Happily Ever Afters (Book 4)
How can she dare to imagine he loves her . . . when all London calls her The Ugly Duchess?
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
Society was shocked by their wedding . . . and is scandalized by their separation.
Now James faces the battle of his life, convincing Theo that he loves 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 -- and War.
I loved this book. It is written in two parts, with the first being up through the beginning of their marriage and the second after their separation and reuniting. Theo and James had grown up together as James's father is Theo's guardian. They were friends first and foremost. James has always cared for Theo but when he is ordered to marry her by his father, who has embezzled her dowry, he fears that it will destroy their friendship. Theo doesn't realize that what she feels for him is love until he kisses her for the first time, and then is so happy that they will marry. Everything goes along great until she finds out why James married her. At that point she throws him out of the house and tells him she never wants to see him again. Theo has always had some self esteem problems because she is not pretty. This gets worse when she is called "The Ugly Duchess" by the tabloids. James was in love with Theo from the time he was a teenager but didn't expect to do anything about it quite yet. He was furious with his father who had nearly bankrupted them with his idiotic investments and then his theft of Theo's inheritance. At only twenty years old, he doesn't have the ability to stand up to his father and goes through with the marriage. When it all blows up he is devastated, does as Theo asks and leaves England completely. I loved the way that they were so obviously in love with each other. James never agreed with the opinion that Theo was ugly, he always saw her as beautiful, though he could not convince her of that fact. They also made a perfect pair to plan how to make the estate profitable again. Theo is incredibly intelligent and frightfully organized. James has trouble concentrating on indoor things like accounts and so on (ADD?), but has an incredible ability to relate to people and see what needs to be done on the land.
The second half of the book deals with their separation and reuniting. I won't say too much, so I don't give things away. Theo copes with her heartbreak by becoming even more organized and rather rigid. I wanted to shake her at times to wake her up. She has had to grow up rather quickly to deal with the fallout. James's departure also caused some real maturing on his part. He has had to learn to control his own temper and also to be able to do things he avoided before. He finally realizes that he still loves Theo and wants to win her back. The second half deals with his efforts, some of which are funny and some of which are romantic. I loved the man he became and how he won his duchess back.
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