Four Nights with the Duke

Four Nights with the DukeWhen Emilia “Mia” Carrington was 15, a poorly written poem about her unrequited love for Evander Septimus Brody, future Duke of Pindar, fell into the wrong hands. Teased and scorned, Mia swore that she was never marry Vander, even if he was the last man on earth. Years later, however, Mia is desperate to secure her nephew’s future and turning to Vander is her only option. Despite their scandalous and complicated past, Vander surprisingly agrees to Mia’s bold proposal, but only on his terms. When Vander realizes that Mia has no intention of meeting his terms, the battle between childhood enemies becomes a seductive back-and-forth between the Duke and his wife.

Four Nights with the Duke is Eloisa James’ latest novel, continuing the story of characters first introduced in Three Weeks with Lady X and loosely connected to her Desperate Duchesses series. Four Nights takes two seemingly disparate main characters and throws them into a classic and familiar “forced marriage of convenience” plot. The trope is a classic one in romance, especially historical romance, but James makes it feel fresh and new with her own twists – a heroine engaging in blackmail, a hero initially more interested in horses than wives, and one utterly hilarious (and inappropriately drunk) uncle. I personally enjoy these types of novels because there is something supremely satisfying in watching a hero and heroine fight against their circumstances until they finally realize and accept the inevitable: love will conquer all. And because it’s Eloisa James, the journey of getting to that point is the best part.

In a strange way, Four Nights reminded me a lot of many contemporary romance novels. (Bear with me here, because I think this is a good thing).  Much like real life in the 21st century, Mia and Vander’s story is messy and complicated. Vander is still scarred by the choices his parents made, while Mia wrestles with insecurities and that lingering, unpleasant memory starring Vander himself. They both must learn to communication and compromise, as they figure out what they really want. And, without giving too much away, the story thread involving Mia’s first fiancé, demonstrates that sometimes, other people – good people – do get hurt when love is on the line. So, for me, Four Nights really emphasized the universal and timeless nature of romance and love. No matter what century or country you might be in, love can be a mess. But ultimately, it’s worth it. 

While Mia and Vander’s love story is the central focus of the novel, my favorite part was not their relationship, but rather James’ sly (and, in some cases, not-so-sly) nods and odes to all things literary. Four Nights is James’ meta novel, since Mia is a romance novelist herself. The snippets of her work in progress give readers a little bit of insight into a writer’s mind, and into Mia’s internal struggle as she tries to write a fictional happy ending while finding her own.

Aside from Mia’s literary accomplishments, James’ includes a number of other little winks to beloved literary inspirations, from Mia’s nephew Charles Wallace (A Wrinkle in Time), Sir Chuffy’s frequent Twelfth Night references (and his resemble to one Sir Toby Belch) and a shout-out to fellow historical romance novelist Julia Quinn, in the form of Mia’s devotion to a Miss Julia Quiplet’s books. There’s even a passing reference to Miss Butterworth and the Mad Baron (and those infamous pigeons!), a fictional book-within-a-book that appears in many of Quinn’s own novels. Oh, the meta-ness! My literary-loving heart keep leaping with joy at each new reference I discovered.

So if you love fun, tongue-in-cheek references to other literary sources, appallingly bad poetry (seriously, it’s bad), novel-writing heroines, and a devastatingly handsome duke groveling and atoning for his errors, then you will certainly want to read Four Nights with the Duke. It’s classic, wonderful, delightful Eloisa James at her best. Now, may we please have a Sir Chuffy prequel? (Please?!?)

Note: I received an advanced copy of this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. I also bought my own copy, because of course! 

[Photo Credit: Goodreads]

A Bollywood Affair

A Bollywood AffairAt the age of four, in a small Indian village, Mili Rathod was married. 20 years later, even though Mili hasn’t seen her husband since that day, her status as a married woman has allowed her a rare freedom – the opportunity to study in America. Mili jumps at the chance for her bit of freedom, all while wondering when (or if) her husband will ever come to find her. Then, one day, someone does find her – Samir Rathod, the younger brother of Mili’s supposed husband and a hot-shot Bollywood direction. Samir tracked Mili down to secure a divorce on his brother’s behalf, but the woman he finds is not at all what he expected. As Mili and Samir are drawn closer together, both will question what matters more: family obligations, or personal happiness?

Sonali Dev’s gorgeously-written debut novel, A Bollywood Affair, is a wonderful, heartfelt and deeply emotional love story. Steeped in contemporary Indian culture (with all its diversity and variety), Dev’s book captures the confusion, hope and struggle found both in a new romance and in those trying to balance family and tradition with a modern world. And even though Mili and Samir’s romance is an integral part of the plot, Dev’s novel extends beyond romance to explore the complicated and complex relationships between parents and children, siblings and the families we make for ourselves.

A Bollywood Affair is bursting with details and descriptions that are bright and vibrant (particularly the chapters featuring a hastily-planned Indian wedding) and the precise commentary on all of the food is sure to leave you hungry – or Googling the nearest and best Indian restaurant. Dev has a way of making everything in her novel feel fresh and new. So while A Bollywood Affair does feature some fairly familiar romance tropes, it never feels that way. Moreover, Dev’s characters easily avoid stereotypes and stock characterization. There are no dastardly villains or Rube Goldberg-style obstacles standing in Mili and Samir’s way – it’s just them, with their own flaws and strengths, their own choices and behaviors and their own beliefs in love winning out in the end.

A Bollywood Affair is exquisite, a carefully planned combination of heart, hope and heat. Even if you don’t think you like romance, I defy you to read Sonali Dev’s debut novel and not enjoy. That’s a bet you’ll lose, I’m sure. And, as an added bonus, A Bollywood Affair is currently duking it out in Round 3 of DABWAHA, so go vote for it!

[Photo Credit: Goodreads]

Book News, March 21st

And a very happy Saturday to you, bookworms. In the last week, I celebrated my first birthday abroad (with pie! Mmmmm pie) and I got to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day IN IRELAND. All in all, it was pretty grand. Even more grand were the book gift cards I received as birthday gifts, so I can finally make a dent in my massive “but I wannna read it NOW” list. What’s on your to-be-read list? Let me know after you’ve checked out this week’s book news:

  • In the end, Death finally came for him. Terry Pratchett, author of more than 70 books including the Discworld series, passed away last week at age 66 from Alzheimer’s. Pratchett’s books have sold millions of copies and earned him devoted fans across the globe. After his diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s, he helped raise significant amounts of money for Alzheimer’s research. The silver lining in this story is that Prachett’s final Discworld novel will be published. Though a release date has not yet been set, sources confirm Pratchett finished the novel some time last year.
  • A strange case keeps getting stranger. After a number of journalists and literary critics raised concern that Harper Lee might not understand the implications of the publication of her new book, Lee herself responded to the hubbub. After many journalists tried to reach her for comment, she finally responded to one persistent man with a four-word response: “Go away! Harper Lee.” Shortly thereafter, Alabama authorities were asked to open an elder abuse investigation into Lee, to determine if she had been taken advantage of. That case was quickly closed, with no evidence to suggest that Lee has been mistreated. All press is good press, right?
  • Oh, Internet. We’re really doing this again? A short bullet point in Book News isn’t really adequate to capture the utter messiness and complicated clusterf*ck that is the “Andrew Smith controversy” but Book Riot had some good thoughts about the whole thing, as did Bookshelves of Doom. Once again, divisive factions within the larger book world and within the YA book world took to social media to take sides in the whole thing, which devolved into name-calling, incivility – and far worse – fairly quickly. I’m not going to offer an opinion; I just suggest you read a variety of posts about the whole thing and make up your own mind.
  • In happier news, Disney is pushing forward with another live-action version of their popular fairy tales. On the heels of the news that Emma Watson will portray Belle in a live-action Beauty and the Beast and that Dan Stevens (of Downton Abbey fame) will be her Beast, Luke Evans has been cast as Gaston. And, even more enticing, Emma Thompson has been rumored to fill the role of Mrs. Potts, though whether she’ll appear as herself or as an actual teapot remains to be seen. Thoughts on who should be Lumiere?
  • Forget March Madness and this silly basketball nonsense. It’s officially time for DABWAHA! That’s the annual Dear Author Bitchery Writing Award for Hella Authors, in case you were wondering. 64 of the year’s best romance novels will be pitted against each other in a fight to the finish, and bragging rights. There are also prizes, but the best part is the social media trash talk authors engage in to sway voters to their sides. No mild-mannered writers and authors here. I’m certain my bracket will explode to pieces after the first round, but I’ve got my fingers crossed (and my votes ready) for Sarah MacLean’s Never Judge a Lady.

As always, happy reading.

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