Tarquin, the powerful Duke of Sconce, knows perfectly well that the decorous and fashionably slender Georgiana Lytton will make him a proper duchess. So why can’t he stop thinking about her twin sister, the curvy, headstrong, and altogether unconventional Olivia? Not only is Olivia betrothed to another man, but their improper – albeit intoxicating – flirtation makes her unsuitability all the more clear.
Determined to make a perfect match, he methodically cuts Olivia from his thoughts, allowing logic and duty to triumph over passion . . . until, in his darkest hour, Tarquin begins to question whether perfection has anything to do with love. To win Olivia’s hand he would have to give up all the beliefs he holds most dear, and surrender heart, body and soul – but it may already be too late.
Publisher and Release Date: Avon, 29 December 2011
Time and Setting: Regency England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars
Review by Lizzie English
Eloisa James takes on another fairy tale, this one being Princess and the Pea. I admit I was a little skeptical going into this, because how can you turn that chaste story into a romantic novel? Simple, as it turns out. Two girls, twins, Olivia and Georgina both groomed to be Duchesses but how? Why, a book explaining to girls how to become the perfect duchess! While her sister excels at it, Olivia is very rash, rude, loud and acts like a man; the only thing that is missing is the pants! The development of Olivia was nice. While her character isn’t completely squashed by the end of the book she is more subdued which is good, because sometimes in the book I would just find myself rolling my eyes at her actions. Tarquin is less likeable, but more relateable. He’s got a dark past of course, and his mother is strict and happens to be the one who wrote the handbook as to how to become a Duchess.
While all the coincidences can be eye-roll worthy, they do make the story progress. Olivia, already engaged to a duke but who doesn’t let this bother her when she falls for Tarquin, shows his mother that Olivia doesn’t have to follow all her rules to be a Duchess. The arguments between Tarquin’s mother and Olivia make for the ‘comedy’ of the story but even that tends to get a little tiresome. It would’ve been nice to have Georgiana be a larger part of the story because she was the one who was supposed to be betrothed to Tarquin, whereas in fact she’s rather a pushover except at the end.
Olivia’s duke becomes a major plot-point at the end and leads to the ‘pea’ moment. While that was a nice twist, it ultimately had nothing to do with the outcome of the story which I think helped it. The book had its moments; the relationship between Tarquin and Olivia is interesting and snark filled, and the contrast between Olivia and Georgiana was nice; but I would’ve liked to have seen more between Olivia and her intended duke. He’s introduced but merely serves as a plot-point in the story of Olivia and Tarquin. I would have liked there to have been some more conflict introduced to the story when he discovered that his prospective bride had fallen for another man.