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REVIEW: The Duke Is Mine by Eloisa James

Dear Ms. James:

I confess that my dislike for the portrayal of one character in this book really overshadowed everything else.  I haven’t been following this new series of yours closely but I understand that you are revisiting classic fairy tales.  This story is based on the Princess and the Pea.  The Princess and the Pea is about a woman who is constantly tested for her worthiness as a partner to the prince by the prince’s mother.  Olivia is invited to the home of the Duke of Sconce so that her sister, Georgina, can be evaluated as a bride for Tarquin, the Duke of Sconce.

The Duke is Mine by Eloisa JamesTarquin was madly in love with his faithless first wife and after she died, he retreated to his mathematical studies.  His mother is relentless in her desire to see him remarried.

Olivia is betrothed to the heir to the Dukedom of Canterwick and has been since she was fifteen.  Rupert is five years younger than her and is dimwitted, short, slender, with a “potato shaped nose and penduluous lower lip.”  Rupert is clearly not all there and is the subject of scorn and mockery.  He is also about the only physically unattractive person in the book. Not only does he have the bad nose and puffy bottom lip, but his nose “just seemed to force one to pay more attention to his mouth. Which invariably hung open, his lower teeth visible in a glistening pout.”  Rupert’s father choose Olivia because of her “hips and brains”.  He tells her to bed the duke’s heir before he goes off to fight in the war.  Rupert, the heir, can’t get it up.  The heroine mocks him to her sister saying “neither two of his most important organs are functioning.”

What makes Olivia’s mockery of Rupert even more distasteful is that she is aware that he had lost air at birth.  The duke told her that to reassure her that her children would not be similarly affected.  At times, Olivia shows concern for Rupert but primarily because mockery of him reflects poorly on her.  When Tarquin is commenting on Rupert’s lack of mental faculties, Olivia decides to put up a resistance.

Of course she agreed, but she had realized when the duchess was so dismissive of Rupert that she could either spend her entire life listening to sniggers behind her husband’s back, or she could make it clear that no one should dare to insult Rupert to her face.

It’s not out of true concern or care for Rupert that Olivia defends him, but because she doesn’t want to listen to sniggers about him.  She can snigger, though, calling him a “little beardy-weirdly bottle –headed chub” and a “buffle-headed fool” and having “the brainpower of a gnat” and assigning him not so clever acroynms like “FF” (Foolish Fiance) or “HH” (Halfwit Husband).

When Olivia and Georgina arrive at the Duke of Sconce’s residence, Olivia and Tarquin aka Quin immediately are attracted to each other when Tarquin rescues Olivia from the rain.

I’ll insert a spoiler tag here although I don’t feel that the stuff is particularly spoilery.


[spoiler]Quin and Olivia spend much of the book  flirting and laughing and kissing each other even though Olivia knows that Tarquin is supposed to be for her sister who wants to be married but has been out for five seasons with no offers.  The sister even calls Olivia on her flirting and says she feels pale and lifeless next to Olivia. While Olivia feels bad for a second or two, it doesn’t stop her from continuing to flirt with Quin in front of her sister as well as engaging in inappropriate touching behind her sister’s back. The tension is supposed to come from  Olivia’s sister and Olivia’s betrothal to Rupert, although neither of which stop the Quin and Olivia  from engaging in their illicit activities.

Tarquin and Olivia have a moment of recognition that what they are doing might affect Rupert, acknowledging that for all his idiocy even he might understand the repercussions of Olivia throwing him over:

She nodded, but realized he was looking straight ahead, and said, “Yes.” It came out a croak. “He-he would be very hurt if I were to . . . It wouldn’t do.”

“A very English response,” he said, glancing down at her. “It wouldn’t do. But you’re right. The very worst thing any man could do to another, especially one serving his country, would be to steal his future wife. Perhaps when he has returned safely, we might discuss this further?”

But then later:

 I do feel some remorse about stealing you from Montsurrey. Stealing a man’s fiancée while he is serving his country is not entirely honorable.”

Olivia leaned against him, letting his heat warm her whole body. “Rupert lost air at birth,” she offered. “He will never be all that he could be.”

“He’s more than enough,” Quin said simply. “He’s serving his country, risking his life to protect England.”

A few more tears dropped onto Quin’s coat. “You’re right.”

“We will always be friends to him.” It was a vow of sorts. “He had you, and now I’m taking you away, and I will never forget what I forced him to give up.”

Olivia sniffled ungracefully, took the handkerchief he gave her. “Rupert might be more resentful if you took Lucy.”

Quin laughed.

“I mean it,” she protested. “And Georgie agrees.”

So Rupert is so dumb, so baffle headed, that while he can be a war hero and execute strategic military maneuvers, while he went to fight for the glory of his family name “Must win glory for the sake of the family name”, while he was clever enough to make up a story about the two of them and keep a secret, he’ll not comprehend the insult that Tarquin and Olivia will have imposed on him. Yet, they will remain friends with Rupert.  How gracious!  The internal inconsistency of Rupert’s idiocy was played up and down for effect.


But shallowness is the byword for this book. Olivia’s big problem is apparently that she was fat. She self describes herself as fat frequently but no one ever slights her for it.  There was no indication that any one (but her mother) thought she was overly large, not her sister, not her fiance and not the hero, Tarquin.

Tarquin’s emotional arc was supposedly that he loved his first wife, but she cheated on him so he’ll never again marry a woman that he doesn’t love.  Right, that makes no sense to me.

Finally, the ending was completely bizarre and included two pages that involved whether some French woman was the best baker of bread in all of France.  Two pages.

What was the point of Rupert in the story? Was it to put on display the mistaken and ignorant attitudes of society toward mentally handicapped individuals and how some of those same attitudes exist today?  If so, where was the lesson in why these attitudes might be mistaken or ignorant? Further, why portray Quin as an absent minded scientific mind without drawing some parallel between Rupert’s disengagement with society and Quin’s similar path? “For example, he [Quin] seldom knew what the people around him were feeling. He had a formidable intelligence and rarely found other people’s thought patterns very surprising. But their emotions? He greatly disliked the way people seemed to conceal their emotions, only to release them in a gassy burst of noise and a tearful exposition.”  I think Tarquin was supposed to be written as if he had Asperger’s but it didn’t come across that way in any significant fashion.  Perhaps the tone of the book was too light hearted (interspersed with too many clever witticisms from Olivia) for mental disabilities to be of anything but a joke.

Was it to highlight the contributions mentally handicapped people provide?  If so, why do it in such a way that allowed Rupert to be torn down for most of the book?  Mocked and criticized by the characters?

Was it to provide a pivot point for Olivia’s character arc?  If this is the correct answer, I have to say, how distasteful.  Through Olivia and others, Rupert was mocked for being “dimwitted”, “limp”, and unattractive featured.  And where was the pivot?  Was it when Rupert went off to war and Olivia breathed a sigh of relief.  Was it when Olivia was sleeping with her sister’s intended?  Was it when Olivia worried that she wouldn’t be able to break her betrothal as conveniently if Rupert was a hero?  Was it when Olivia and Quin lay in bed and Quin felt somewhat guilty for cuckolding Rupert while Rupert was sacrificing his life for England?

Importantly, while Rupert is a central figure to the story, his point of view is never shared.  We only learn about him through the eyes of others.  Strangely, Quin is portrayed as having difficult time concentrating, his thoughts moving quickly from one topic to another.  But because he is an attractive, sexually powerful man his mental acuity is never in question, nor was his desirability.

Having said all that, the book is readable and readability is tough to pull off.  I’m giving the book a reluctant C-.

Best regards,



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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. SHZ
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 04:54:57

    I’ve heard much of the ridicule of Rupert, so I’m at the point where I’m not surprised. On top of that there’re other elements to the story that completely turn me off it.

    I’ve heard that the author deliberately modernised (and, no doubt, Americanised) her dialogue for this.
    So that rules it out immediately for me.

    I wonder if the author has ever read the fairytale this book is supposedly based on. Honestly, does reworking a fairytale mean the woman always has to be rewritten as a pushy, loudmouthed, horrible person?! Not that The Princess and the Pea was ever my favourite, but I do hate it when a classic I remember from childhood is massacred in this form – I’ll never forgive Disney for giving The Little Mermaid a happy ending!

  2. Cindy
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 04:55:11

    Wait…so having been cheated on himself, Quin willingly lays with another man’s betrothed AND falls in love with her, when she is a cheater like his first wife? And does he not realize that cheaters usually cheat on the one they’re with at some point? Ugh.

    AND knowing what it’s like to be cheated on, he sleeps with the sister of his betrothed (or the woman he’s to be courting)? I doubt I would like either of these people.

  3. Laura Vivanco
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 04:57:49

    the Duke of Sconce

    A “sconce” is “a candle holder that is attached to a wall with an ornamental bracket.” Is that supposed to cast some light (pun intended) on the hero’s characterisation?

  4. Rosie
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 05:43:44

    I sometimes like James’ work. But I’m giving this one a major pass.

  5. Danielle D
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 06:16:49

    I have mixed feeling about reading this book. So far the reviews that I have read have been negative. I haven’t been an Eloisa fan in quite awhile. I may just have to pass on this book.

  6. Bronte
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 06:19:27

    Wow, suddenly I’m not so sad I can’t buy this book. Thanks for the review.

  7. Tae
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 06:54:04

    wow this doesn’t appeal to me at all, I don’t think I could like the heroine at all

  8. SarahF
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 07:18:58

    @SHZ: As to modernizing the dialogue, from what I understand, James considers these fairy tale books as not quite historical, set in a “fairy tale” version of historicity where she can update some things but have the pretty clothes. Kinda like Julia Quinn, without the claims to historical accuracy.

  9. Jane
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 07:29:14

    @Laura Vivanco I’d like to give James some credit so I’m assuming that the name selection was intentional. He is an astronomer of sorts.

  10. Jane
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 07:30:08

    @Cindy He isn’t in love with the sister. It’s just a woman that his mother wants him to marry or consider marrying.

  11. Jane
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 07:49:21

    @SHZ I felt that the fairy tale aspect was pasted on because the woman being tested for her fitness as a duchess was Georgina, the sister.

    As for the dialogue, it conjured up images of a reality tv show episode:

    etween themselves, Olivia and Georgiana generally referred to Rupert Forrest G. Blakemore—Marquess of Montsurrey, future Duke of Canterwick—as “the FF,” which stood for foolish fiancé. On occasion he was also “the HH” (half-wit husband), “the BB” (brainless betrothed) and—because the girls were fluent in both Italian and French—“the MM” (mindless marito or mindless mari, depending on the language of the moment).

    “The only thing lacking to make this evening absolutely and irredeemably hellish,” Olivia continued, “was a wardrobe malfunction. If someone had stepped on my hem and ripped it, baring my arse to the world, I might have been more humiliated. I certainly would have been less bored.”

    Georgiana didn’t reply; she just tipped her head back and stared at the ceiling. She looked miserable. “We should look on the bright side,” Olivia said, striving for a rousing tone. “The FF danced with both of us. Thank goodness he’s finally old enough to attend a ball.”

    “He counted the steps aloud,” Georgiana stated. “And he said my dress made me look like a puffy cloud.”

  12. Shea
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 07:51:22

    Thanks for the review. I went through a James phase about, I don’t know, 8 years ago, but haven’t had the interest to read another of her books since then. This review affirms my choice. Happy New Year to y’all! May 2012 be a great year!

  13. Meoskop
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 07:56:26

    While I hated it less than you, I disagree with nothing in this review. I gave the heroine a pass for hating on Rupert because of the forced marriage aspect. However, I thought Rupert was the true hero of the book and regretted that the author made it impossible for him to have a proper life. Rupert was loyal, resourceful, and ultimately loved, if not by our narcissistic heroine. The ending was a complete left field wtf moment. I appreciated her body image issues because they weren’t glossed over and did appear to be mental. There was an underlying message not of body acceptance but that she didn’t have anything to worry about, yet I still welcomed a heroine who has second thoughts about getting naked. Her sister was totally shafted, despite the pasted on all for the best rabbit out of a hat resolution for her.

  14. swati
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 08:15:37

    Absolute spot on review!

    I just finished reading this book . I loved EJ’s last one based on beauty and the beast but this one just fell flat. It was witty in parts, some of quin’s dialogue were achingly wonderful but on the whole the book was a major disappointment.

    I wanted to like Olivia. She was a misfit, insecure about her looks yet was brash and had a awful sense of humor. But she came of as insensitive and crass in a lot of places. Her continued flirtation with quin in spite of knowing that he might become her brother in law, inspite of knowing how desperately her sister wanted the match, her ridiculing her fiance and then conveniently defending him to look better – too much of character flip flop. And since infidelity was such a big issue with quin, his attraction to her did not make sense.

    I never understood why was he in love with her ? She really did not say or do anything besides crack a few bawdy jokes. They had just one heart felt moment when he talks about his son but why would he choose to confide in her of all people baffled me.

    And the last couple of pages set in france were just beyond ridiculous. I actually had to go back a couple of paragraphs to check if it was the same book or some sort of a printing error.

    What a bad end to 2011. Most of my favorite authors – milan, bourne, EJ, meredith duran, quinn were a disappointment. Maybe a case of sky high expectations ?

  15. Jane
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 08:20:15

    @Meoskop I saw the body issues as a way for Olivia’s cruelty to be excused. I.e., feel bad for me because I’m fat and excuse my horrible behavior toward others.

    I am still totally baffled by the bread parts of the book. What was that all about? @swati? Is this some literary thing? I.e., if I was better read I would recognize the literary allusion to something?

    Was it supposed to be (along with the Duke of Sconce) a play on the cartoon Beauty and the Beast with the teapot mother?

    I know that James spent a lot of time in France this past year. Did she lose a bet to her local french bakery and had to include her in some way in the book?

  16. Wendy
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 08:22:44

    Asperger’s, not Asberger’s.

  17. KB/KT Grant
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 08:41:37

    My biggest peeve with Olivia was the reasons given for her to be so cruel in regards to Rupert, as if that excuses her behavior. Because she’s considered fat and plain and too outspoken, she’s given a pass. Olivia came across more like the villain than the heroine in this one. When I can’t connect with either the hero or the heroine, that’s when I stop reading. So was the case with this book.

  18. Rebecca (Another One)
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 09:03:18

    I had a problem with her short story, Storming the Castle. I really like it the first time through, but on the second read it became problematic.

    Maybe a bit spoilerish

    At the end she wants to marry the hero, not the other guy. Instead of being able to just say that, the narrator says that the heroine knows that the other guy would cheat on her. Really? The guy that loved her and stayed a virgin until her is going to cheat. The hero who is much better at sex, because he had practice, is not. Thus making the other guy a bad guy and giving her a pass. I would have preferred if the heroine had just womaned up and said I know he loves me, but I have to be with someone I love back.

  19. Killian
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 09:11:24

    Wow… I bought this when it came out and was waiting to finish my current book before starting and now… I just want forget it! Ugh… I really liked the last two books of this series, especially the Beauty and the Beast adaptation, but this sounds horrendous. My brother has Asperger’s as well which makes me even more reluctant to pick this up… Since it is James I might give it a try because, as you say, she in infinitely readable even if I do dislike her characters… What a bad end to the year.

  20. Cindy
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 09:12:44

    @Jane it wasn’t so much that I was thinking he loved the girl, just that someone who had been cheated on should be, I don’t know, less inclined to do the same to someone.

  21. Jane
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 09:29:17

    @Cindy You are right. The motivations of Tarquin were a complete mystery to me. I think this is because the characters are so shallow. Tarquin could have been anyone, really. There wasn’t anything about him that made him particular to the book or to Olivia. You could have interchanged him with any number of dukes and the story would have essentially remained the same.

  22. may
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 09:36:38

    I too found this book highly readable, but problematic. Great review Jane.

    I really had a problem with the end (WTF with the bread lady!?) and felt like everything “Just worked out” way too easy and without any real sacrifice or struggle from our main characters. What was the point?

    As for Olivia and her “fat” – his mother does on several occasions call her fat so I do wonder if perhaps she was curvy and on that ‘some might call her fat’ border of chubby town. That’s how I envisioned her at least.

  23. Tina
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 09:40:59

    I was very tepid about this book. There were parts toward the middle-end that were fun. Olivia’s verbal sparring with Quin’s mother were great. But that is about it.

    I though the characters were about as deep as a puddle. Quin was affected by his first wife. That drives his entire emotional arc. Georgie was perfect and socially adept at everything. That was her narrative throughout the book. And Olivia was loud and bawdy. That was it. And, oh yeah, she was fat. Every couple of pages (this is not an exaggeration) we are told she is fat or round or squabby or wide hipped. And it wasn’t about making some statement about her being self conscious about her size. It was just a continuous descriptor.

    As a reader I found it distasteful how she and her sister referred to Rupert. But leaving aside my own feelings there, I thought it was an interesting thing for the author to do, to make her heroine feel/do something so verboten in the terms of romance novel narrative. Of course, she backpedals later in the book making Olivia less mean about him and more understanding.

  24. Junne
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 09:56:17

    It’s one thing to make unlikeable heroines. It’s another to make irredeemable ones.
    I draw the line at cruelty. But that’s only my opinion, plus I’m not really in a position to judge, as I have double standards ( I’m more lenient with heroes).

  25. Ducky
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 11:00:04

    I disliked both the heroine (very much so) and the hero (to a lesser extent) in this one. The book left a very bad taste in my mouth.

    Come to think of it the last Eloise James romance I enjoyed was the Villiers book. I don’t care for this fairy tale series – I didn’t like the Dr House knock-off either.

  26. Lori
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 11:10:34

    I just finished Winning the Wallflower and thought it was an adorable story. I was going to read this next since Olivia and Rupert are introduced in the novella but now…

    I do love that cover though.

  27. Meoskop
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 11:32:12

    @Jane: I think for it to be an excuse the author would have to feel Olivia had mistreated Rupert and I am not sure she does.

    Bread wise, it felt like the author had become bored with the plot. I would have preferred Rupert to return home with his men and become a respected Duke, giving him a chance at a heroine of his own. Perhaps Rupert was not impotent, perhaps he sensed Olvia’s dislike. There is a powerful book that was tossed away by the weird farce at the end.

  28. Kim
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 14:00:17

    There doesn’t appear to be any middle ground with this book; readers either love it or hate it. I recently read a blog where Eloisa said she did think that Olivia was cruel to Rupert. She went on to say that she hoped to show that throughout history, people are uncomfortable with anyone who is different and they can act thoughtlessly towards that individual. She believes that Olivia changes throughout the novel. From this review, however, it appears that EJ may have missed the mark – Olivia was so cruel that she never sufficiently redeems herself.

  29. Abigail
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 14:27:23

    I’m disappointed to read this review, but sadly I’m not surprised. I wasn’t really thrilled with this latest series. I read the first two but ended up giving away my copies, which is something of a rarity for me when it comes to James. I just haven’t found this particular series/quartet/etc engaging. It’s been too modern, too flimsy, and too irritating. I’ll go back and reread all of the Duchess books and enjoy those and wait for what comes next.

  30. SonomaLass
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 14:55:16

    Like Killian. I enjoyed the first two books in this new series. I am glad that James has taken this new direction of a fantasy historical setting for her romances, since there are always so many complaints about her lack of historical accuracy. She obviously really enjoys working in contemporary references — there was a “wardrobe malfunction” in the Cinderella-based book, as well. I liked When Beauty Tamed the Beast very much; the beast hero is a tribute to Hugh Laurie’s character on House, which was kind of fun, and she took the ending in a direction that surprised and delighted me, given her usual emphasis on physical beauty in leading characters.

    Based on this review, and on comments from others who have read the book and agree, I’m going to give this a pass. I do not enjoy seeing characters in books ridiculed for their physical or mental differences unless the underlying message is clear that this is not okay. And if one of the main characters is participating in the mockery (not to mention cheating on her fiancé while he’s serving in the military overseas), I am not going to like the romance, either. Knowing James’ style, I’m sure it’s compulsively readable, but I wouldn’t like myself in the morning.

  31. Emily
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 15:13:24

    I haven’t read this one, but I had the same problem as mentioned in the spoiler in “A Kiss at Midnight.” It was one of the many issues that made me dislike the book. The historical accuracy element is troublesome –I think James should not have opened with a real place in a real year.
    One of the problems I had with When Beauty Tamed The Beast, is there was none of James’s famous female friendships. The closest thing we had to a female friendship was the heroine and her aunt, the heroine and her dead mother, and the heroine and the heroes’s mother.
    I realized while reading WBTTB that one of the main reasons is for the comraderie among women and the often complex friendships between characters, both of WBTTB lacked. I was hoping this book was more of return to her showing interesting and intense friendships, particularly for the heroine. Based on your review it doesn’t sound like this really happened. I was particularly hoping to see a lot of the relationship between the heroine and her twin.
    James in general seems to be using this series to talk about beauty. In the first book (AKAM) the heroine was “too skinny” to be pretty and forced to wear a bad wig, and everyone still fell in love with her due to unconventional personality. In the second book (WBTTB) the heroine was beautiful beyond measure but found that she could be just as valuable even if a little less pretty. (okay not the best job summing; someone else could try.) This heroine is supposed to be “curvy”. James’s point, I think, is women of all shapes and sizes can be beautiful. I think it comes off shallow and off-putting when so much of the conservation is based on looks. I also think this series might be harmful than helpful for someone with body issues.
    James wrote one of my favorite romances of all time, Much Ado About You and I enjoy her previous work. This whole fairy tale series looks like more and more of a miss for me. As someone who is sensitive about disabilities, this review raised a lot of apprehention for me about trying this book.

  32. Amy
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 15:15:48

    This sounds horrid.

  33. becca
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 15:18:45

    My son was “deprived of air” at birth, and has some cognitive difficulties – but certainly not the physical issues described, that sounds like there may be more going on with Rupert than just being oxygen starved.

    On the other hand, this review not only makes me not want to read this book, but it makes me want to delete the other book by James that I have (A Duke of her Own), not wanting to support any author who can write characters this awful and call them the hero and heroine.

  34. Jane
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 15:22:35

    @Kim: In the post by James did she indicate where Olivia pivots? Because i think that is where I have a hard time with the Olivia character. I am okay with an unlikeable character, even a heroine, who is redeemed. One of my January recommended reads is Tori St. Claire’s book Stripped that features a very unlikeable heroine.

    But Olivia’s internal thought process acknowledged that her past behavior toward Rupert may have been wrong and even though she is no longer calling him dimwitted, her initial reaction to Rupert’s military success is that he will be a stronger impediment to her own happiness. And then when she resolves to throw him over regardless, she still views him as so dimwitted, so lacking in emotional response that he will view her cuckolding of him as favor.


    Finally, when Rupert dies and Olivia decides to make a treacherous journey across the Channel to be with him, out of respect for his service, she is captured and held hostage in the basement of a French bakery who Olivia escapes by declaring the French baker the best baker of bread in all of France. It’s curious to say the least. Rupert is all but forgotten. The french bread scene will linger in my memory as one of the most what the fuck portions of a romance story. I feel like it must be some insider joke that I’m just not getting.

  35. Ducky
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 15:43:00

    Another thing – I am so sick of dukes and duchesses. Every time I see the word “duke” in the title I want to roll my eyes. And I say this as a reader who loves James’ Duke of Villiers and Edith Layton’s The Duke’s Wager.

    My duke fatigue has gotten so bad that any historical romance with a non-aristo hero gets first dips these days.

  36. Jayne
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 16:29:33

    @Ducky: God yes!! If a title has the word “Duke” in it, it almost guarantees that I won’t even look at it these days.

  37. Maili
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 16:44:53

    The premise seems fundamentally flawed where Rupert is concerned, but don’t worry, people. I won’t stand on a History soapbox longer than a paragraph tonight. Yay!

    Seriously though, here’s a gist of Britain’s not-so-shining history of people like Rupert: people like Rupert were heavily discouraged from mixing with their peers, being seen in public and from having children (married or not). In some cases, they were removed from their families’ successions, which was legally endorsed because – if my take is right – they weren’t allowed to sign legal documents or have a legal will. Too easy to contest, I think? When they were sent to war, pretty much everyone knew it meant they wouldn’t return. It was a socially acceptable form of euthanasia or murder if you like.

    I think, to be honest, this story would be more fitting as a Tudor or Elizabethan-set story because people with disabilities or serious mental health issues were indeed fashionable subjects of amusement, jokes, pranks (some were horrid and dangerous) and fun for Respectable, Rich & Regal People. They often visited “madhouses” to watch mentally ill people for a laugh. “Court jesters” were often men with down syndrome. Yeah, Olivia and her sister’s behaviour and attitude would be definitely be at home during that period.

    Oh, that makes it two paragraphs. Sorry about that! But thanks, Jane (and Katiebabs), for calling James out on this.

  38. MarieC
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 16:57:56

    @Ducky: Me too!

    E.J.’s books are hit-or-miss for me generally, but this one…oh boy! No interest whatsoever.

  39. Keishon
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 17:11:16

    I read the spoiler; all I can say is what a awful premise for a romance novel.

  40. meoskop
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 18:03:12

    Ok, I’m going to defend it. I didn’t deal with the issues of Rupert when I reviewed it because I was going so far out ahead of publication. I may not have liked the people involved but (up until the end) I understood them. Dealing solely (for the moment) with Rupert = SPOILER CITY

    Yes, Olivia is horrible. But Rupert is loved by his father, even as his father despairs of him becoming Duke. Olivia is selected (ultimately, if not initially) because she is always kind to Rupert’s face and can be trusted to run his life. When Olivia is cruel to Rupert it is always away from him. If I were promised to a person I felt nothing for, I would probably be unkind about them as well. She is not cruel to his face and she could so easily crush him. She does look for things to admire in him, even if her ability to do so is very shallow.

    So Rupert is shown to be brave, loving, poetic and ultimately heroic. His father loves him, his men adore him – all in all it is such a positive portrait of the never ever seen mentally disabled hero that I was giving James mad props for attempting it. Then she killed him. That’s where it all went south.

    If Rupert had declined to marry Olivia, if he had told her he just wasn’t into her and returned to find a kind woman of his own based on his heroism, run his estate with the help of his military men, Rupert would have been innovative. But she kills him in a weird farcical ending, making his only value that of his death. Now Rupert is a trial Olivia bore, an obstacle she almost didn’t overcome, an object of pity.

    If James had stuck to the point and allowed Rupert to emerge as far more than Olivia had seen, as more than his father had seen (she certainly set the stage for it) this would have been an amazing character. I don’t think the way Olivia mocks him is all there is of him, or all James shows of him, so I would hate those who leave the book unread to only take that away.

    Is the last 1/5 of the book unforgiveable? Yes. It’s some of the worst James has ever put out. Are the other 4/5 worthless? No. The sin of this book (to me) is it runs from greatness instead of striving for it.

  41. Kim
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 18:06:56

    @ Jane: Here’s some excerpts from recent blog posts and interviews that Eloisa James has given:

    Eloisa states on one blog: “By the end of the book Rupert has changed the way people think about him and act toward him, but I think the way he was treated initially was (alas) not only accurate historically, but now as well. Even though we all try hard to be PC about things, “other” people are scary to us.”

    The part about Olivia is from KB/KT Grant’s blog, which I believe you’ve already read. On that blog, EJ states: “But she changes-that’s the point. She begins defending Rupert against cruel remarks; she becomes loyal to him; she risks her life for him.”

    In the HEA blog for USA Today. EJ writes, “This is the first book of mine that actually has two heroes … Of all the characters I’ve created, in 20-some books, Rupert is my favorite. In The Duke is Mine, I tried to redefine the whole idea of “perfection.” I can’t wait to see what readers think!”

  42. Jane
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 18:19:37

    @meoskop: I wanted what you described. I think one of the biggest problems is that Rupert is not given any POV so all we know of Rupert is through the rubric of other characters’ views of him. I agree with you that he was more than he was shown in the book. I would have applauded this book if it had been shown that Olivia was an unreliable narrator and that her view of Rupert and indeed others’ view of Rupert such as Tarquin’s mother had been disproved.

    @Kim: Thanks.

  43. Ducky
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 18:55:35

    I probably would have liked the book a bit better had James not killed Rupert off. Then I could have just gone “sod off!” to the horrid heroine and “Yeah! Rupert”. But she killed the one character in this dud I was liking and rooting for. Meh and bleh.

  44. Kate Pearce
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 19:19:02

    I usually love Eloisa James, but I think I’ll give this one a miss. Having one kid with cerebral palsy and another with Aspergers, I don’t need to read about how people treat those who are different in any age. It makes me sad. :(

  45. Ros
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 19:40:15

    I am reminded of how differently Heyer deals with this issue in Cotillion. Dolph is an incredibly sympathetic character, he is treated with sympathy and understanding by most of the other characters (each appropriately for their own character), and he gets his own, very sweet, happy ending with a woman who cares for him, is kind to him and who understands what kind of life will make him happy. He does suffer cruelty at the hands of his mother but it is clear that this is not condoned.

    And there are no scenes in a bakery, French or otherwise.

  46. Author on Vacation
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 20:17:19


    *disappointed sigh*

    I’m very concerned about the negative buzz this book’s been getting, so I probably would have purchased and read it just to see if I have a different opinion about it. Unfortunately, I loathe character deaths in romance novels (unless the death is natural causes or the villain’s death.) I read romance to get my warm-fuzzies, not to really like a character and then watch him die via treachery.

    Sorry, E.J.

  47. SarahF
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 20:18:06

    @Ros: I was thinking the same thing. Dolph is a delightful character and dealt with very sympathetically.

  48. becca
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 20:22:59

    @Ros: Now I have to go re-read Cotillion!

  49. MaryK
    Dec 29, 2011 @ 22:18:29

    This book sounds weird especially since I’ve heard mostly good things about the first two retellings. It’s like it has too many unusual characteristics and they snowball into “whaaa?”

    I like different heroes so I’d probably be rooting for the guy who dies. What a downer.

    Pamela Morsi’s Simple Jess has a mentally challenged hero who actually survives and gets the girl, the townspeople, and the reader.

  50. Susan
    Dec 30, 2011 @ 01:51:14

    Hey Maili, Thanks for your posts to reminds us of the ugly true of the times. Reading through all these posts, having not read the book yet, I’m struck by how real the conversations between Olivia, Qinn, and Georgiana sound. I’m tired of all the unnatural charaters we see in book after book. Ditto on the Dukes! Real charaters have flaws in behaviour, like making fun of others in private or getting involved in unsutiable relationships. I have many very nice friends that would help anyone out, but they will “mock” or make fun of folks in context of private converstions. And their relationships, lets not go there! It’s not my way of thinking or doing, but it can be funny and seeing how they think lets me see inside their thought process. Qinn and Olivia’s relationship, also sounds very real. Not pure and nice, but real.
    I agree that EJ is very readable, so that’s never an issue for me. I did not like the way she went all “James Cameron” (think True Lies) with a WTF ending of WBTTB. A chicken coop, really? There for days and she lived? Right. Total BS. And I don’t much like House, so that was not a plus for me either. Anyway, the French bread shop appears to top that, and I will be reading this book just to see how much I agree or disagree with these commentor. Thanks Jane for an excellent review and everyone else for the futher discussion.

  51. Junne
    Dec 30, 2011 @ 03:24:53

    Eloisa James : “Of all the characters I’ve created, in 20-some books, Rupert is my favorite”

  52. Junne
    Dec 30, 2011 @ 04:02:09

    To those who can’t access the link:

  53. Hell Cat
    Dec 30, 2011 @ 16:45:21

    I must be one of the rare ones who loved this book. Why? It’s a fairy tale retold. Rarely are they kind to their characters. Olivia was pompous upstart at times, Quin needed a sharp rap on the head for being single-minded, Georgiana needed to grow her own backbone outside parents and sister, Rupert was little more than “scrambled eggs” but he was loyal to a fault after dealing with a crude agendaing father (a male Beauty almost), and the Duchess of Sconce was so utterly commandeering that you understood the pain of watching her son fall apart previously.

    None of them were perfect, on purpose, I think. But all their faults are what them match up together. Georgie was forced to look beyond the duchess title, Olivia was forced to embrace some aspects, Dowager Duchess had to let go of control, Quin had to remember the good with bad that came with emotions and Rupert was finally able to establish himself without the necessary bonds of his father. Truly, the only despicable characters were the Lytton parents and Rupert’s father for basically selling their children for traits in such a cold manner without any proper education on what was expected.

    Rupert not surviving, to me, was more about the fact he had achieved -his- happy ending. He did something that put his family name in glory. Let’s remember he was mentally handicapped, but also just barely 18. In times of war, young men DO find that being a war hero as very dashing and worthwhile – even in modern days – for a variety of reasons. Some rely on family honor, romance, and yet others as revenge to those that threw them away (like The Bastard by Novak). For Rupert, he got what he saw the best, in his own way; he did his duty without a Cyberman in sight.

    I can’t say for certain, but were I attached to a man without my asking based on a 20-year-old pact, I might find that rather off-putting. She was kind to Rupert when he needed because she saw the innocence. That doesn’t mean part of her shouldn’t, or wouldn’t, find it extremely horrifying to realize she would be mother, lover, and wife to someone that couldn’t be her equal – not in rank, but in pursuits she enjoyed. He wouldn’t understand the puns, the humor, or satirical wit. That would choke what made her who she was because she needed challenges.

    All choice was taken from the moment she popped out of the womb first. And then to have her father-in-law suggest her shape (hips and breasts) were what made her the right choice after watching her kindness wouldn’t help. To the parents, she was simply a brood mare that brought respectability for hers and a continuation of the family line in his. An arranged marriage that she felt there was no freedom from would make one very cross. Especially since she was doing a lot of it for Georgie’s sake in landing a very good dowry and opportunity to -be- someone outside of her sister’s shadow.

    I actually got the pea in the book more AS Olivia – she was upsetting everything by not following rules or being the “good” twin. She was a future duchess but she was never considered important by those around her, not outside what she could bring. Even Georgie was upset with her for not being completely polite and mannered. Her mother puts her on lettuce diets because she’s not thin enough, the dowager says she is fat outright several times, and everyone makes snickering noises because she eats too many meat pies. She doesn’t have confidence in her body. By all rights, Georgie is the princess who notices the bad things but does no commenting.

    But that’s just my take on it.

  54. Robin/Janet
    Dec 30, 2011 @ 22:07:22

    I haven’t read this yet, but I think it’s a good choice for James to do the AU type thing. One of my biggest problems with the books of hers I’ve read is that they have this pastiche effect, both in terms of history and literary devices. Consequently, every promising trajectory I try to follow as a reader ultimately leads nowhere or somewhere else. For me, the effect is generally one of shallowness, and I find myself disappointed in things that could have been really good but ended up abandoned or derailed. Maybe the AU setting will solve at least some of that.

  55. Liz
    Dec 31, 2011 @ 00:50:33

    Simple Jess by Morsi did come to mind right away as an antidote. As did Flowers of the Storm by Kinsale. Alas…

  56. Review: The Duke is Mine by Eloisa James | Smexy Books
    Jan 13, 2012 @ 06:46:21

    […] Reviews Dear Author – C- Book Binge – 4/5 All About Romance – B […]

  57. sandy
    Mar 31, 2012 @ 10:22:35


  58. sandy
    Mar 31, 2012 @ 10:44:09

    This novel was also disappointing to me as a fan of Eloisa James. Far from her best. That said, I found the reviewer and many of the comments way too harsh about the treatment of Rupert. He came off as sadly tragic and heroic. The effort Olivia and Quin put forth to save him was entirely redeeming to Olivia and got Quin moving. There was no need to give him a point of view within the action. His motivations were always out front, if naive. The ending rescue scenario was ludicrous and entirely dependent on a bunch of French villagers who had no loyalty to the French cause and just wanted to be left alone–too modern an outlook even if it would have made sense in those times, it wasn’t realistic considering. The mad, breadbaking woman groveled to by the whole village? What was that about? And how about stopping to make love while fleeing for your lives? This was a completely outrageous mess in comparison to the usual James novel, The Princess and the Pea? What a stretch and why even make the attempt?

  59. Shinjinee
    Jan 21, 2013 @ 22:19:34


    Yes! Thanks, Ros, for remembering Dolph in my very first Georgette Heyer. The way he is portrayed and treated is so very different from the way James seems to have portrayed poor Rupert. We get a fully-rounded view of Dolphinton,

    Maili – I have lots of comments about your post .
    1. In short, you couldn’t change succession to a title by the 1700s (Scottish peerages could be surrendered and regranted as was done for the Queensberry dukedom when the heir turned out to be mentally retarded AND a cannibal).
    2. Nor could you alter succession to entailed property, nor break the entail if the heir apparent was mentally incompetent. There was one way out for the last – getting a Private Bill through Parliament.
    3. Declaring a peer or an heir apparent mentally retarded or insane was not easy. The earls of Portsmouth went through this in the early 1800s when a mentally incompetent earl was persuaded to marry his lawyer’s daughter who then had children by her lover (the earl’s brother finally succeeded in getting the marriage annulled). See Claire Tomalin’s bio of Jane Austen for more about this family who lived quite close to the author’s. Lady Charlotte Guest’s brother Lord Lindsey living in the early to mid Victorian period was also mentally incompetent and never married. (see her descendant Revel Guest’s biography of Lady Charlotte for more).
    4. BTW I have never heard of any peers, heirs apparent or younger sons who were mentally retarded sent off to the wars or the Navy as a form of euthanasia! If you have examples, I would be glad to look them up. I do know of peers and heirs who went insane after Corunna or the other battles in the Peninsular War, or those who lost their wits after battle injuries. (An early and sad case was much earlier – Robert Fitzhamon, Lord of Gloucester, in the early years of Henry I). In the medieval era, a high-born lady was declared insane and locked up in a Royal castle (she was mother of John IV, Duke of Brittany). What happened to others, I don’t know.

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