When the Duke Returns
I find James’s work difficult to fathom. She is a Professor of Shakespeare studies, yet she uses such modern phrases as ‘you must be joking’ and such modern American words as ‘smarter’ meaning ‘cleverer’, and ‘figure out’ for ‘work out’, in a novel set in 18th-century England. In the Acknowledgements she thanks four people, including a research assistant and a fact checker. Then why does a duke have his offices in the Inns of Court? And why does the Duke of Buckingham have a ‘royal carriage’?
This is the fourth book in the Desperate Duchesses series, and concerns the Duke of Cosway and his bride Isidore, married by proxy when she was a child. Now an adult, she longs for his return. But when he does arrive, she is surprised; surprised by his arrival, surprised by his unconventionality, surprised by his adherence to an Eastern mystic religion and surprised by his virginity.
James talks about writing as ‘fun’, and most of the reviews of her novels refer to them as ‘romps’. But the only way I can read them is as a postmodern comment on the Georgian and Regency novel. Why else would she call a character ‘Lord Piddle?’