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An Affair Before Christmas is the first book of yours I read, and I did so without knowing where it is in your canon or how it relates to any other books now I know that is it second in your Desperate Duchesses series. The title of the series reflects a heroine-centric focus I appreciate, and the obvious overlap of characters from book to book creates a community sense that appeals to me.
Before I go any further, I will warn anyone who dislikes spoilers that this review depends on a few of them. When we first meet Poppy and Fletch, they are a young couple, engaged and hopeful and celebrating Christmas in Paris where they met and fell in love. So it is no surprise to the reader that four years later, when the novel opens properly on the life of the Duke and Duchess of Fletcher, their marriage is troubled by incompatible expectations and a lack of communication.
These affectations reflect the masquerade of their marriage, which is mutually unmasked when Fletcher publicly humiliates Poppy at a ball, catalyzing a separation that only one of them seems anxious to mend.
The anxious one is Fletch, which might seem a bit counter-intuitive, until we find out a bit more about Poppy and all the steps that brought her into a marriage with Fletch. Or at least the one giant step, namely the push her controlling, ambitious, and rigidly unpleasant mother gave her from birth in the direction of any eligible duke. Practically from the cradle Poppy was conditioned to marry a duke, with absolutely no instruction in the actual art of marriage beyond securing her position as duchess.
So poor Fletch, with his idealistic vision of bringing his lovely young wife to rapture, was frustrated instead, confused and hurt, yet unable to bring himself to seek out another woman as mistress. But the separation has shaken something loose in Poppy not her hair, unfortunately , and for the first time in her life she feels free from the expectations of either a husband or a parent:. What she felt was weary.
Tired of people who disapproved, people who were impossible to please, people who made her feel inadequate. That was the one clear thought she had in her head. She tries to talk to Fletcher, but like everything else in their relationship, the exchange merely reflects their different paradigms for marriage.
Tired of disappointing Fletch, unable to appease him as she has learned to do with her mother, Poppy leaves Fletch and moves in with the slightly scandalous Duchess of Beaumont, able finally to indulge her real first love — Naturalism.
Loosed from the hold of her marriage, Poppy is free to exercise publicly what she has been nurturing in private: her love of all things, well, natural. Especially because Poppy is obviously using her natural insight and analytical skills on Fletch before they are married:.
Lady Poppy was a practical little soul, at the heart. One only had to look at his wind-swept locks to see that. Never a touch of powder!
And as amusing as that was, I did not see such a profound change in Fletch, whose honorable and perhaps unfashionable refusal to take a mistress could not fully eclipse the way he continued to see their relationship in primarily sexual terms. Sure he suffers through the museums of natural history and the lectures at the Royal Society with Poppy. Yes he shows a moment of real insight when he realizes that Poppy feels overwhelmed sexually and works to earn her trust by promising her a life without sex.
Well, what was it? What happened to her? It made him feel uneasy, as if the ground had shifted under his feet. She may no longer be hard to kiss, but I wonder how easily Fletch understands his scholarly wife.
For this book, though, the highs and lows of my reading experience average out to the middle ground of a C. This book can be purchased in mass market or ebook format. Historical Romance was her first love within the genre, but she's fickle and easily seduced by the promise of a good read. And she's always looking for the next mind-blowing read, so feel free to share any suggestions! I interpreted it as her being more fascinated with curiosities and strange things than puzzling through animal behaviors in nature.
So it worked for me. I liked this book a lot more than Desperate Duchesses. That, I think, would make a near-perfect book for me. Your review is making me rethink that. My main objection to An Affair Before Christmas was the fact that there were so many secondary characters. I could kind of cope with juggling two or three potential future couples. I find that a little intimidating as well.
Sarah T — I am with you. I wonder, though, at the making of secondary characters interesting at the expense of the primary characters. Is that something we should laud an author for? IMO, definitely not! When I pick up a romance novel, I expect to engage with the main characters and follow their story through to a satisfactory conclusion.
Sympathetic secondary characters should remain just that. I don't want to have the book focus so much on peripheral characters that they detract from the main couple.
Well said! I frankly end up skimming most secondary romances. I think the author shortchanges not only the characters but the readers when they put too much focus on a secondary romance. Readers well, ok, maybe just me really like to give their all to a romance, to fully invest themselves in the main romance. That is hard to do when there seems to be a surplus of romance storylines floating around in the story.
Lately it seems like a secondary romance is required though, or at least, has to be heavily hinted at in order to prepare for the next book in a series. That is frankly annoying.
My biggest problem with the first book in the series is that it was so lacking in focus on the primary couple that it was a struggle to read those sections. I get a little tired of young characters acting like elders and innocent women acting like brothel graduates. It was the fact that Poppy was so damn curious that caused problems for me. I mean, she was willing to crawl through the snow to find a rabbit den, and she brooded over the opposable thumbs and species classification of possums.
Dev: I hope you like it. SarahT: I am not opposed to books with secondary romances, but in this case, I think it was a mixed blessing. OTOH, because I felt that the characterizations of Poppy and Fletch were problematic, the secondary characters kind of kept me engaged in the book.
Jane: I noticed that the first book in this series got a very low grade at AAR — apparently it signaled a bumpy start to this series.
I think Kresley Cole does a good job of that. I also like some of the overlap in the Susan Elizabeth Phillips books. And I enjoyed the way Loretta Chase handled the Carsingtons in that series. I am a late comer but I wanted to tell you that I really liked this story. At times it felt too crowded and other characters overshadowed the lead. That annoyed me at times but all the stories were interesting that I did not mind it that much.
I have to disagree with your assessment of Fletch. I think he was young man with a frigid wife. That was very challenging, young men are easily disappointed and insecure about their sexual prowess.
It was very realistic for him to obsess over her coldness towards him. I actually liked how they grew up together. When he found out that his wife needed permission to go to her lectures, he blamed himself. Having said that I find certain things annoying, such as referring to Poppy as a Lady when she was a miss her mother's biggest beef against her father was that he was not titled, so how can she be a lady. I hate it when authors do not pay attention to small details.
I, too, am a late comer. I liked the subplots, but was disappointed that those subplots were not brought to conclusion. Whom did Charlotte choose? Did Jemma and Beaumont reconcile and have children? Did she ever get her chess set? Hi Vicki! I think it was mentioned on the latter part of the book.
Villiers has a story of his own which is the last book :D. We do not purchase all the books we review here. Some we receive from the authors, some we receive from the publisher, and some we receive through a third party service like Net Galley. Some books we purchase ourselves. Home Commenting Policy. Like this: Like Loading Janet isn't sure if she's an average Romance reader, or even an average reader, but a reader she is, enjoying everything from literary fiction to philosophy to history to poetry.
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An Affair Before Christmas
Share on:. Quite wonderfully, he felt the same way about her and Poppy was convinced that she would love him forever. He was attractive some said devilishly handsome , thoughtful — and a Duke. What more could a convent-educated girl like Poppy ask for? Her mother certainly thought that she'd done quite well.
REVIEW: An Affair Before Christmas by Eloisa James
The devilishly attractive Duke of Fletcher was everything the convent-educated girl wished for in a suitor and their wedding day was perfect. Unfortunately, no one had quite prepared Poppy for what would happen next. Four years later, Poppy and the duke have become the toast of High Society but behind closed doors the spark of their love affair has burned out. Fortunately, Poppy has a friend in Jemma, the Duchess of Beaumont. Jemma, who is toying with another man herself, reveals to Poppy a world of strategy and desire that will change Poppy s whole outlook on love forever. Say Yes to the Duke: a brand new irresistible romance to sweep you away this summer. Midsummer Night's Disgrace.
Review: An Affair Before Christmas by Eloisa James (2007)