James, Eloisa 1962- (Mary Bly)
James, Eloisa 1962- (Mary Bly)
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, and Ten Best Historical Romances of 2001, Amazon.com, all for Enchanting Pleasures; Best Romances of 2002, Oakland Press, 2002, for Duchess in Love.
Desperate Duchesses, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2007.
An Affair before Christmas, Avon (New York, NY), 2007.
"PLEASURES TRILOGY;" NOVELS
Potent Pleasures, Bantam (New York, NY), 2000.
Midnight Pleasures, Bantam (New York, NY), 2001.
Enchanting Pleasures, Bantam (New York, NY), 2002.
"DUCHESS QUARTET" SERIES; NOVELS
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.
"FOUR SISTERS" SERIES; NOVELS
Much Ado about You, Avon (New York, NY), 2005.
Kiss Me, Annabel, Avon (New York, NY), 2005.
The Taming of the Duke, Avon (New York, NY), 2006.
Pleasure for Pleasure, Avon (New York, NY), 2006.
Contributor to anthologies, including The One that Got Away, Avon (New York, NY), 2004, and Talk of the Ton, Jove Books (New York, NY), 2005.
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. With an undergraduate degree from Harvard and 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. "My talent," she remarked to interviewer Diane Domingo on WritersBreak.com, "is not for the most dignified kind of literature." However, James concluded, "I've come to realize that my talent for romance is a god-given gift, and shouldn't be taken lightly simply because I'm not writing War and Peace." 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 on the Under the Covers Web site, Harriet Klausner commented that James's first novel is an "interesting Regency romance that centers on how gossiping scandals can ruin lives." Similarly, Kathe Robin, reviewing the novel on Romantic Times Online, concluded that James is a "vibrant new voice in the genre who brings a slightly different slant to an era we are familiar with." Finally, Booklist contributor Patty Engelmann felt that the author keeps 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 what became the loosely connected "Pleasures Trilogy." The second book, Midnight Pleasures, follows the fortunes of Alex's brother, Patrick, and Lady Sophie York, while Enchanting Pleasures, deals 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."
Enchanting 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 a contributor for Kirkus Reviews, who further commented that the book is "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, Enchanting 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 that became part of the "Duchess Quartet:" 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, and 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. A Publishers 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.com, felt that this is a "terrific romance that will hook the audience." Klausner concluded that this "strong historical … will send the audience back to re-read the prequel."
The next book in the "Duchess Quartet," is A Wild Pursuit. When Lady Beatrix Lennox is caught in a compromising position with a young man at a ball, she is disowned by her father and it becomes a scandal within the town. Undaunted, she is adopted by her equally scandalous godmother, Arabella, and flourishes under the older woman's tutelage. When she attends a party at the home of Esme Rawlings, another local woman with scandals of her own, Beatrix encounters Stephen Fairfax-Lacy, the Earl of Spade, and the man she decides she wants to marry. Wearied from a career in politics, Stephen thinks he would like a more conservative bride. A prime candidate is Countess Helene Godwin, but he soon finds her attractions dull in comparison to the vivacious Lady Beatrix. Soon, Beatrix and Stephen are caught up in their determined and uninhibited pursuit of love, and each other. "A near perfect read, A Wild Pursuit sparkles with wit and has a cast of delightful characters," commented Suan Wilson, writing on the Best Reviews Web site. Romantic Times Online reviewer Kathe Robin called the novel "as intelligent and thought-provoking as it is sexy and humorous."
In the final "Duchess Quartet" volume, Your Wicked Ways, Helene Godwin reappears, this time as Helene Holland, Countess Godwin, the wife of opera composer Rees Holland. Though the two have been married for ten years, they have lived essentially separate lives since their disastrous wedding night. Now, Helene wants a child, and is so intent on this goal that she will go outside of her marriage to find a father if she must. For his part, Rees bears the reputation of being a womanizer and a rogue, with numerous mistresses. His latest, according to rumor, is a talented singer. Rees is not interested in divorce, and when he realizes Helene's determination to become a mother, proposes a compromise. He will father her child if she moves in for a month to help with his latest composition. His latest mistress, however, must also remain a resident. Little does Helene realize, however, that Rees is interested in the other woman only for her singing talent. As the story unfolds, Reese and Helene begin to rediscover why they were attracted to each other in the first place, and begin to seriously reconsider whether their moribund relationship can be reignited. With this novel, James "solidifies her reputation as a top talent in the crowded field of humorous romances," commented a Publishers Weekly critic. Robin, again writing for Romantic Times Online, concluded that James "has another hit with this smart, sexy, humorous, and poignantly romantic novel."
James opens her "Four Sisters" series with Much Ado about You, in which the four Essex sisters—Tess, Imogen, Annabel, and Josephine—each seek marriageable men with the assistance of their unique dowries: a famous racehorse, one owned by each. After their father's death, the four sisters are taken in by their new guardian, Rafe Jourdain, the Duke of Holbrook. The Duke is kind and well-meaning, but seems incapable of arranging suitable matches for the sisters. Eldest sister Tess, therefore, takes it upon herself to find husbands for herself and her younger siblings. Encouraged by the attentions of proper gentleman Garret Langham, the Earl of Mayne, Tess thinks she may have found the one for her. Though she is resigned to a stable if dull marriage to Langham, Tess finds it difficult to forget a more brash suitor, Lucius Felton, wealthy but without peerage, who fueled her passion with improper but oh-so-stimulating kisses. Booklist critic John Charles commented: "James' gift for superb characterization and elegantly sensual, delightfully witty prose create a thoroughly romantic treat." A Publishers Weekly critic remarked that the book "contains a romance that will induce sighs of satisfaction."
Kiss Me, Annabel finds Annabel Essex searching for her own perfect husband. Her search for a proper and wealthy English suitor is derailed when she finds herself falling for an impoverished but strong-willed Scotsman instead. Though Annabel tries to resist her attraction to Ewen, Earl of Ardmore, she finds herself drawn to his wit, intellect, and way with words. The two are soon betrothed and on their way to Scotland to be married. Along the way, their attraction to each other intensifies as secrets are revealed, personalities intertwine, and Annabel realizes there is more to her suitor than literacy and wordplay. A Library Journal reviewer called the novel an "intelligent, beautifully written romance," while a Publishers Weekly contributor hailed it as being "as smooth, full-bodied, and intoxicating as a fine wine."
Tragedy strikes in the early married life of Imogen Essex in The Taming of the Duke Totally smitten and dedicated to her husband, Draven Maitland, Imogen forsees a wonderful future for them. However, two weeks after their honeymoon, Draven dies, leaving Imogen a young and bewildered widow. Still under the protection of Rafe Jourdain, Duke of Holbrook, Imogen proves her dedication by helping him through the physical and emotional difficulties of alcohol detoxification. A year after Draven's death, when she feels ready to move on, Imogen meets Gabe Spenser, Rafe's illegitimate half-brother. Gabe, a professor of divinity at Cambridge, is as darkly handsome as his half-brother, but is not as demanding. At a play hosted by Rafe at his estate, Imogen decides that it's time to get to know the rakish Gabe a lot better. However, she is astonished to discover that it is not Gabe she is interested in, but her longtime guardian Rafe. Romance blossoms even as the duo struggle with the implications of a relationship between guardian and ward. A reviewer on the Paperback Reader Web site called the novel "deftly rendered fiction, intelligent and agile, full of pathos without trumped up dramatics." Charles, in another Booklist review, concluded that James's "writing is graceful and witty, her plot delightfully clever, and her characterization … is nothing less than brilliant."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, August, 1999, Patty Engelmann, review of Potent Pleasures, p. 2037; May 1, 2001, Patty Engelmann, review of Enchanting Pleasures, p. 1670; December 1, 2004, John Charles, review of Much Ado About You, p. 640; September 15, 2005, Donna Seaman, "Top Ten Romance Fiction," review of Much Ado about You, p. 44; May 15, 2006, John Charles, review of The Taming of the Duke, p. 34.
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 Midnight Pleasures, p. S5; April 15, 2005, Kristin Ramsdell, review of Talk of the Ton, p. 68; January 1, 2006, review of Kiss Me, Annabel, p. 50; April 15, 2006, Kristin Ramsdell, review of The Taming of the Duke, p. 63.
People, September 25, 2000, Jennifer Wulff, review of Midnight Pleasures, p. 51.
Publishers Weekly, July 12, 1999, review of Potent Pleasures, 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; May 8, 2004, review of Your Wicked Ways, p. 56; October 25, 2004, review of The One that Got Away, p. 33; December 20, 2004, review of Much Ado about You, p. 42; April 4, 2005, review of Talk of the Ton, p. 48; October 10, 2005, review of Kiss Me, Annabel, p. 41; February 27, 2006, review of The Taming of the Duke, p. 40.
All about Romance,http://www.likesbooks.com/ (May 7, 2007), Jennifer Keirans, review of Enchanting Pleasures; Blythe Barnhill, review of Midnight Pleasures.
AllReaders.com,http://www.allreaders.com/ (May 7, 2007), Harriet Klausner, review of Fool for Love.
Best Reviews,http://thebestreviews.com/ (November 24, 2002), Harriet Klausner, review of Duchess in Love; (February 10, 2004), Harriet Klausner, review of A Wild Pursuit; (February 16, 2004), Suan Wilson, review of A Wild Pursuit; (March 9, 2004), Suan Wilson, review of Your Wicked Ways; (March 15, 2004), Harriet Klausner, review of Your Wicked Ways; (October 18, 2004), Suan Wilson, review of The One that Got Away; (November 21, 2004), Harriet Klausner, review of The One that Got Away; December 23, 2004, Harriet Klausner, review of Much Ado About You; (January 10, 2005, Suan Wilson, review of Much Ado about You; (April 29, 2005), Sharon Galligar Chance, review of Talk of the Ton; (May 3, 2005), Harriet Klausner, review of Talk of the Ton; (November 15, 2005), Harriet Klausner, review of Kiss Me, Annabel; (May 25, 2006), Harriet Klausner, review of The Taming of the Duke; (December 3, 2006), Harriet Klausner, review of Pleasure for Pleasure.
Dear Author,http://www.dearauthor.com/ (April 3, 2006), review of The Taming of the Duke.
Eloisa James Home Page,http://www.eloisajames.com (May 7, 2007).
Fantastic Fiction,http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/ (May 7, 2007), bibliography of Eloisa James.
Paperback Reader,http://www.paperbackreader.net/ (May 7, 2007), review of The Taming of the Duke.
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/ (May 7, 2007), Kathe Robin, reviews of Potent Pleasures, Fool for Love, Your Wicked Ways, The Taming of the Duke, Pleasure for Pleasure, Kiss Me, Annabel, Much Ado About You, and A Wild Pursuit.
Under the Covers,http://www.underthecovers.com/ (May 7, 2007), Harriet Klausner, review of Potent Pleasures.
WritersBreak.com,http://www.writersbreak.com/ (May 7, 2007), Diane Domingo, interview with Eloisa James.