It was a happy and sad day when this book showed up on my doorstep. Happy, because it's the next book in the Duchess series, and sad, because it's the last book in the Duchess series.
At last, it's the Duke of Villiers turn at love. After seeing him pine after Jemma, the Duchess of Beaumont in every novel except for the one preceding, it was nice to finally see him get his life straight, even if it took a while to get there. Villiers is the epitome of the word rake. The man has six illegitimate children, from just as many women. He wouldn't take the time when he was younger to worry about the consequences of his liaisons by his own admission. A man of sense and style, Villiers is known as a perfectly dressed, perfectly fantastic Duke, giving consequence to no one who was not deserving. We see a change in Villiers in This Duchess of Mine, and somewhat before when he duels for his fiance, and almost dies. In the novel preceding, we see Villiers decide to marry to provide a mother for his children (no less than a daughter of a duke will do), and embark on a search across England for his children in order to scandalously raise them as his own. That search is continued in A Duke of her Own, where Villiers travels to Kent to find his twin daughters. Before we head to Kent, however, we must meet Eleanor, daughter of the Duke of Montague.
When we first meet Eleanor, she is attending the ball in order to raise money for the Baths (a carryover from This Duchess of Mine). She is dressed rather frumpish as she can be, with an antiquated attitude to match. As she is taken to task by her younger, and married sister, we learn that Eleanor has been jilted in love by Gideon, the Duke of Astley, her childhood sweetheart/lover. By decree of his father's will, his marriage was arranged to another, and he would not go against the will in order to marry Eleanor. She remained heartbroken, until she comes face to face with the Duke of Villiers. It was well known that he was looking for a wife, and she happens to be one of the two daughters of Dukes at a marriageable age. Their first meeting sets up the location for the rest of the story, Kent, where Lisette, the daughter of the Duke of Gilner. Lisette is known to be madder than a hatter, and does not care for society or its dictates.
We learn very quickly that Lisette is truly mad, in a way that endears one to her, until she really has an episode where people and animals are hurt. Reader beware, if you have issues reading about animals being hurt, take care. Although dear Oyster does make it through, it was a tough scene to read for me. Villiers joins Eleanor, her mother and her sister in Kent on a visit to Lisette, and for the chance to let Villiers make his decision between the two ladies. Blindly he looks for one to be a mother to his children, and he mistakes Lisette's childlike treatment of children as being motherly, instead of seeing what she really is. While he spars with Eleanor and becomes more and more fascinated with her as time goes on, he chooses to marry Lisette because of her manner with the children.
This of course set us up for disaster. Lisette shows her true colors through her fear of dogs, and Eleanor realizes that neither Villiers, or the newly widowed Gideon are good enough for her. She wishes to be married for love, not just to be someones mother, or to right a wrong done to her years ago. By refusing both of them, and taking back her silly declaration to only marry a duke, Eleanor returns to London to set her sights on what the season has to offer.
For the final book in this series, it is a marvelous one. We finally see the other side of Villiers, the side that can actually feel love for others unselfishly. IF you read the entire series through, you can see the subtle changes to his character throughout. He is dark and mysterious, brooding and arrogant, but in the end he becomes human like everyone else. Eleanor is one of the most strongly written characters I have seen in this series. She is an enigma of lost love, a little prudishness, and pure lust- all wrapped up in a chemise dress meant to turn heads. She becomes stronger as the novel goes on, and you watch as her inner self emerges triumphantly. Lisette is a truly touched girl, who could probably be described as bipolar if such a thing was known back then. Her interactions with adults and children are startling, as is her lack of propriety and her secret. This review would be incomplete without mentioning the children- Tobias, Lucinda and Phyllinda, who all share the common traits with their father, including his attitude.
If you were a follower of this series as I was, you will not be disappointed in the final novel. While none of the previous characters are relevant, it feels like a very fitting end. Definitely worth picking up!
Oh, and if you are interested, Eloisa James has promised a chapter updating all of the Duchess series characters. It can be found at her website in the reader pages. You must register to read, and it's free.