Sunday, June 7, 2020

BOOK REVIEW: Say No to the Duke by Eloisa James

I needed some easy escapism and discovered I had fallen behind on Eloisa James’ latest Historical Romance series: The Wildes of Lindow Castle. Book 4 came out last summer: Say No to the Duke. So I read that in preparation for the newest release, Say Yes to the Duke. (Different dukes, I hope.) Although set in the 1770s and 1780s, these show essentially the same manners and mores as Regency Romances.

Previous books have looked at the elder Wilde brothers. Now the series is turning to the daughters. It’s a large family so the series should run awhile.

The eldest daughter is Betsy (Boadicea - they are all named for warriors). A strikingly beautiful, bold, composed young woman, Betsy is inwardly traumatized by the knowledge that her mother ran off with a Prussian, abandoning her husband and children. Her father remarried and moved on, but a segment of society hasn’t forgotten. A nasty incident at school has convinced Betsy that everyone is watching her for signs of her mother’s wantonness. Betsy is determined to be prim and proper in public, and to receive more marriage proposals upon her debut than any other debutante. She succeeds. But she also succeeds at boring herself near to death.

Staying at the castle is one of her elder brothers’ friends, Lord Jeremy Roden. Jeremy has PTSD after serving in the British army in America. In one ferocious battle, his entire battalion was lost. He was the sole survivor. He’s carrying a tremendous amount of guilt, which has turned him cynical and morose. He drinks heavily, though not as much as he pretends to, in order to put people off. The only company he can bear is that of his old friends, the Wildes, especially Betsy. He frequently finds her venting her boredom and frustration in the billiards room. He’s entranced, though he can’t admit it to himself.

When Betsy receives a marriage proposal from a duke, Greywick, the scene plays out in the billiard room where they went to be alone. They aren’t. Jeremy is there and interrupts. Even though he likes Greywick and pleads his case for him, Jeremy is horrified at the thought of Betsy saying yes.

Shortly afterward, when Jeremy and Betsy are again alone in the billiards room, they make a wager over a game. If Betsy wins, Jeremy will accompany her on an adventure. She wants to disguise herself as a man and attend an auction in a neighboring town where ladies are not allowed. If he wins, she must give herself to him for a night. Of course, he wouldn’t take advantage of her, but since she wins, that isn’t put to the test.

The story unfolds with Jeremy and Greywick vying for Betsy’s hand. Greywick is a standup guy and a friend of Jeremy’s. There really isn’t anything wrong with him, which has the potential to make this a difficult choice for Betsy.

Meanwhile, Jeremy must face what happened to him at the battle. And Betsy has to come to grips with what her mother did and what that means for her.

This is another entertaining Romance on the steamy side. Eloisa James writes fun characters with lively interactions. Even though Romance plotting can get repetitive, James has a way with dialogue and believable emotions that make her stories consistently enjoyable.