|Eloisa James gives readers her version of The Ugly Duckling in a new historical romance called The Ugly Duchess. Theodora Saxby (aka Theo) knows she isn't pretty. Her mother and best friend, Earl James Ryburn, have always told her she is beautiful, but she's heard the whispers in society.
James' father is Duke of Ashbrook and took over the Saxby estate when his good friend, Theo's father, died. He promised to take care of Mrs. Saxby and Theo. The duke though, has not managed his money well. He ended up dipping into Theo's dowry and has now lost that too. His suggestion to cover it up is for James to marry Theo. It will take care of the dowry and the rest of Theo's inheritance will then become the Duke's and help cover other debt.
James is furious with his father. He respects Theo too much to marry her under false pretenses. Over the following days though, he starts looking at Theo differently and realizes that he does have feelings for her beyond friendship and it turns out Theo does as well. Even though the financial cover-up is still a reason for marriage, James realizes that his love for Theo will see them through and make it worth it.
No surprise that Theo over hears an argument between Ashbrook and James about the cover up. She's furious and can't believe James has used her. She screams at him, declares the marriage over, and kicks him out telling him to leave England. Little did she know that he took that seriously and left for good.
The Ugly Duchess is a charming story that for the most part is enjoyable. The plot has many twists and turns, some of which aren't all together plausible. The story also skips significant periods of time that leaves it a bit disjointed. There is an approximately 35 page portion of the book that covers 7 years. It gives details from both James' and Theo's life in snippets every year or so, but not enough to truly feel the impact of what's occurred for each of them personally.
Outside of that 35-page section, The Ugly Duchess is well written and satisfying. Eloisa James has done a good job in her adaptation of the classic fairy tale story.