April 3, 2014
At last! A sigh of relief?
I have had Eloisa James on my auto-buy list since her very first book. But, I must admit the
last three or four books have not lived up to my expectations. However, I'm glad to say Three Weeks with Lady X reminds me why I have her as an auto-buy. Was this a perfect novel? No. Were there some things in it that bothered me? Yes, and I'll explore those later. First let's look at what's good about this story. Two words: Thorn and India.
Thorn aka Tobias is the illegitimate son of the Duke of Villiers, the hero of
A Duke of Her Own. He has made an appearance in a couple of James' stories, the first time as a child. He's grown into quite a strong self-made man. He has made quite a bit of money and he is of the opinion it's time to have a family. Now, he doesn't really care a flying fig what society thinks of him, however, he does care what society will think of his children. He is on the lookout for a respectable-above reproach woman. Someone meek, submissive who will adore their children and not say too much about anything. He has a woman in mind who is perfect for the job, Lady Laetitia Rainsford. Laetitia, is a quiet, shy, backward, awkward character who I will talk more about later. In order to win Laetitia's hand he must first impress her horrible mother, so he has purchased a grand mansion, sight unseen. Now, as luck would have it this mansion is in need of repair and in order to fix the place, he has hired the social-fixer-upper Lady Xenobia India St. Claire, an interior decorator of sorts.
As anyone who has ever read a romance novel will know, India is about as far from meek as anyone could be. She, like Thorn, has some childhood baggage she's carrying around with her. Her parents were rather self-absorbed and she's grown up fending for herself. She is also of the opinion that on the night her parents were killed in a carriage accident they were leaving her behind...without even letting her know they were going. Because of this, she doesn't feel that she's loveable or that people will stay with her. However, she hasn't let that turn her into a gloomy Gus - she has instead turned into a very strong woman, opinionated and one who usually gets her own way. So when Thorn and India met, they instantly clash, and what a fun brawl these two create. Watching these two try to outmaneuver each other was mesmerizing. For most of the book I loved how these two interacted with each other. And, when they aren't together wrangling, they are sending some snappy correspondences to each other. This was one romance couple who are actually a couple.
Here come the quibbles.
I loved India, I thought she was a great heroine. However, she did develop a "he doesn't love me guess I'll turn him down and marry someone I don't love" moment. Because she is such a strong woman I would have wished that she had gone in a different direction when Thorn proposed. However, this phase of the book didn't last long. I also wasn't sure how accepted India would be in society since she was a "working" woman. Thorn quibbles. Thorn is portrayed as a manly man. He's is really really an alpha male. Toward the end of the book he started to be a scary obsessive alpha male and I was concerned that Ms. James was going to go too far with his domination. However, his method of proving his love for India balanced out the alpha male theatrics. Even though I think the river scene was a little too long and a little over the top, I also think it was needed to redeem his character. Rose quibble. Rose is one of those really precocious kids, and while I know some children who are precocious, Rose was close to being a pain in the whazoo. Then again, Ms. James did some fancy footwork and occasionally showed Rose as a child who is in a lot of pain, so the intelligence is balanced with an intermittent glimpses of a sad child. Covering the bases quibble. There were also some time period issues with things being invented, however Ms. James added a postscript announcing yes all you historical accuracy whiners she took some liberties (those were not her exact words.)
Let's talk about Laetitia.
Ms. James' has populated her story with a number of solid secondary characters - there's India's aunt, Thorn's friend Vander (hero in search of a book), Laetitia's simply horrible mother - and I do mean horrible. Her mother is just awful and she will probably be in the running for the Mommie Dearest award - truly gruesome. She's all the Disney villains in one. Back to Laetitia. Laetitia is portrayed as a terribly shy woman, she knows her mother is horrible and she talks back to her under her breath. Society thinks her a simpleton, she just doesn't talk. When she is first introduced as the woman who Thorn had picked, I was concerned that she would turn into a character who was bullied by the hero and heroine. I am really wary when a character's supposed weakness is turned into something the main characters will have a spot of fun with. This happened in This Duke is Mine with the distasteful treatment of Rupert...scarred me for life. When Laetitia is introduced and then we also learn that she cannot read due to what I am guessing is dyslexia, my irate-o-mater was starting to go off. However, glad to say Laetitia was not made into a joke and I ended up loving the scenes she was in. I would have loved even better if she had socked her mother in the face - but that's just me.
Just what do men who are described as having an overabundance of maleness really look like in real life? I just never know how big I’m supposed to visualize these men. Are we talking caveman, dragging their hairy hands on the ground kind of guy? My mind did wander down the big guy path a few times in this book, because both Thorn (hate the name) and Vander (name ugh) are portrayed as big big big and not just the Willy-Wonka mobile aka Mr. Toad. I looked around at men I work with, nope none there. I do see some men on the street who might be considered manly-men, but they are scary and smelly. As often happens when envisioning a character, I turned to the entertainment world…maybe Clive Owen, Gerard Butler, Liam Neesen or Javier Bardem fit the bill. Maybe.
Overall, I loved this book, finished it in a day after staying up to read it through the night. I thought
Three Weeks with Lady X was one of Eloisa James' better books and I'm a happy camper because I was concerned. I suspect that Ms. James had a lot of fun with these two characters when she was hammering her keyboard. Thorn and India are two excellent personalities. We get to watch them as they grow from antagonists to friends to lovers, and finally to that happily ever after couple we are all cheering on.
Time/Place: England 1799