This post may contain SPOILERS.
You might say that PJ and I owe our friendship to Eloisa James. We first met and started chatting on Squawk Radio, a group blog hosted by Eloisa along with Elizabeth Bevarly, Connie Brockway, Christina Dodd, Lisa Kleypas, and Teresa Medeiros, and on Eloisa’s bulletin board. We have both been avid readers of Eloisa James’s books for a dozen years or more and have read all thirty of her novels and novellas and Paris in Love, her memoir of her family’s year in Paris. We have read many of them more than once. We were among the members of her bulletin board community who, back when we were still debating whether Jemma would end up with Elijah or Villiers, urged Eloisa to write the stories of the children in the Desperate Duchesses novels. Three Weeks with Lady X, the first of the second-generation tales, exceeded all our expectations and remains a favorite of PJ’s and of mine. For all these reasons, Seven Minutes in Heaven, seemed the perfect choice for our second duet book chat.
Janga: The hero of Seven Minutes in Heaven, Edward Reeve, was once Teddy, the mischievous small boy who made us laugh and captured our hearts in Desperate Duchesses, the first book in this series that, with Seven Minutes, totals nine books. The novel’s heroine, Eugenia Snowe, was once a small girl, formidably intelligent and delightfully eccentric, growing up in the most unconventional home of the richest man in England, her father, the fittingly named Lord Strange. One of the things I liked best about Seven Minutes was seeing Ward (Teddy) and Eugenia grown up but still unmistakably the children I adored in those earlier books. Young Teddy refused to be bound by rules, and the reader first meets Ward disregarding the rule that an appointment with Mrs. Snowe requires three weeks’ notice. There is also the matter of his having fired a Snowe’s governess, something that is just not done. Eugenia may be poised and powerful as “the owner of the most elite agency for governesses in the whole of the British Isles,” but when the narrative voice observes that “Having grown up in a household that prided itself on eccentricity, Eugenia was a fierce proponent of the virtues of conventional living,” I see that lonely little girl critically ill from rat-bite fever. The novel can certainly be read and enjoyed by readers who never read the first Desperate Duchesses books, but I think it resonates with particular richness for those of us who loved the original characters. Do you agree, PJ?
PJ: I do agree, Janga but I also think James develops these characters and tells their story in such a way that it can be fully enjoyed by readers meeting them for the first time. For me, it’s like attending the wedding of someone I’ve known and loved since childhood. My joy would carry an extra layer of depth while taking nothing away from the joy of, say, the maid of honor who didn’t meet the bride until college. While we’re on the topic of children, I’ve always felt Eloisa was especially adept at creating fully dimensional young characters in her stories and Seven Minutes in Heaven is no exception. Is it too soon to start begging Eloisa for stories featuring a third generation? As you mentioned during our chat about this book, Lizzie and Otis, Ward’s half-siblings who come into his care after the deaths of their parents, are not wallpaper characters. Even young Marmaduke, Lord Pibble, a secondary character with brief page-time, leaves an indelibly vivid impression. Growing up with four younger brothers, I well understood “Eugenia didn’t see many blue boys in the course of a day, but she often saw mothers with the hysterical air of a woman ill-prepared to domesticate the species of wild animal known as an eight-year-old boy.” But while Marmaduke made me laugh with delight, it was Otis and Lizzie who captured my heart. Eloisa does a remarkable job of bringing these two emotionally wounded but valiantly brave children to life, sensitively addressing the heartbreak they’ve faced while also infusing them with the irrepressible spirit and inherent mischief of children that age. In short, she creates real children with real issues to whom most everyone can relate. And who better to help Lizzie and Otis come to terms with the past and forge a new future than Ward and Eugenia, two adults who are both allowing their past experiences to keep them from moving forward?
Janga: Oh, I love that wedding analogy, PJ. It makes the point about different, but equally valid-- and rewarding--reads beautifully. And, yes, I totally agree that Eloisa does an exceptional job of creating child characters. I’ll vote for third-generation stories, especially if Rose from Three Weeks with Lady X joins Lizzie and Otis. There are other qualities I always look for in an Eloisa James romance as well. One is literary allusions. I loved Lizzie and Eugenia’s play-quoting scenes. I always look for at least one character name that makes me giggle: it was the loathsome Gumwater in Seven Minutes. Another is a feminist sensibility that never seems anachronistic. One of my favorite scenes in Seven Minutes was the conversation between Eugenia and her friend and assistant Susan. (What a wonderful character Susan is!) I appreciated Eugenia’s acknowledgement that if she remarried she stood to lose everything:
The moment I turned from the altar my husband would own Snowe’s. He would own my inheritance from my mother, the dowry my father gave me, and Andrew’s settlement. He would own the house that Andrew bought for our marriage.
Her words are a reminder of just how vulnerable married women were under coverture. But my favorite moment came when Eugenia conquers her fear of water and saves Otis and herself from drowning. She may whisper “I saved myself,” but the reader knows her whisper is really a cry of triumph. Not only does it address her guilt over Andrew’s losing his life to save her from drowning, but it also suggests her understanding that she can survive on her own. She loves Ward and longs for him to return her love, but if he doesn’t she can survive physically, economically, and emotionally on her own. You go, girl! Sorry. I got carried away by my enthusiasm for a book that celebrates romantic love and a woman’s independence. What do you expect from an Eloisa James book, PJ?
PJ: My expectations are similar, Janga. I expect intelligent writing and intelligent characters, humor, complexity, sexy times, sensitive times, heartrending black moments, grand gestures, and, need I say it, a bare-the-soul, relationship-saving grovel. Because, let’s face it, in Eloisa’s books, the hero usually has done something to necessitate a good grovel. Eloisa has written some epically heartbreaking black moments and the one in this book is no less than what I’ve come to expect. This pivotal “black moment” concerns Ward’s actions and had me telling Eugenia (Yes, I do talk to fictional book characters. Doesn’t everyone?) to walk away and find someone more deserving of her love. It’s a testament to Eloisa’s skill in creating fully-dimensional, multi-layered, realistic characters that I felt Eugenia’s heartbreak as if it were my own and that I wanted to string Ward up by his unmentionables for hurting her. But in true Eloisa James fashion, she knew exactly what Ward needed to do to convince Eugenia – and me – that he deserved a second chance. It’s that afore-mentioned, bare-the-soul gesture and grovel that she writes so well. Though, for me, it wasn’t the over-the-top, grand gesture recommended by his friends that cinched the deal but the small, from-the-heart one that validated the fact that he, finally and completely, loved, accepted, and appreciated all the parts of this unique and complex woman who owned his heart. Okay, to be honest, I wouldn’t have minded a bit more groveling. Eugenia deserved it for what he put her through but his gesture and his words were nicely done and from the heart. It was enough for Eugenia and that’s good enough for me.
Janga: Oh, I do love a good grovel, and I agree that Ward needed to grovel. I too wanted to shake him at times, even though I adored him. However, even when I abhorred his behavior, I understood why he acted as he did. Despite his father and Roberta’s love, his illegitimacy scarred him as did his knowledge of his mother. Part of the joy of reading a series is the sense that I know the characters with a depth I rarely get in standalones. That is especially true of Eloisa’s ensemble romances, among which are the original six Desperate Duchesses novels. Thus, in addition to my affectionate engagement with Eugenia and Ward, I also loved that Villiers is still setting women’s pulses fluttering and that Poppy and Fletch have irrepressible children. Overall, I loved this book! It was another five-star Eloisa James keeper for me. I know I will be rereading it again and again. Now I am eagerly awaiting the free short story that will introduce a new series. That’s another thing about EJ’s books: beginning a series, concluding a series, or falling somewhere between, they always leave me anticipating the next one.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~The three books in this second generation, Desperate Duchesses trilogy are, in order: Three Weeks With Lady X, Four Nights With The Duke, and Seven Minutes In Heaven.
If you're interested in reading the original Desperate Duchesses series, those books (in order) are: Desperate Duchesses, An Affair Before Christmas, Duchess by Night, When the Duke Returns, This Duchess of Mine, and A Duke Of Her Own.
Do you enjoy second (or third) generation stories?
Have you read Seven Minutes in Heaven yet? What did you think?
One randomly chosen person leaving a comment on this post will receive an autographed print copy of Seven Minutes in Heaven. Deadline for comments to be entered in the giveaway is 11:00 PM, February 7, 2017. (U.S./Canada addresses only)
As you can see, we've chosen a name for our new feature. While the suggestions everyone submitted were all wonderful, the one we chose came from another source. So, because we didn't choose one of your names, I've randomly chosen one person who left a suggestion to receive the package of books and that person is Lynda P. Congratulations, Lynda! Please send your full name and mailing address to us at: theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com.
I truly prefer stand-alone novels. With the number of books that I read and review each year, quite frankly, it's difficult to remember all of the characters in a series. Some authors have "solved" that problem by writing books that are a part of a series using the same characters but writing about them as in a stand-alone. When the book is written as if the reader has just finished the previous book yesterday, that is simply a turn-off to me.ReplyDelete
Sorry they don't work for you, Connie.Delete
I must admit I prefer stand-alones. I will read series but sometimes I don't get them in order or I miss a few. I use to wait until the series was over but that doesn't really work either since I end up waiting forever (Outlander is one example) or give up on it. I do enjoy them when I do read them. No, I haven't read this as yet but I do enjoy her stories.ReplyDelete
I enjoy both, catslady. I love the feeling of 'family' that I get from a series and the ability to follow along on a particular couple's after-the-HEA jouney. On the other hand, I also enjoy a well-written standalone.Delete
Brilliant conversation, ladies. You've both hit all the points that made me love this story, too. Even though I've read all Eloisa's books, I enjoyed this one as a stand alone because I am utter rubbish at remembering connections in books. Eloisa did not overwhelm the reader with so much detail about who folks were that it took away from Ward & Eugenia's own story.ReplyDelete
And I do enjoy a good grovel!
I felt the same way, Santa. It's been years since I read the original series. While Eugenia was still fresh in my mind, I barely remembered Ward other than knowing that he was a mischievous child. He came to me fully formed as an adult in this book. While it was enjoyable to have a few of the original characters show up, I could easily have read this as a standalone and enjoyed it just as much.Delete
This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyDelete
I enjoy both but really love series books. I love reading about characters in earlier books. It's like old home week.:) Can't wait to read Seven Minutes In Heaven.ReplyDelete
Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com
I agree, Carol. It's like going to a family reunion, no?Delete
I enjoy reading series books. I only wish they would come out closer together so I can remember all the characters from the previous books! I really enjoyed Seven Minutes In Heaven. I loved the flirting and the humor in the book.ReplyDelete
I understand how difficult it is for an author to write that fast, Amy but I sure do love those trilogies that come out in consecutive months. Fun for us readers!Delete
Stand alone novels are my favorite, but I do stick with a series which I adore.ReplyDelete
I read a mix of both but I love a good series that can hold my attention through all of the books. I've found in recent years (as I age), that I get much more enjoyment from trilogies or quartets. My memory just isn't what it used to be! ;-)Delete
A series which I find captivating and enjoy the characters and story grips me and I continue to read. Stand alones are wonderful.ReplyDelete
It's all about the writing, isn't it?Delete
You found the perfect picture to go with this feature. The little girls talking and drinking tea is just adorable.ReplyDelete
I prefer stand-alones, but there are many series that I have really enjoyed.
Thanks, Cheryl! Credit for the graphic goes to Graphics by Sharlene. It was the first photo she suggested and we love it!Delete
If it is a favorite author, I do enjoy series books. Mainly I read stand alones though. I haven't read Seven Minutes in Heaven yet.ReplyDelete
Cathy, I hope you enjoy Seven Minutes as much as Janga and I did!Delete
Some of my all-time favorite books are standalones, but I admit that I am a series addict. I grew up reading series with the girl books of Louisa May Alcott, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Maud Heart Lovelace, and Laura Ingalls Wilder. A bit later I read Elswyth Thayne's Williamsburg series, Mazo de la Roche's Jalna books (15 or 16 of them), and series by authors such as D. E. Stevenson, Elizabeth Cadell, Elizabeth Goudge, and Faith Baldwin. My love for romance series is a natural extension. I'm also a rereader of books I love. That may account for the characters remaining fresh in my memory.ReplyDelete
And, PJ, I've read some comments on FB that assured me we are not the only ones hoping for a third-generation of Desperate Duchesses books. :)
I'm happy to hear we're not the only ones clamoring for third-generation stories!Delete
I enjoy both series and stand-alones. The nice thing about a series is that we get a glimpse of past favorite characters.ReplyDelete
I read the original Duchess series, but I haven't read the second generation yet.
You have some good reading ahead with the second generation, Kim!Delete
This was a great post. Thanks!ReplyDelete
I am a series JUNKIE! For real. If it's a series, I'm all in. Sometimes if it's a long series I'll take a break. Otherwise, I'm chomping at the bit for the next release. There have been times where I've discovered a series in progress and then I'm the happiest of readers, because I can devour them one after the other.
here have been times where I've discovered a series in progress and then I'm the happiest of readers, because I can devour them one after the other.Delete
I love when that happens! :)
I must say either/or works for me! I love stand-alones as they don't require a lot of brainwork trying to remember past associations, relationships, etc. However, series are a fun treat for me as it's nice to see characters "live on" past their own HEA's (or meet them BEFORE their HEA's)! I am a big fan of those FAMILY series as they give me, not only the warm fuzzies from their H/h, but also from the siblings/parents connections as well!!!ReplyDelete
Family series are among my favorites. It was probably Johanna Lindsey's Malory-Anderson series that first hooked me on the family romance series.Delete
This is my third attempt to comment!!!! My computer keeps crashing. I hate IT issues!ReplyDelete
Anyway, quickly before it happens again. I love the new feature name and the picture (just as I picture the both of you discussing books! LOL)
I loved SEVEN MINUTES IN HEAVEN. As I stated on Goodreads, it has one of my favorite tropes - the hero (or heroine) making very wrong assumptions about the other’s character. It’s been a while since I’ve been so engaged in a story. At the beginning I kept waiting for Ward to realize who Eugenia was and then I got it! I got where EJ was going and I knew the big reveal and repercussions were going to be fabulous. I cried when Eugenia realized what Ward thought of her and I rejoiced when he walked into the ballroom and saw her decked out from head to toe in diamonds and realized what a huge mistake he had made. That scene alone is why I love series. I loved that Eugenia was surrounded by family and friends and I loved that I knew them all.
I’m happy to read a good story whether it’s a standalone or part of a series. But, as Janga knows, I share her love of series. I just feel as if I’m getting so much more with a series. More relationships, more highs and lows, climaxes and big reveals, more angst, joy and more than just one HEA. And with the next book in the series I get to visit characters I’ve come to love and see their HEA play out for years to come.
Now I’m off to find other books with this similar trope. I’m thinking that Mary Balogh has used it before and I’m itching to read another just like it. Like you, PJ, my memory is just not what it used to be and I’m having a real hard time remembering all the books I’ve read, even the ones I’ve loved!
Glad to hear you enjoyed the book as much as we did, Irish. I have a few favorites I re-read every year because when I start to forget the details of the story it almost feels like I'm losing a friend.Delete
I love series and I love standalone novels. If a series has different generations, I enjoy those, too. I have not read the latest from Eloisa James.ReplyDelete
Hope you like this new one!Delete
I enjoy both a series and a stand alone. For me, it is more the author that drives what I choose. I have not read this one yet. I hope to get it soon. I have read most of Ms James' books. And I have always enjoyed her work.ReplyDelete
I like this new idea. I believe the picture is absolutely perfect. But, I thought both of you were taller.
For me, it is more the author that drives what I choose.Delete
I feel the same, Annette. If it's an author I enjoy then I really don't care if it's a standalone, part of a series, full-length, or a novella. It'a all a pleasure.
But, I thought both of you were taller.
I'm laughing out loud at this because, truth be told, we're both a bit vertically challenged. ;-)
I don't mind reading standalone books but I also enjoy a series as it’s nice to meet and follow characters from one book to another. I also think this heightens the excitement in waiting for the next book to be released. I loved all of Eloisa's "Duchess" books.ReplyDelete
It's almost like anticipating a visit from a good friend, isn't it?Delete
I read all types of stories because I love a variety so I try to mix it upReplyDelete
I do love series - it's fun to catch up with characters in subsequent books. I read the first six Desperate Duchess books just last year and look forward to reading these latest three Duchess books. It is fun to read about the next generation, while catching up with the characters featured in earlier books, but I'm not sure If I've read something about a third generation. I often switch to a stand-alone book after reading a series.ReplyDelete
I haven't read this one yet, but it's high on my TBR list. I do love Eloisa's books. Series are good. I like the opportunity to catch up with "book friends" as the series continues. Thanks for the post and giveaway.ReplyDelete
I love reading a series. I also love to read 2nd and 3rd generations. I haven't read Seven Minutes in Heaven.ReplyDelete
I love that picture with the 2 friends having tea sitting in those old fashion chairs.
I enjoy both but I prefer the continuity of reading a series. It makes me feel like I'm visiting with old friends when they pop up in another book of the series and we find out what they've been up to. Besides Stephanie Laurens' Cynsters family series, I can't think of any other 2nd/3rd generations books I've read off the top of my head. Thanks for the chance to win Eloisa's book, I'm looking forward to reading this one!ReplyDelete
Congratulations, Lynda. Enjoy the books.ReplyDelete
I enjoy series. If I have followed and finished one, I enjoy the next generation series. It is nice to revisit characters in a series. In a next generation series, we get to visit earlier characters that have aged and are at a different stage of their lives than they were in the first books. The next generation books will often be dealing with different social issues and norms.
Love your choice of name for this new feature! For me, if books are written by my favorite authors, I'll read them all anyways doesn't matter if they're standalones or in a series. But I have to confess I'm a huge fan of series since I love the connections between characters. I haven't read this one yet but it's on my wish list and I can't wait to read it as well as another second generation story coming out in a couple of weeks, Lisa Kleypas' Devil In SpringReplyDelete
I like both.ReplyDelete