Theodora Saxby is the last woman anyone expects the gorgeous James Ryburn, heir to the Duchy of Ashbrook, to marry. But after a romantic proposal before the prince himself, even practical Theo finds herself convinced of her soon-to-be duke's passion. Still, the tabloids give the marriage six months. Theo would have given it a lifetime…until she discovers that James desired not her heart, and certainly not her countenance, but her dowry. Society was shocked by their wedding; it's scandalized by their separation. Now James faces the battle of his lifetime, convincing Theo that he loved the duckling who blossomed into the swan. And Theo will quickly find that for a man with the soul of a pirate, All's Fair in Love—or War.
James Ryburn is more than pissed off at his father. His father is telling him that he has to marry Theodora Saxby (James calls her Daisy) because his father has not only practically bankrupt the Duchy but he’s embezzeled some of Daisy’s fortune as well. In order to cover his crimes The Duke is putting his foot down with James. James is just 19 and not ready to get married. He and Daisy were raised together and really consider each other siblings but James can’t find his way out of the predicament that his father has gotten them all in to. James decides that he must marry Daisy and he does love her as she is his best friend, he just never thought of her in a sexual way before.
He decides to force her hand and ends up kissing Daisy behind a screen at a musicale that the Prince is attending. When they are caught they of course have to get married. James is stunned when he finishes kissing Daisy. He has never felt anything like the kiss they shared and starts seeing her in a different way. For Daisy the kiss is one of enlightenment and after the pair is married they share a passionate time together…in the two days they are together.
All good things must come to an end and Daisy and James’s marriage is one of them. Daisy finds out the truth about the reason that James proposed and though James loves her now she can’t see that because her anger. She orders the Duke out of the house (and he has to go or else she’ll reveal him for the criminal he is) and tells James that their marriage is no more. Not only that but she tells him to leave the country and good riddance to him. She does allow him to have the ship that belongs to the Duchy and James takes off on that ship the next day.
James is heartbroken but doesn’t want to make Daisy more miserable by going back to her. He learns to live life on the sea and eventually teams up with his cousin to become a dread pirate. When he learns of his father’s death, and starts to think about all he’s missed by being gone he decides that James Ryburn no longer exists and he will stay on the sea forever. Daisy can just declare him dead and the Duchy can pass on to James’s next of kin. Seven long years later, and James shows back up again but Daisy isn’t any closer to accepting him. She has her own little organized world and James plays no part in it. She especially can’t give him the passion she once did as she’s just not that person any longer. Can James break through the crusty outer shell that Daisy has grown in order to get back the woman he loves?
Oh, where to start???? I’ll begin with James. Now, some people would think that James was a complete bastard. Did I? No. Yeah, he had moments of complete and utter stupidity but at the beginning of the book he’s just trying to do what’s right. Could he have done things differently, come out with the truth of the situation to Daisy and trust her to help? Absolutely. But then we wouldn’t have had the story we had, right? lol I think that James could have stood up for himself a bit better when Daisy was verbally thrashing him for the part he played in it all and that would have gone a long way to smoothing things out when he returned.
He did have a little pity party for himself while he was out sailing the high seas but that was completely understandable. He loved Daisy as so much more than a friend and didn’t want to see her unhappy. He truly felt that she would not be happy to see him so he stayed away. Was it the right decision – uh, no. But it was what it was. When he returned to England and to Daisy he wanted nothing more than to be with his wife and I loved that he knew to tread lightly even though he wanted to rush in and force the issue. What I loved most about James was that he loved Daisy so much inside and out. He thought her beautiful and as she was described as so very plain I adored the fact that he didn’t see her plainness.
Now there’s Daisy. From what I read she was not an attractive woman. In fact the newssheets went so far, after James and Daisy were married, as to call her the Ugly Duchess. How sad for her. It completely broke my heart that people could be so cruel but I know that it happened all the time back then. The ton took pleasure in laughing at others. I understood why Daisy reacted the way she did to James when she discovered the truth but after that I thought she went a bit to the extreme. She took over the running of the Duchy, both before and after James’s father died, and she did an extraordinary job with it. She pretty much redesigned her life and made a name for herself in England as well as Paris. The thing she didn’t do was remain soft. She hardened her heart in such a way that when James returned she couldn’t even think about letting him into her life. She was organized to the extreme, almost OCD about things and though she did it for order and control it ended up controlling her.
While this story didn’t work for me as well as some other Eloisa James books have I still enjoyed it. I didn’t care for the fact that James and Daisy spent about 50% (at least I think that’s what it was) of the book apart as it’s hard to have a good romance when the hero and heroine aren’t together (unless they’re writing letters, of course), but it was still entertaining.