Jul 9 2014 1:00pm

There When You Need It: How Eloisa James’s The Duke is Mine Landed on the Keeper Shelf

Full Exposure by Sara Jane StoneToday we're thrilled to welcome Sara Jane Stone, whose Full Exposure was just released. Full Exposure is the first book in the Independence Falls series and focuses on Georgia, a recently-returned soldier who is struggling with life back home. Sara Jane faced her own trying time, but found comfort in a romance novel, just when she needed it most, and she's here today to tell us how and why an Eloisa James book landed on her Keeper Shelf. Thanks, Sara Jane!

Do you remember your first?  The romance novel that drew you in and wouldn’t let go, the pages filled with tension, conflict, kisses—maybe a peek inside the bedroom—and characters you couldn’t resist rooting for?  What about your favorite?  The journey to happy-ever-after that you’ve read again and again?

My keeper shelf is lined with these books.  But there is one that stands out from the rest.  It is not the best romance novel I’ve ever read, or my favorite by this particular author.  (And I’ve read all of her books.)  It is the story that was there for me when I thought I couldn’t keep going, paralyzed by my own emotions and fears—on the New York City subway.

One cold December morning about two and a half years ago, I stood on the Q train platform fighting tears.  I’d left my screaming nineteen months old son at home, his heart seemingly broken as I walked out the door.  After spending five days and nights away from him, I wanted to stay.  But his little sister, born early at only 3 pounds 12 ounces, needed me too.  And she was still in the hospital, healthy, but too small to come home. 

The train arrived and I walked on, grateful to find a seat during the morning rush. Minutes into the hour-long ride to see my baby, I felt like the journey would never end.  Emotions threatened to overwhelm and the tears started to flow.  The other passengers looked away.  And I cried until I reached my little girl, sleeping peacefully in her incubator.

Hours later, I was exhausted, but reluctantly left my baby in the nurses’ care and headed for the subway. This time, I was determined to hold it together.  Standing on the platform, I reached into my bag and withdrew an advance copy of Eloisa James’s The Duke Is Mine that a friend had given me before my daughter’s early arrival landed me in the hospital seven weeks before my due date. 

The Duke is Mine by Eloisa JamesI spent the subway ride lost in Quin and Olivia’s world.  Every day after that, I buried my nose in that book as I left one child and traveled to see the other.  I took comfort in how the heroine, Olivia, faced obstacles, how she allowed herself to feel emotions that weren’t simple or necessarily welcome.  Olivia was not the average Regency heroine.  Her interests leaned towards unladylike pursuits—including off-color jokes.  And she was falling for the man her sister wishes to marry, which provided an intriguing barricade to her HEA ending.  But what truly drew me in and kept me turning pages, was Olivia’s struggle with perfection.  For the curvy and unconventional heroine, perfection felt out of reach—and that feeling resonated with me.    

Eloisa James’s words served as a potent reminder that perfection was overrated, that obstacles could be overcome, and that love often waited on the other side.  And the story was also a delicious escape from my world of needy toddlers and hospital wards.  Years later, I remain grateful to Eloisa James for reminding me that I am strong and that it is all right to lose myself a little in overwhelming emotion (just not on the Q train). 

Adjusting to life as a mother of two might seem like a simple, everyday task.  Millions of women face this challenge with ease.  One could say it is as ordinary as falling in love.  But I think as romance readers, we know there is nothing “ordinary” about the journey to happy-ever-after.  Each path is unique, wrought with conflict, and a true testament to the characters’ strengths.              

For Georgia, the heroine in Full Exposure, the first book in my Independence Falls series, her strength shines through when confronting the symptoms of PTSD.  Like Olivia, Georgia is an unusual heroine given that she served in the Army and returned home at twenty-something with a burning desire to seek adventure.  Despite the obstacles in her path—nightmares, fear of large crowds—she remains unbroken.  And I think this strength is something many women, and many readers, can understand. 

We often focus on the powerful Alpha heroes in our fictional worlds.  But the heroines are just as able.  In books, as in everyday life, I think a woman’s strength often comes through in the quieter moments.  For me, it was the trip between my newborn in the hospital and a child at home.  I think these seemingly small moments, when we persevere even though circumstances and emotions threaten to crush us, are at the heart of the romance stories we read and love. 

Eloisa James’ This Duke Is Mine will always have a place on my keeper shelf because that story was there for me when I needed a reminder that the things that scare me the most are only one more bump in the road to happy-ever-after.

What is on your keeper shelf?


Learn more about or order a copy of Full Exposure by Sara Jane Stone, available as an e-book now:

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After several years on the other side of the publishing industry, Sara Jane Stone bid goodbye to her sales career to pursue her dream—writing romance novels. Sara Jane currently resides in Brooklyn, New York with her very supportive real-life hero, two lively young children and a lazy Burmese cat. Visit her online at or find her on Facebook at Sara Jane Stone.

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1. Scarlettleigh
Sara, I love your topic, and blog especially where you say " woman's strength comes through in the quieter moments."

I think that is one reason I read women's fiction because it illustrates a woman's strength.

But of course you can't read that all the time -- that is why I also seem out books that make me laugh.

Any book, no matter what the subject matter that gives the reader a respite from daily problems and cares is a success in my eyes.
Jennifer Proffitt
2. JenniferProffitt
What a great and truly touching post! I'm glad Eloisa was there for you. Kresley Cole has earned a place in my heart because she's the one author that recharges me when I'm feeling down.

The one book that was very cathartic to me was Jay Crownover's Nash. I was reading it while I was on the way to see my dad for a final time while he was in hospice and during the course of the book (and we learn very early on), Nash's uncle has terminal cancer and doesn't have long to live. In a lot of ways, it was the worst book I could have read at the time because it hit very close to home, but in other ways it gave me an outlet to deal with feelings that I wanted to avoid. It helped that it was very good and is one of my new favorite series!
Carmen Pinzon
3. bungluna
Thank you for a wonderful post. I'm an avid reader and my books have seen me through trying times in my life. From "A London Season" by Joan Wolf seeing me through the first time I was a Continent away on my one to the Vorkosigan Series by Lois MacMaster Bujold making my hormonal insomnia more palatable, books have been my refuge and my respite all my life.
4. Sharlene Martin Moore
Eloisa James, Paris in Love is definitely on my keeper shelf but then so are all of Eloisa's books.
5. Barbara Leigh
Georgette Heyer's 'The Talisman Ring' is on my keeper shelf, along with every other Heyer, but that one has a special place because it was the very first Regency/Historical romance I ever read. It was given to me by a friend and was the best introduction to the genre I could imagine. I followed up that book with 'Theses Old Shades', fell in love with the Duke of Avon, and was hooked for life. I had no idea such books existed, and starting with Heyer was not a bad way to go. Even though I love today's more explicit books, I still read my Heyer's over and over.
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