Our present-day Desperate Housewives can't compete with these Desperate Duchesses for great drama, humor and troublemaking. James brilliantly recreates the colorful atmosphere of the Georgian era, allowing her utterly delightful -- and sometimes quirky -- characters to play out their story. Known for her sophisticated, intelligent writing, James does everything brilliantly. Her characters and her wit are on target, and every moment is one to savor.
It's love at first sight for the sheltered Lady Roberta St. Giles -- whose father is a poet known as the "Mad Marquess" -- when she spies the Duke of Villiers across a ballroom. Determined to marry him, she accepts an invitation to a party at the home of Jemma, the Duchess of Beaumont.
The naughty, notorious duchess has just returned from France, ready to take on a new challenge. She finds it when she agrees to help a friend ruin Villiers. Jenna realizes Roberta is the perfect pawn to lure him into a chess tournament that would destroy him.
But Jemma's brother, Lord Gryffyn, Damon Reeves, vows to protect Roberta from Villiers and falls in love with her himself. How to avenge a wrong and find true love; now that's the rub! (Avon, Jun., 400 pp., $6.99)