and I’m going back to school so I can have an even better job; but sometimes, out of the blue I think “The Walrus” and my world comes crashing down on me for a moment or two. So what does that have to do with a regency romance novel; well if that novel is The Ugly Duchess by Eloisa James than everything.
The Ugly Duchess is the fourth book in the Fairy Tails series by Eloisa James and tells the story of the “ugly duckling” Theodora Saxby and the too handsome James Ryburn the future Duke of Ashbrook. As children they are best friends, confidants and as close as a brother and sister. However, they are not in fact brother and sister and this fact is driven home when the Duke forces a young James into marriage with Theo.
Society has made an impression on Theo, and it is telling her that she looks too much like a boy. So, she concocts a plan in order to snare the man she thinks she wants and winds up married to James. All is well until the wedding when the papers giver her the moniker “The Ugly Duchess“. James is there for her and all would be well except the Duke comes back and Theo’s world comes crashing down around her. She orders both James and the Duke out of her life and takes the moniker to heart.
Seven years pass and on the verge of James being declared dead he comes back to claim the one person he has always loved Theo or rather Daisy as he has always called her.
Theo is a character that many of us can relate to and Ms. James does a wonderful job at showing her struggle with the moniker society has given her. When she transforms into the swan Theo still has self doubt and at least somewhere in the back of her mind “The Ugly Duchess” still resides. When James comes back into her life she is forced to face these doubts head on. James, on the other hand, must face his guilty conscience that he has buried over the last seven years.
The only thing I did not particularly like about this book is that it crammed two parts into 385 pages. Personally, I think a book with two or more parts should only be used when the novel is at least 800 pages. This inevitably makes one part of the book seem rushed and in this case it was the second part. Aside from my personal preferences, I give this book a 4 out of 5 it was a great read and it certainly made an impression on me.