Four Nights with the Duke by Eloisa James
Desperate Duchesses #8
After a small battle with my usual bookstore, I finally managed to get the edition I wanted (Piatkus) and, coming home, rather impatiently finished the book I was in the middle of before finally being able to make some tea, curl up on the couch, and start reading.
Turns out this was the exact book I needed right now.
We were first introduced to the hero, Vander, in James’s previous book, Three Weeks with Lady X. I must say I got the wrong impression of him in that novel; I thought him a refined gentleman, which he can’t be said to be in Four Nights – then again, he is more refined than his friend Thorn, who was the hero of Lady X, so there is that. Anyway. It took me a while to start liking Vander because he is more Alpha than I was expecting, but as the story goes on I started to like him, especially in his dealings with the heroine’s nephew (who, I hope, will star in his own book in the future).
Now, Mia. Oh, Mia. It’s not often that I like a heroine more than I like the hero, let alone remember her with great fondness, but I very much like Mia. Short, busty, and slightly on the plump side, she’s self-conscious about her body, and I found this very well done, especially when it came to sex. She is also an author of romance novels, which is very entertaining – some of her notes and publisher mail are included – and, if you’re at all familiar with the literature of the latter half of the 18th century and the beginning on the 19th, deliciously intertextual.
In fact, the homage to 18th century melodrama and sentimental novels is occasionally visible in the plotting of Four Nights itself; Mia miraculously calms a very nervous horse when no one else has been able to do that, she overhears a conversation about herself while hiding behind furniture, and the villain reappears from nowhere. At the same time, her reactions to the events feel real and her internal barriers, such as her self-esteem and her demand to be respected, are valid and relatable. I also find the pacing very solid and well balanced – a good indicator of this is that I simply sat down Wednesday morning and almost missed my train hours later because I forgot to watch the time and anyway needed to read that one more chapter.
In the wake of my thesis, I found myself paying attention to the theme of respect, and that is very strong in this novel. In fact, there is an entire dialogue towards the end where Mia declares she must be respected as herself, not merely as a title or possession, and this is taken to heart in the rest of the novel. I do hope it would have been stronger from the beginning – her relationship to her father and brother could have been emphasised more. Be that as it may, I was very pleased with how strongly it was brought to the fore.
Another note on the intertextuality – it’s a fun game to play with this novel! James gives some of the references in the afterword, but not nearly all, and I found it very amusing to spot them! (There is a Harry Potter reference that took me by surprise and then made me squeal like I was ten, the Potterhead that I am.)
Four Nights with the Duke was like coming home. It’s entertaining, light but not too light, and a good temporary escape. I give it 4.5 stars because I feel some of the themes could have been developed better, but it’s so very near to a five!
Next week, I’ll be reviewing another romance novel: Mary Balogh’s SLIGHTLY DANGEROUS! (Edit: It’s posted now, go check it out!)