Sunday, December 16, 2007

Spotlight Review--AN AFFAIR BEFORE CHRISTMAS by Eloisa James

ISBN: 978-0-06-124554-1
November 2007
Historical Romance
Georgian England, April 1783

It began in Paris four years ago. Miss Perdita Selby, informally called Poppy, fell in love with the Duke of Fletcher, and Fletch with Poppy. This was fortunate, for Poppy's mother, Lady Flora, would not countenance a lesser rank as a son-in-law. Her whole life, it seems, has been devoted to shaping her daughter into a proper duchess. What is less fortunate is her indoctrination of her daughter concerning the evils of men and the marriage bed in particular. Poppy was so firmly conditioned that even today, she cannot respond to her husband's lovemaking no matter the care and attention he lavishes upon her inert body. It's driven him crazy. The devoted young man of their early days has changed. His outward beauty remains -- it's even enhanced -- but the sweetness is gone. Poppy and Fletch are now in despair; he through his frustration over her total lack of passion, and she because she doesn't know how she has driven him away. Poppy is thinking they need to separate for a while; Fletch thinks maybe he needs to take a mistress.

Poppy begins an extended visit with her friend from Paris, Jemma, Duchess of Beaumont. Poor Fletch! Lady Flora, whose husband had the good sense to die young, moves in to manage his house in Poppy's absence. The man does not deserve such torture. After a period of mourning over her broken marriage, Poppy begins to relish the freedom; her whole life has been spent trying to please, first her impossible mother, then her mystifying husband.

AN AFFAIR BEFORE CHRISTMAS takes place in the same world and among many of the same people as Ms. James's recent release, DESPERATE DUCHESSES. The Duchess of Beaumont is still engaged in a drawn out set of chess matches with the Duke of Villiers, and with her own husband, from whom she was estranged for many years. While Society delights in her antics, she's good for Poppy and the Fletcher marriage. Everything will come to a head on that account at a house party she will host at Christmas. The gathering will also bring together other featured characters in this complex storyworld. All their tales may not yet be ending, but we'll surely meet them again in pending episodes of Desperate Duchesses. AN AFFAIR BEFORE CHRISTMAS stands well on its own but I, for one, can't wait for the whole story to be told.

As Ms. James states on her interesting website (, the Georgian era was more free-wheeling than the later Regency and Victorian ages. The styles of dress and hair were certainly more outlandish. The novel includes interesting touches of the times, the oddest as seen through Poppy's inquiring eyes once her mind is set free. As always with an Eloisa James creation, AN AFFAIR BEFORE CHRISTMAS is highly literate, full of wit and gentle irony. The society is most strange, but the people are essentially good and likable...Lady Flora exempted, naturally.

Jane Bowers

1 comment:

Cara Carnes said...

This one sounds great! I can't wait to read it:)