The Ugly Duchess is the fourth book in the Fairy Tales series by Eloisa James. As with the previous books in the series this one follows the romantic escapades between two people with a fairy tale twist – this one being The Ugly Duckling. I picked this up because I am knee deep in Gothic literature and I needed a quick distraction. This was a great read to throw into the mix.
Theodora is not beautiful, but she is striking in a handsome way. What she has going for her is a large inheritance. When longtime friend James Ryburn proposes to her Theo thinks her luck has finally turned, until she learns the truth after their wedding. James only married her because his father was embezzling money from Theo’s inheritance to settle his exorbitant gambling debts. Theo’s heart is crushed and she throws James out, vowing to fix the damage to her estate and never be reliant on a man again.
Years later Theo is a successful business woman and the talk of the town. Meanwhile, James has become a seafaring pirate desperate to escape his mistakes. She is waiting for the seven year anniversary of his disappearance to legally claim him dead. However, Theo is in for the biggest surprise of her life.
I enjoyed this one quite a lot. It’s romance, so there are the expected tropes and trite situational dialogue to expect, but it was still a fun read. It was exactly what I needed at the time that I read it, and that’s all you can ask for a book. I really enjoyed the characters – Theo was opinionated and feisty. James became very interesting as he grew up. It was a really good coming of age story for the both of them. The fairy tale element was minimal, but it did allow for some character development on Theo’s part. It felt like a great comment on women and self esteem and complexes developed from feeling underwhelming in the looks department. The metaphor was very obvious, but well done.
I won’t pretend it’s perfect. However, it was entertaining on a long car ride.
4 out of 5 stars.