25 March 2014

Three Weeks With Lady X (Desperate Duchesses #7)

Summary from Goodreads:

Having made a fortune, Thorn Dautry, the powerful bastard son of a duke, decides that he needs a wife. But to marry a lady, Thorn must acquire a gleaming, civilized fa├žade, the specialty of Lady Xenobia India.

Exquisite, head-strong, and independent, India vows to make Thorn marriageable in just three weeks.

But neither Thorn nor India anticipate the forbidden passion that explodes between them.

Thorn will stop at nothing to make India his. Failure is not an option.

But there is only one thing that will make India his—the one thing Thorn can't afford to lose...

His fierce and lawless heart.

Eloisa James’s readers will last remember Tobias Dautry (aka Juby, his unfortunate mudlark moniker), illegitimate son of the Duke of Villiers and an opera singer, as a fastidious Oxford scholar holding his baby half-brother on his step-mother’s birthday in the Epilogue for A Duke of Her Own. Eight years have passed since then and now Tobias prefers the name “Thorn.” He is a “chip off the old duke” – ruthless, brilliant, stubborn, dangerous, black of hair streaked with white, and rich beyond imagination but, unfortunately for Thorn’s matrimonial prospects, still not rich enough to completely erase the fact that his parents were never married or erase the childhood experience of mucking in the dangerous waters of the Thames under a cruel master. Thorn has found the perfect lady, Miss Laetitia Rainsford, to keep his house and bear beautiful legitimate children but her too-high-in-the-instep mother needs to agree to the match. To this end he has purchased Starberry Court, the (infamous) residence of a deceased aristocrat, and needs it redecorated in such a manner as to sway Lady Rainsford.

And when a member of the aristocracy requires a household to be lavishly updated and put to rights, they call upon Lady Xenobia India St. Clair to work her magic. Although the short timetable of three weeks might seem impossible, India, the formerly impoverished daughter of an eccentric marquess, finds the house itself - questionable statuary and all - a far easier task than its enticing owner. India and Thorn clash over proprieties, beginning a dizzying round of messages. He teases her about extravagances (painted swallows on the dining room wall! knitted stockings!), she responds by usurping furniture crafted for other patrons at an exorbitant price while ignoring innuendo meant to get a rise out of her (it occasionally works). Before long, Thorn and India are locked in a problem of their own making: how to love and trust when the only person you could truly count on was yourself.

Eloisa James has returned to her acclaimed Desperate Duchesses series with a new installment for the next generation. Thorn and India spar and poke and annoy and argue and have searing make-up sex and confess (they are the Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn of 1799 – if you haven’t seen Pat and Mike or Adam’s Rib, I highly recommend them for the way Tracy and Hepburn just dig at each other with words) and just fall head-over-heels for each other even though the sudden realization of “love” just doesn’t fall in with the plan: get Lady Rainsford to agree to an engagement between Thorn and Laetitia while India will finish her last job at Starberry Court and then get married to someone else. Even some very sage, though veiled, advice from the Duke of Villiers fails to help the lovers sort themselves out. The eventual resolution is very worthy of a batch of soggy Kleenex.

Alongside the hero and heroine, Eloisa stocks her book with fabulous characters. Thorn is the guardian of the orphaned Rose, daughter of one of his band of mudlarks, and a child with such an intelligent, old soul she is an immediate foil for both Thorn and India. Thorn also has a best friend, Vander, who will inherit a dukedom but has a dark childhood of his own. India’s chatty, sweet godmother Lady Adelaide is a dear. Laetitia has a secret and a fantasy that may never come true. She also, unfortunately, has a mother who is the worst combination of Mrs. Bennet, Lady Catherine, and Mrs. Norris (just to mix our Austen references – Eloisa has scattered several throughout the book) and on the receiving end of one of the best lines in the entire book.

That line is uttered by Eleanor, the Duchess of Villiers (the Duke of Villiers gets my second favorite line). I was beyond delighted to find Eleanor and Villiers included in a good chunk of plot. They are my favorite Eloisa couple, both with very smart, distinctive voices. They make me smile. She could write them into all her books and I’d be a happy, happy reader (I may get my wish since I think some of the other Villiers children may feature in future books). Three Weeks with Lady X is out TODAY from your favorite bookseller. Run, do not walk, to the store or your e-reading device/app of choice and BUY THIS BOOK. Happy reading!

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