Eloisa James’ My American Duchess is my first romance novel since 1993. That’s practically half of my reading life. Back in the day I enjoyed Victoria Holt, among others. But as my fairly brief first marriage was falling apart, it hurt my soul to read about romance and love. Although I’ve been happily remarried for two decades, I’ve just never picked the genre back up.

My American Duchess is a lovely, romantic story. It has plenty of sexy sizzle as well. But, sheesh, those 19th-century men just frost me. Even though I know it’s appropriate for the times, my reaction to controlling behavior is and always will be “BLECH, BLECH, BLECH.”

The good news about this Eloisa James book is that the heroine, Merry Pelford, is a strong-willed American woman hidden inside a fickle young girl. Thankfully her character develops in the course of the story.

Merry’s been engaged twice, and broken two engagements when she meets Cedric Allardyce in London. I’m not going to sugar coat it – Cedric is an ass. But somehow Merry falls for him. Just as they’re about to announce their engagement, Merry meets a man who charms and challenges her. But she stays committed to Cedric, mostly because breaking another engagement would doom her to a spinster’s life.

It’s a pretty standard trope for a romance, right? Correct me if I’m wrong, since this isn’t my genre. James does a good job of getting into the heads of her characters, and creating plenty of tension between them. I wanted to throttle Merry, along with her love interests. But I also couldn’t put the book down and had plenty of available reading time for once.

I doubt that I’ll return to romance very often, but that’s truly a case of “it’s not you, it’s me.” It’s just not my jam. But for a week when I wanted some light reading, My American Duchess has been the perfect choice.