Duchess By Night

Book 3 in the Desperate Duchesses, the Original Six series

Harriet, Duchess of Berrow, is desperate to flee the sadness of being a widow. Whether presiding over the Shire Court of the Duchy of Berrow, or dressed as a prim Mother Goose at an extravagant masquerade ball thrown by one of her wicked friends, Harriet’s in a rut. And she’s beginning to long for something altogether different.

It’s time for a complete change of pace – she will throw off her widow’s weeds and escape…to the famously dissolute house party held at Lord Strange’s country estate? But no duchess can appear at one of Strange’s parties without risking her reputation forever. So when the Duke of Villiers offers to accompany Harriet, she jumps at the chance – even if it means disguising herself as a young man.

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    Book Reviews
  • "James delights with seduction, surprise and humor on every page."

    ~ Publishers Weekly

  • "The third of the Desperate Duchesses stories is a light-hearted, sophisticated yet deeply emotional romp."

    ~ Romantic Times BOOKClub (4 1/2 Stars, Top Pick)

  • "...a lusciously sexy and wickedly witty tale of disguise, deception, and desire that will dazzle readers."

    ~ John Charles

“…a lusciously sexy and wickedly witty tale of disguise, deception, and desire that will dazzle readers.”

~ John Charles

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From Chapter One

January 6th (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.”

End of Excerpt

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Duchess By Night is available in the following formats:

ISBN: 978-0061245572
June 24, 2008

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Duchess By Night is Book 3 in the Desperate Duchesses, the Original Six series.

The full series reading order is as follows:

Book 1: Desperate Duchesses
Book 2: An Affair Before Christmas
Book 3: Duchess By Night
Book 4: When the Duke Returns
Book 5: This Duchess of Mine
Book 6: A Duke of Her Own