James, Eloisa 1962-
JAMES, Eloisa 1962-
CAREER: Writer, teacher. Professor of English literature.
AWARDS, HONORS: RITA finalist, Page Turner of the Week, People magazine, 2000, both for Midnight Pleasures; RITA finalist, National Reader's Choice Awards, Best Long Historical, 2001, Ten Best Romances of 2001, Borders.com, Ten Best Historical Romances of 2001, Amazon.com, all for Enchanted Pleasures; Best Romances of 2002, Oakland Press, 2002, all for Duchess in Love.
Potent Pleasures, Bantam (New York, NY), 2000.
Midnight Pleasures, Bantam (New York, NY), 2001.
Enchanting Pleasures, Bantam (New York, NY), 2002.
Duchess in Love, Avon (New York, NY), 2002.
Fool for Love, Avon (New York, NY), 2003.
A Wild Pursuit, Avon (New York, NY), 2004.
Your Wicked Ways, Avon (New York, NY), 2004.
SIDELIGHTS: Shakespeare scholar by day, romance writer by night, author Eloisa James enjoys her double life, as she told Brianna Yamashita in a Publishers Weekly interview. "I like having my two worlds separate," James noted in her interview. "If I make the New York Times list, however, I might have to run around my [college] department screaming." With graduate degrees from Oxford and Yale, James is hardly what one imagines as the typical romance writer. While studying in England, James became a fan of the work of Georgette Heyer, and early in her academic career she attempted unsuccessfully to publish a romance novel. However, James went into the profession seriously in the late 1990s as the means of paying off burdensome student loans. With the success of her 1999 debut title, Potent Pleasures, she became a convert to the writing game. As she told Yamashita, the time she was writing her first novel "was a deliriously happy spring."
Potent Pleasures was, like many of James's books, inspired by incidents culled in her academic research. Based on the true story of the Earl of Essex whose 1613 marriage was annulled due to impotency, Potent Pleasures updates the action to the early nineteenth century, and converts the Earl of Essex to the Earl of Sheffield and Downs, Alexander Foakes. In this case, the impotency is a lie that Alexander agrees to so that his Italian wife can gain an annulment and marry a defrocked priest. The other side of the romantic coin is taken by Charlotte Calverstill, whose virginity the Earl had taken several years earlier at a masquerade ball. Now a major painter, Charlotte is reunited with Alex and all goes well until he discovers that she is not a virgin. He does not know the identity of the girl he deflowered at the ball and Charlotte does not find the right time to tell him before he assigns her to the damp confines of his Scottish castle. Alex comes to his senses soon enough and the couple spend some happy time together until jealousy raises its head when Charlotte conceives and the Earl thinks it is his brother's child. In the end, however, everything turns out happily in this "bright and funny tale," as a critic for Kirkus Reviews described the novel. A contributor for Publishers Weekly also had praise for the novel, noting that "the depth of characterizations, the steady progression of the plot and the tongue-in-cheek title will attract readers who may just greet James as the next Amanda Quick." Writing in Under the Covers, Harriet Klausner commented that James's first novel was an "interesting Regency romance that centers on how gossiping scandals can ruin lives." Similarly, Kathe Robin, reviewing the novel in Romantic Times Online, concluded that James was a "vibrant new voice in the genre who brings a slightly different slant to an era we are familiar with." And Booklist's Patty Engelmann felt that the author kept her readers "intrigued right up to the very last page."
That several critics should mention the humor in James's book came as no surprise to James, for the author herself is a fan of "bawdy puns," as she told Yamashita, such as are found in Shakespeare and Renaissance drama in general. What was more surprising to James was the amount of reader response to anachronisms in the hardcover edition of the book. Such historical goofs as men wearing pajamas or dancing a quadrille before such a dance was introduced were cleaned up for the paperback edition.
James followed up this first success with further adventures in a loosely connected series, Midnight Pleasures, which follows the fortunes of Alex's brother, Patrick, and Lady Sophie York, and Enchanting Pleasures, dealing with the on-again, off-again romance of plucky Gabby Jerningham, fresh from India, and Quill Dewland, oldest son of Viscount Dewland. In the former title, Lady Sophie is set to elope with the Earl of Slaslow, but having injured himself, he sends his best friend, Patrick Foakes, to fetch his bride. Patrick does indeed fetch the beautiful Lady Sophie, but for himself, and this sets off a chain of events that takes the young couple to Turkey where Patrick hopes to persuade the Sultan to aid the British side against Napoleon. A critic for Kirkus Reviews found this title "sensual for a Regency, and genuinely fun." A Library Journal reviewer also had praise for the title, dubbing it a "racy romp . . . that's sure to seduce." Similarly, a contributor for Publishers Weekly called it an "engaging story," and in a People magazine review, Jennifer Wulff lauded Midnight Pleasures as a "steamy, satisfying romp." Enchanted Pleasures features many of the same characters from the first two novels, but in this case the challenge to the young heiress, Gabby, is a darkly handsome man who gets terrible migraines after repeated motion, such as horseback riding and sex. In the end Gabby is able to restore Quinn's equilibrium and ensure an heir for the Dewland estate. "Delightful heroine, masterful hero, and an ingenious plot," wrote the contributor for Kirkus Reviews, who further commented that the book was "intelligent, sexy fun." For Engelmann, writing in Booklist, part of the fun was an "interesting subplot about the machinations of the East India Company in the early part of the nineteenth century." And a reviewer for Publishers Weekly noted that, as with the other two novels in the trilogy, Enchanted Pleasures "offers dual romances, charismatic characters and a healthy dose of humor." The same reviewer concluded that "once again, James weaves a story as rich in plot as in character."
James features a new cast of characters for a further duet of Regency romances, Duchess in Love and Fool for Love. The former title is "fresh and witty," as well as "high-spirited," according to a contributor for Publishers Weekly. Revisiting a staple romance plot, the novel focuses on Cam Serrard, a duke who ran away from his child bride, fleeing to Greece. Back in England a dozen years later, he plans to give his long-abandoned and now grown-up bride, Gina, an annulment so that she can marry another. However, soon the two realize they only have eyes for each other. A Publishers Weekly reviewer commended James for "avoiding easy stereotypes" and for providing "frequent laugh-out-loud moments." Likewise, Harriet Klausner, writing for Best Reviews, commented that the audience "will kick back their shoes, relax, an bask in the fun of this well-written historical romance." With Fool for Love James pairs a "dandified urbanite and a disabled heiress," according to a reviewer for Publishers Weekly, "which makes for some frank, funny exchanges." The dandy in question is Simon Darby, and the lady is Henrietta Maclellan, a beauty whose limp and weakness in the hip keep her from her dream of marriage and children. When she meets Simon, however, she determines to have him, and is aided in her endeavors by Simon's rather notorious aunt, Esme, who was also in Duchess in Love. APublishers Weekly contributor concluded that, though Simon is "less compelling" than the male protagonist's in James's other books, "this spry story will seduce readers with its wily wit and distinctive characters." Klausner, writing for AllReaders, felt that this was a "terrific romance that will hook the audience." Klausner concluded that this "strong historical . . . will send the audience back to re-read the prequel."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, August, 1999, Patty Engelmann, review of Potent Pleasures, p. 2037; Patty Engelmann, May 1, 2001, review of Enchanting Pleasures, p. 1670.
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 1999, review of Potent Pleasures, p. 1073; June 15, 2000, review of Midnight Pleasures, p. 820; April 15, 2001, review of Enchanting Pleasures, p. 523.
Library Journal, March 1, 2000, review of MidnightPleasures, p. S5.
People, September 25, 2000, Jennifer Wulff, review of Midnight Pleasures, p. 51.
Publishers Weekly, July 12, 1999, review of PotentPleasures, p. 76; July 17, 2000, review of Midnight Pleasures, p. 175; May 21, 2001, review of Enchanting Pleasures, p. 81; November 4, 2002, review of Duchess in Love, pp. 68-69; November 4, 2002, Brianna Yamashita, "Bawdy Shakespearean Comes Clean"; June 2, 2003, review of Fool for Love, p. 39; February 2, 2004, review of A Wild Pursuit, p. 64.
All about Romance,http://www.likesbooks.com/ (April 2, 2003), Jennifer Keirans, review of Enchanting Pleasures; (April 2, 2003), Blythe Barnhill, review of Midnight Pleasures.
AllReaders,http://www.allreaders.com/ (October 11, 2003), Harriet Klausner, review of Fool for Love.
Best Reviews,http://thebestreviews.com/ (November 24, 2002), Harriet Klausner, review of Duchess in Love.
Eloisa James Home Page,http://www.eloisajames.com/ (October 11, 2003).
Romance and Friends,http://www.romanceandfriends.com/ (November, 2002), Debbie Olson, review of Enchanting Pleasures; (December, 2002), Debbie Olson, review of Duchess in Love.
Romance Reader,http://theromancereader.com/ (February 21, 2003), Ann McGuire, review of Enchanting Pleasures; (April 2, 2003), Cathy Sova, review of Duchess in Love.
Romantic Times Online,http://romantictimes.com/ (April 2, 2003), Kathe Robin, review of Potent Pleasures; (August, 2003), review of Fool for Love.
Under the Covers,http://www.underthecovers.com/ (May 24, 1999), Harriet Klausner, review of Potent Pleasures.*