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HarperCollins Publishers
Duchess by Night (Desperate Duchesses Series #3)

Duchess by Night (Desperate Duchesses Series #3)

by Eloisa James
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A Mischievous Charade . . .

Harriet, Duchess of Berrow, is tired of her title and the responsibilities that come along with it. Enough with proper tea parties and elegant balls; what Harriet really wants is to attend an outrageous soiree where she can unleash her wildest whims and desires. But to attend such an event—especially if the event in question is Lord Justinian Strange's rollicking fete, filled with noble rogues and rotters, risqué ladies and illicit lovers—would be certain scandal. That's why she must disguise herself . . .

Looking forward to a night of uninhibited pleasure, Lord Strange is shocked to discover that beneath the clothes of a no-good rake is the most beautiful woman in the room. Why is a woman like her risking her reputation at his notorious affair? And can he possibly entice her to stay . . . forever?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 2900061245571
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 06/24/2008
Series: Desperate Duchesses Series
Pages: 384
Product dimensions: 4.25(w) x 1.00(h) x 6.80(d)

About the Author

Eloisa James is a USA Today and New York Times bestselling author and professor of English literature, who lives with her family in New York, but can sometimes be found in Paris or Italy. She is the mother of two and, in a particularly delicious irony for a romance writer, is married to a genuine Italian knight. Visit her at

Read an Excerpt

Duchess By Night

Chapter One

In Which Cinderella Dresses for the Ball and Her Fairy Godmother Brings a Goose Instead of a Pumpkin

January 6 (Twelfth Night), 1784
A Costume Ball
The Country Seat of the Duke of Beaumont

Nursery tales are full of fascinating widows, although they aren't always the nicest characters. Cinderella's stepmother likely put on a dazzling gown for the prince's ball, even if her daughters did inherit her big feet and sharp tongue.

Harriet, Duchess of Berrow, realized soon after her husband died that there are glamorous widows, and then there are widows who live in shoes with too many children, like poor Loveday Billing. There are widows who dance all night with younger men, and then there are dowdy widows who are offered only pinched smiles.

Harriet had no illusions about what kind of widow she was. She was the kind who lived in a shoe, and never mind the fact that she had no children and her estate was much larger than a shoe.

Her husband had been dead for two years and no younger—or older—men were lining up to ask her to dance. Most of her acquaintances still got a tragic sheen in their eyes and promptly moved away after greeting her, as if sadness was catching.

Apparently, if one's husband committed suicide, one automatically became the unappealing type of widow.

Partly it was her fault. Here she was at the Duchess of Beaumont's impromptu costume ball—but was she dressing as a glamorous character? Or even an evil one?

"Who are you?" her friend Jemma (the aforesaid Duchess of Beaumont) asked.

"A nursery rhyme character. Can you guess which one?" Harriet was wearing a motherly nightgown of plain cotton that her maid had recruited from the housekeeper. Underneath she had three petticoats, as well as four woolen stockings in her bodice. Just to show off a bit, she arched her back.

"A nursery rhyme character with big breasts," Jemma said. "Very big breasts. Very very—"

"Motherly breasts," Harriet prompted.

"Actually you don't look motherly as much as wildly curvaceous. The problem will be if one of our houseguests lures you into a corner and attempts a cheerful grope. Wasn't there some nursery rhyme about lighting the way to bed?"

"I'm not on my way to bed," Harriet said, somewhat deflated. "And no one ever tries to grope me. What character are you?"

Jemma's gown was made of a clear pale pink that looked wonderful with the dark gold color of her unpowdered hair. There were small silk poppies sewn all over her skirts, and poppies tucked in her hair. She managed to look elegant and yet untamed, all at once.

"Titania, Queen of the Fairies."

"I'm Mother Goose. Which fairly sums up the difference between us."

"What are you talking about!" Jemma scolded, wrapping an arm around Harriet. "Look at you, darling. You are far too young and fresh to be Mother Goose!"

"No one will know who I am," Harriet said, pulling away from Jemma and sitting on the bed. "They'll think I'm a fat white ghost."

Jemma started laughing. "The ghost of a murdered cook. No, all you need is a clue to your Mother Goose status, and people will admire the cleverness of your costume. Wait until you see Lord Pladget as Henry VIII: he has a hearth rug tied around his middle and he looks as big as a barn." "I already look as big as a barn, at least on top."

"A goose!" Jemma said. "Of course, you need a goose and I know just the one!"

"Oh, but—"

Two minutes later, Jemma was back. With a goose.

"Is that real?" Harriet asked warily.

"In a matter of speaking. I'm afraid it's a little stiff. It usually flies along the wall in the south parlor. My mother-in-law has a morbid attitude toward decorating that involved arranging all kinds of dead animals on the walls. You can use the poor goose tonight, darling, and then we'll set him free to fly to a better place, if you understand me."

Harriet took the goose in her hands rather dubiously. It was stuffed so that its neck stayed stiff, as if it were in flight.

"Just tuck it under your arm," Jemma said. Harriet stood up and tried it. "Not like that. Here, turn his head upright so he looks like a friend whispering in your ear."

Harriet stared down at the bird's glossy eyes. "This is not a friendly goose." It looked ready to lunge from her hands and peck someone.

"There is no such thing as a friendly goose," Jemma said. "I must go see how Isidore is coming with her costume. I checked on her earlier and her maids were frantically tearing apart two dresses. She says she's going to be a queen, but I'm afraid she's going to enter the ballroom wrapped in a handkerchief."

"Why doesn't Isidore go by her title of Duchess of Cosway?" Harriet asked. "Last night she was announced as Lady Isidore Del'Fino."

"I don't think she's ever met the duke. Her husband, I mean," Jemma said. "Or if she did, it was for five minutes years ago. So she uses her own title, although for tonight she's the Queen of Palmyra."

"If you had told me that you were planning a Twelfth Night costume party," Harriet said, putting the goose down, "I could have been a queen as well."

"Apparently queens don't wear much clothing, so you'll definitely be more comfortable this way. And I'm sorry about not warning you, darling, but it's so much fun doing it last minute. You should see people rushing about the house looking for costumes. The butler is going mad! It's wonderful."

And with that, Jemma sailed out of the room leaving Harriet with the goose.

It was absurd to feel so sorry for herself. Every time she walked into Judge Truder's court she heard of people whose lives were far more desperate. Why just last month there was a girl who stole half a jar of mustard and six oranges. Truder had actually woken up and wanted to give the poor child hard labor, fool that he was.

Duchess By Night. Copyright © by Eloisa James. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Duchess by Night (Desperate Duchesses Series #3) 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 64 reviews.
Solstice-Ballad1 More than 1 year ago
Harriet--an adventure seeking woman who disguises herself as a man--well there's definitely some amusing drama here.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Eloisa James is one of my favorite historical romance writers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Oh my gosh! This is my favorite of the series! Harriet and Strange.... lol...I am only on page 88 and captivated by it...can't wait to see what happens...stay tuned
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Got so caught up in the book I forgot to feed myself. Too good to put down
AnnBKeller More than 1 year ago
Harriet, the Duchess of Berrow, is bored with her privileged life. She needs a challenge. Thus begins her elaborate plan to disguise herself as a notorious rake at one of Justinian Strange¿s unique parties. Lord Strange entertains actors and actresses, rakes, scoundrels and ladies of questionable character. His parties are lively, scandalous and the talk of the town. Harriet is both shocked and intrigued. Jem Strange watches his new arrival with curious interest. Although the gentleman seems but a pretty youth, he is unaccountably attracted to him. Steeling himself against the young man¿s charms, he tries to distance himself, but is thrown together with Harriet repeatedly. How long can Harriet maintain her disguise before Jem¿s probing eyes?
Lynz_in_Love More than 1 year ago
I found this story to be very entertaining and endearing. Essentially, you have a bored female socialite who decides along with her friend to cause a bit of a scandal by going to a notorious rake's home for a few weeks. Between the overly touchy actresses taking up residence in the home, one stubborn male, and the sweetest little girl on earth, you have strength, passion, and the protection of love. It was a quick read for a Sunday afternoon and one that I will probably repeat again in the future. If you're looking for other interesting historicals, check out some of my recommendations.
curlyloulou More than 1 year ago
I really liked this story. Harriet and Jem were a great couple of characters. I also like how the author doesn't drag out her sickbed/deathbed scenes too long.
Daphsmomma More than 1 year ago
To really have never known your husband but you thought you did. Oh this was sad at the beginning when she found out stuff that she did not know. An for Harriet to dress up as a guy. WOW that was wild. Strange and Harriet are a well matched pair in this book. I enjoyed reading about his daughter and how he tried everything in his power to keep her safe. They go through an awful lot in this book. But in the end it pays off and this is my third fav book out of this series. I enjoyed reading their story and will likely just pick this book up again without reading the 2 in front of it..
duchessbyday More than 1 year ago
I love romances and for years I made fun of my mother for reading historical romances. When she gave me this book I laughed at her and told her there was no way I was actually going to enjoy this. I was WRONG! This is one of my favorite books of all time. I love the secrets and the lies. It's a great read. More Eloisa James!!!
daisy66 More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. All of the Duchess series has been wonderful. My first Duchess book was in the middle and I had to go back and then forward to make sure I got all the books. Absolutely wonderful! It would be great to have more of the Duchess series. I recommend all of Eloisa James' books, especially this series. She is a wonderful writer and had me engrossed in her books just by the cover and her name.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A little slow moving in the very beginning, but once the characters have been established and story line set: EXCELLENT. I giggled through most of the chapters where Jem attempts to make a man out of Harry. I'm anticipating the next release.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is my favorite book so far in the Duchess Series. I loved Jem and Harriet two fun characters that you can't help but love. This book is a great summer reading.
amf0001 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Eloisa James is hit or miss with me, I don't like all her books. This one worked for me, I liked how Jem floundered, wondering how he could be so interested in the very young Harry. I enjoyed Jem and Harry a lot. What I didn't like was the forced fight at the end, I felt like the last 50 or so pages were only there because the book had to be X pages long. I was really disappointed with them and actually didn't need the daughter (Eugenia? something like that) to fall dramatically ill at all. Jem felt wretched enough and had learnt his lesson, it felt like over kill to me. I also hated the epilogue which made no sense either. So bulk of the book worked well, ending, not so much.
readinggeek451 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another of James's fun, sexy Georgian romances. Harriet is tired of being a widow. For reasons of friendship, she winds up at one of Lord Strange's disreputable houseparties, disguised as a man. She loves the freedom it gives her. Meanwhile, Lord Strange is trying to figure out why he's so attracted to his new male guest. Hijinks ensue.
kayceel on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was interesting - Harriet, a widowed duchess, agrees to go to a notorious lord's house with a friend, but in order to fit in, Harriet disguises herself as a man. Delighted with the freedom she has dressed as such, Harriet gives herself over to riding, fencing, and discussions over port. But when the man of the house, Lord Strange, shows an interest in "Harry," as unsettling as it is for Lord Strange, Harriet soon finds herself in a tricky situation...This was VERY steamy - not for the shy. The characters are intriguing ( both main characters and supporting) and are well-developed. The insight Harriet gains into the differences between rules for women and for men was fascinating both for her and for me as the reader.Recommended.
Anniik on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was just okay. Nothing really happened, it wasn't particularly funny or exciting or romantic. It's not a bad book, just really nothing that impressed me. We also didn't get to know the characters very well, until she threw their histories at us all at once at the very end. *shrugs* Just kind of not that good.
thebookbabe on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The only reason I'm torturing myself by reading this series is someone gave me the 4th book and there's always a notorious backstory to everyone who keeps showing up in subsequent books. While I'm not against chick-in-pants stories (and we've often discussed them on the Regency list at YahooGroups) this one didn't do it for me. Firrst off: way too wordy. Maybe James was committed to x-number word count but there was a lot of repetitious stuff I skimmed. Secondly, where does she come up with the weird names for some of her characters. Eloisa James and I just don't meld well; thankfully I've been reading library books so have not had to shell out cash for them. Once this series is read I'm washing my hands of her. Too many other books in my TBR to waste time on hers.
jjmachshev on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Eloisa James tends to be hit and miss with me and I'm pretty bummed that "Duchess By Night" was a miss. I thought the premise of a Duchess dressed as a man and privately exposed (definite pun there) was a winner, especially when the Duchess in question was Harriet whose boring husband offed himself after losing a game of chess! But this one seemed very confusing to me. I think maybe it was just too much going on and too many characters. Maybe it was the over-layered plot, but whatever...I really had to push myself to finish it and not just quit.
crashingwaves38 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book! The past couple of James books I have read weren't that great, but I feel that this one is back up to her standards. It has great character development in both of the main characters, which is fantastic. You don't always see that anymore. There were interesting side characters who were definitely involved in the plot but didn't overtake the plot or muddle it up too much. Watching Jem and Harriet fall in love and make mistakes and yet still come together was wonderful. I have to admit that the plot didn't go exactly where I thought it was going to go. In fact, it went in a fairly different direction. But I'm ok with where it went. On a personal level, this book spoke to me because it was about setting aside the shackles that society places on you and becoming free to be yourself. I love seeing that happen and seeing how people change when they can finally let go. All in all, a great romance novel!
phyllisd on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Eloisa James has the best characters and this is no exception. I especially enjoyed the daughter Eugenia. This book is comedic with the heroine dressing as a man to attend a house party without scandal. This book in the series had a better balance of main story plot line versus series plot line. Great tease for book 4 though.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a fun book to read! I am looking forward to the rest in this series!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book lots of fun
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
AustenStudent More than 1 year ago
Well. I should have been listening to Eloisa James’ Desperate Duchesses series on audio all along because Susan Duerden is a fabulous narrator and makes this, the third book in the series, come alive with energy, seduction, and wit. She reads both the languid Duke of Villiers as well as the intelligent and sexy Jem with a husky, breathy, and intoxicating voice that just curls your toes. As I’ve written before about this series, it isn’t a true historical romance, but this one does have a central romance that dominates the story. And it’s a breathlessly romantic love story. Harriet, the Duchess of Berrow, is the plain and lonely widow of a man who committed suicide. She lacks self confidence and has an air of sadness about her, but she has a good and kind heart, as evidenced by her presiding as a sort of pseudo-judge in lieu of her local and often drunk magistrate. She has a reputation for fairness and openness and brings justice to all her decisions. When an opportunity for something different comes along, however, Harriet jumps at the chance. She will impersonate a young man to accompany her restless Italian friend Isidore, the Duchess of Cosway, who wants to make her long-absent husband jealous and bring him back home. Along with the dissolute Duke of Villiers (who is recovering from a duel suffered in book one), they will attend one of the notorious Lord Strange’s infamous country house parties at Fonthill. Orgies and all manner of debauched behavior are rumored and Isidore thinks it will the perfect venue for her scheme to lure her husband back to her. To preserve her reputation as a duchess, however, Harriet becomes Harry Cope, a very pretty young man. And to Jem’s horror, he finds himself wildly attracted to Cope. Villiers reassures Jem that Cope is merely a green young buck who wants to gain experience in the world. And so the game begins. I love the scenes where Jem teaches Harry to fence and ride a horse properly; her aches and pains contribute much to the humor here. But so do their lively and provocative conversations as they slowly get to know one another. I also enjoy Jem’s expressed love for his bright young daughter, Eugenia, a sweet child. The love between father and daughter is lovely to read and evident on the page. Harry can’t help but fall in love with both of them. Harriet is a wonderful heroine. Being at Strange’s house opens up a whole new world for this sheltered young woman. Her transformation is a joy to read as she enjoys herself for the first time in her life, meeting exciting new people and pretending to be a man as she engages in forbidden male discussions of science and politics. Jem is a complex hero. A widow who is caring for a young daughter, he surrounds himself with people of questionable character to fill his days and nights. And it was a fine life, until Harriet turns his world upside down. The romance between Harriet and Jem is exciting to read. Their love scenes are very erotic and playful, joyful and poignant. It is so beautiful and romantic, it often made me weepy. The Duke of Villiers becomes even more likable here and I look forward to eventually reading his story in A Duke of Her Own. As in all her stories, Eloisa James’ writing snaps and sparkles as she describes the Georgian period in its rich, crude, and ostentatious details of fashion and manners (panniers for example, and public urination). With each book, this series keeps getting better and even more so now that I’ve discovered Susan Duerden. Her slight Italian accent for Isidore perfectly masks Isidore’s self-consciousness while her reading of Eugenia is both charming and just child-like enough without being cloying. Bloody brilliant when listened to on audio. I laughed, I cried. I loved it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It took awhile to get into and then slowed down in the middle. It was hard to care about the main characters!