04 February 2017

Seven Minutes in Heaven by Eloisa James (Desperate Duchesses #9, Desperate Duchesses by the Numbers #3)

Summary from Goodreads:
All of Eugenia Snowe’s problems start when Edward Reeve, an arrogant bastard son of an earl, bursts into her registry office. He wants a governess and he wants her. She gives him the governess he demands, but she refuses to give herself.

No question that Eugenia enjoys crossing wits with the brilliant inventor, but she will never tarnish her reputation with an affaire, particularly with a man who doesn’t realize she’s a lady!

She holds her ground…until he kidnaps her.

Ward will stop at nothing to convince Eugenia that they’re meant to be together. He promises her heaven.

She gives him seven minutes.

In the course of Eloisa James's Desperate Duchesses series, she introduced several children who have popped up as protagonists in later books.  Thorn (Villiers's son Tobias) found his match with Lady Xenobia in Three Weeks with Lady X.  Now Ward (the scamp Teddy from Desperate Duchesses) has met the one woman who can match wits with both himself and his new-found half-siblings:  Lady Eugenia Strange, now the widowed Mrs. Eugenia Snowe (last seen as the brilliant Shakespeare-quoting moppet in Duchess by Night).

Ward's had a very trying year.  First, he was falsely arrested and imprisoned by his fiancee's nefarious uncle to prevent their marriage (don't worry, Mia found her happily ever after in Four Nights with the Duke).  Then, he was presented with his unknown half-siblings Otis and Lizzie when his deceased mother's theatrical troupe dropped by Oxford.  He had to give up his professorship at Oxford due to said false jailing plus half-siblings.  And now his harpy of a maternal grandmother, the Duchess of Gilner, is suing for custody of Otis and Lizzie on the basis that Ward is not a suitable guardian because his parents were never married (which is rich, considering that it is her daughter, Lady Lisette, who is the connecting parent and Ward's father is an earl).  Ward is desperate for a Snowe's governess, those stoic, no-nonsense nannies that are guaranteed to bring hellions in line.  Otis and Lizzie are sweet children, but dramatic recitations, Catholic-looking mourning veils, and a velvet-cloak-wearing rat named Jarvis test the nerves of the average governess.  Unfortunately, their first Snowe's governess had an attack of nerves and quit.  And their second Snowe's governess isn't working out....

Eugenia is a workaholic with a waiting list miles long for her trained governesses.  She has no time for a rugged, brilliant, devious male (who for all that he is brilliant and rich he thinks she's a governess, more fool him) who makes her think of pleasure.  He plies her with flattery.  He plies her with pastries at Gunther's because he has deduced she has a sweet tooth that she keeps ruthlessly restrained.  He kidnaps her (it's not bad, don't worry) with the help of Eugenia's assistant who has been pushing Eugenia to both take a vacation and have an affair.  So Eugenia agrees to allow herself to be kidnapped, spend a fortnight in Oxford, help Otis and Lizzie become "Society" ready, and be passionately seduced by Ward before moving on with her life.

Things don't turn out as planned... (it's a romance novel, that always happens).

Seven Minutes in Heaven is a novel that brings together all the best of Eloisa James's writing talents: snappy, rapier-sharp dialogue, smart women, family dynamics, creative love scenes, grand gestures, and a healthy sprinkling of English playwriting. And cute animals.  Ward and Eugenia toss lines and innuendo back and forth like Bogey and Bacall. I thought the pages would catch fire during one scene (that one in the dining room, yowza).  Almost all of my favorite scenes involved Eugenia and Ward's little sister Lizzie quoting bits of Restoration drama and Shakespeare at one another (like I said, smart ladies). Eloisa's day job (awesome Shakespeare professor) has always slipped into her books in various ways and it makes them so very fun to read. [Go read The Taming of the Duke and then Etherege's play The Man of Mode because the intertextual mixing with Etherege and Shakespeare in the plot is awesome.  And then go read some John Wilmot, while I'm recommending Restoration literature, because everyone needs some dirty poetry and puns.]

I think, although I might be wrong because I can't test the opposite idea, that this is a novel that works best if you have read Duchess by Night, Desperate Duchesses, and A Duke of Her Own. Because even though certain things are explained through out the course of Seven Minutes, there's a resonant effect that's missing if you haven't those three prior books. Eugenia is too rigidly proper in public and Ward too aggressively you-can't-hurt-me-if-I-don't-let-you as over-reactions to their childhoods. You don't get the full spectrum of Lady Lisette unless you read her on the page (and Seven Minutes gives some rather frightening dimensions to Lisette's behavior in A Duke of Her Own, holy cow).

Eugenia's side of the story was a perhaps a shade too Insta-Lusty for my usual taste, but in this instance it did work for a woman who keeps her sensual side tightly controlled. I loved the appearance of the Duke of Villiers, one of the best heroes (anti-hero? Cupid at times?) ever created; he gives the best advice and gets the best quips. Every one of Eloisa's Desperate Duchesses couples appears or is mentioned at some point.  I loved it.

Seven Minutes in Heaven is out now from your favorite bookseller!

Dear FTC: I read an advance galley that I won in a giveaway and I also had a copy pre-ordered on my nook.

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