Book review: The Duke is Mine by Eloisa James

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When a girl’s betrothal springs not from love or greed (the two usual suspects) but from a curse, you know this story is not going to be a run-of-the-mill romance.

In fact, The Duke is Mine is more a fun-filled mix of fairytale, farce and ferocious passion.

Surprisingly for a Shakespeare professor, New Yorker Eloisa James has made a reputation for herself as a writer of escapist Regency romps based on good old-fashioned fairytales.

She likes to turn the traditional stories on their head or, to be more precise, turn them into quirky chick-lit with the emphasis very much on love, laughter and lust.

The Duke of Mine, a frothy version of Hans Christian Andersen’s the Princess and the Pea, is the third in her sparkling quartet of Regency fiction with a fairytale twist, and follows on from A Kiss at Midnight and When Beauty Tamed the Beast.

Full of wit, charm and warmth, the books feature clever, feisty heroines, handsome heroes – often with unexpected personal baggage in tow – and a whole cast of beastly and batty characters.

Here we meet Tarquin Brook-Chatfield, Duke of Sconce, who has a failed marriage behind him and is now being lined up by his ambitious and overbearing mother, the Dowager Duchess, for another attempt at marital bliss.

A brilliant mathematician, he has an Asperger’s-like inability to express emotion and tends to rely on logic – hardly the recipe for a happy-ever-after union.

When his mother lines up for his inspection the decorous, fashionably slender and blue-stocking Georgiana Lytton, he knows perfectly well that she will make him a proper duchess.

Against all the odds, Tarquin falls instead for Georgina’s twin Olivia, the curvy, headstrong and altogether more unconventional sister.

However, not only has Olivia been betrothed since birth to another man – the intellectually challenged Rupert, future Duke of Canterwick – but Tarquin’s admittedly improper, albeit intoxicating, secret flirtation with her makes the luscious Olivia’s unsuitability all the more clear.

Never one to put passion before reason and still determined to make a perfect match, Tarquin methodically cuts Olivia from his thoughts, allowing logic, duty and Georgina to triumph.

But the sensual, fiery, strong-willed Olivia has ignited an unknown longing in him, a desire they are both powerless to resist.

When a scandalous affair begins, they risk losing everything ...Olivia’s engagement to Rupert, her sister’s friendship and their own fragile love.

Only one thing can save them, and it is waiting in the bedroom where a magnificent mattress holds life-changing answers to seemingly unsolvable problems...

Entertaining and earthy, The Duke is Mine is guaranteed to turn up the heat on a cold winter’s day!

(Piatkus, paperback, £7.99)