When 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]