Monday, November 26, 2007

An Affair Before Christmas, Eloisa James

Title: An Affair Before Christmas
Author: Eloisa James
Published: 2007, Avon
Category: Historical romance
Rating: 7/10

I am so behind on my reviews. But I had a wonderful Thanksgiving, even though I sprinkled salt instead of sugar onto the top of the apple pie. (Oopsie. It will be a family joke forever. And hey, didn't Anne of Green Gables do the same thing once? I'm in good company.) But onward! (as Cindy says) To the new Eloisa James.

An Affair Before Christmas, of course, begins right before Christmas with Fletch (that's the Duke of Fletcher) and Poppy Selby head over heals in love with each other. They both have stars in their naïve little eyes as they head off to be married. Four years later they find their marriage on the rocks. A large part of the problem appears to be that Poppy can't enjoy sex, no matter what Fletch does. He's gotten more and more bitter about it until one day he makes a horrible joke in front of some friends. Poppy is hurt and doesn't understand her husband and is tired of trying (unsuccessfully) to make him happy, so she leaves him and goes to live with the infamous Jemma, Duchess of Beaumont. Fletch wants to just write her off and go get a mistress, but despite everything he's still very much in love with her. Out on her own, Poppy starts to loosen up and discovers a lot about herself, things she enjoys doing when she's not so obsessed with being the perfect duchess.

I didn't love this plot line, but I think it does point out something that must have happened often back then. Women's sexuality was such a taboo subject that lots of women surely felt as Poppy did – sex is something only men enjoy and you just had to grin and bear it. James always takes a refreshingly grown-up and realistic view of marriage among the aristocracy, and she also somehow manages to make a HEA believable within that setting.

This is the second in James's duchess series (after Desperate Duchesses) and it is more closely connected as a series than you sometimes find. The story of Jemma and her husband, Elijah; the Duke of Villiers; and their chess tournaments started in DD continues. Jemma and Elijah's story doesn't advance too much, but we do learn a lot more about Villiers, who is sick unto death from the sword wound he received at the end of Desperate Duchesses.

Definitely pick this up if you liked Desperate Duchesses, and I'd say skip it if that one didn't do much for you. I loved the Georgian setting and I always enjoy James's clever characters and dialogue. It's another ensemble piece, with lots of jumping around among storylines, but I think it's all really well done.

Next in the series is Duchess by Night, out in April. About Harriet, Duchess of Berrow. Is she the one whose husband killed himself?


Dev said...

I have Desperate Duchesses, but I got about halfway through before I quit reading it. Not that it was bad. I just wasn't in the mood for it ~ and haven't been since. I usually love Eloisa James, so I'll be retrying it again sometime (hopefully soon). But I'm going to wait before I buy this one, just to see how I like DD first.

CindyS said...

I've done the salt thing and then I sprinkled flour on everyones french toast instead of icing sugar. I then sat and asked stuff like 'isn't it great with the sugar?' and they all said 'yes'. It was only when I went to eat mine that I scrunched up my nose and said 'this doesn't taste right'. Bob looks over and realizes I have brought out the flour canister instead of the icing sugar - everyone was too nice to say anything about their french toast. Goobers ;) (we have glass canisters without any labels - I can normally tell from the sight if it's sugar or flour but oooops!)

I haven't decided if I want to read James yet - I have it in my head that her books would be too high brow for me. Weird for sure.


nath said...

Great review Jennie :D just too bad you posted this after i bought the book LOL :) I'm not sure how I'm going to feel about these books (I have DD, but haven't read it yet either). ah well :)

LOL on the salt instead of sugar... but I actually liked salty more than sweet, so I would probably have ate your pie and not notice the difference LOL :)

Kellie said...

I doubt I'll read this, but for some reason, every time I see it on the shelves, I'm drawn to it because of the cover.

Jennie said...

Dev--I'd say that's a good plan. I really like the series so far, but some people at AAR seemed to be not so keen on it. I think she has 6 planned all together in the series.

Cindy--My mom keeps her salt in one of those little tins by the stove. LOL about the flour on the french toast. That raw flour taste wouldn't add much, would it?!
I think Eloisa James is very accessible - and really funny too. Don't be scared off!

Nath--Give DD a try sometime. I really liked it. And then if you do like it, you won't have to wait to read the next in the series! :)

Zeek--The cover is really pretty. But the stepback is horrendous. I was thinking of pasting my cover down to the stepback so I wouldn't ever have to look at it again. Or X-acto knife it out. ;)