Book Review

Review: Three Weeks with Lady X by Eloisa James

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Title: Three Weeks with Lady X
Author: Eloisa James
Publication Info: Avon March 2014
ISBN: 978-0062223890
Genre: Historical: European

Book Three Weeks with Lady X Grab the squee-mop because Eloisa James has a new book out and it’s awesome.

But before I start flailing as I review Three Weeks with Lady X there is another topic I need to discuss. Can publishers stop releasing awesome romance novels on Tuesdays? I mean, seriously. I read this book in one big all-night NOM NOM NOM fest and showed up for work the next day bleary-eyed and clutching a Big Gulp. I can only call in with “Wednesday diarrhea” so many times before work becomes suspicious.

All you really need to know about Three Weeks with Lady X is that it’s 1. an epic Regency sass-fest 2. a melting of the ice-queen story, and 3. possibly James’ best book yet. It was so so good. I noticed some bad reviews on Goodreads and I kept thinking, did we read the same book? 

This book shines because of the emotional depth of James’ characters. In many ways it’s a book about making peace with your past—about what you carry with you, and what you leave behind. I think everyone deals with this at some point in their life, and so it makes the hero and heroine utterly relatable.

The hero of this book is Tobias “Thorn” Dautry, the bastard son of the Duke of Villiers from James’ earlier book, A Duke of Her Own (which is also excellent). The Duke of Villiers has always been my favorite James hero, and I admit that it was strange having him appear in this book. Although he’s very much the same character, I think I put my heroes and heroines in stasis after I finish a book, and seeing him in his life after A Duke of Her Own was a little unnerving.

Readers will remember Thorn as a mudlark. He was abandoned by his mother and led a miserable Dickensian life scouring the Thames for treasure until the Duke of Villiers pulled his head out of his ass and took custody of him.

Thorn is now all grown up and is a wealthy, successful businessman. He’s decided it’s time to settle down and marry, and the woman he’s decided on for a wife is Laetitia “Lala” Rainsford. Lala’s family is willing to overlook Thorn’s dubious past in exchange for his wealth, but he needs to put on appearances to woo a woman of her stature. He buys a country estate, Starberry Court, and needs to refurbish it quickly in order to impress Lala’s mother.

Lady Xenobia India is the daughter of a marquess and also the most sought after interior designer in England. She’s not actually called that, of course, but India charges a hefty sum to revamp houses and get the staff in order. She’s a domestic goddess, knowledgeable about art, décor, furnishings, food, wine, and keeping a household full of servants in order. She’s also remarkably beautiful with white-blonde hair. She’s received plenty of marriage proposals, but she turns them all down. She’s unflappable, cool and consummately professional.

Thorn needs India to revamp Starberry Court quickly, and he offers to pay her a hefty sum to do. From the moment they first meet, sparks fly. Thorn manages to get under India’s skin, leading to flirtatious bickering and some excellent sparring. He’s the first man to make her lose her cool, to drop her ice queen persona. He makes her reveal her temper and he delights in it. In turn she challenges him, surprises him, and he starts to respect and admire her.

Throughout the renovation of Starberry Court their fighting changes from antagonistic to affectionate, and one of the things I loved was that they developed a friendship before they entered into a passionate relationship. There was a real sense of mutual admiration and respect between them, and I loved that.

So what’s the conflict? Well, Thorn is as good as engaged to Lala. Of course Lala, who is a fully-fleshed out and engaging character in her own right, really wants nothing to do with him. She finds him intimidating, but she’s allowing herself to be wooed as her family desperately needs money.

Lala represents Thorn’s entry into society. He’s essentially buying a perfect wife with no hint to scandal to wash away his bastard origins. Despite the amount of time he spends telling people that he doesn’t care that he’s a bastard, it’s apparent that he’s self-conscious of how society views him. Lala is also sweet and gentle and quiet, everything India is not. Thorn can’t imagine marrying a woman who challenges him at every turn (but he can’t stop thinking about India’s hair, damnit!) He’s also still hurting from his mother’s abandonment, which prevents him from making deep emotional attachments to women. He knows Lala will be an excellent mother to their children. She’s essentially his safest choice emotionally.

India has her own issues. She stays aloof, unattached because she is determined to maintain her independence. Her parents were odd-ducks, worshipping Diana the Moon Goddess, naming her Xenobia, letting her run wild and barefoot and forgetting to feed her. She was neglected, although they loved her, and when they died after leaving for London without a word to her, she wondered if they intended to abandon her. She remembers being hungry (her father squandered their money) and being alone, and she is determined never to be financially or emotionally dependent on anyone again.

The first half of the book is all India and Thorn renovating the estate, snarking at each other, and growing ever more attracted to each other. When separated they keep in correspondence, and their letters are some of the best parts of the book:

Dear Thorn,

You’ll be happy to know the mirror and mantelpiece have been installed and look splendid.

In other news, I have managed to secure you an excellent cook. I had to lure him away from Lord Pistlethorpe’s household, and you will be paying him somewhat more than his normal wage. But given your boast that you are—I hope I have this right—more than a “rich bastard,” I knew you would not hesitate, because excellent food can make an otherwise uncomfortable house party bearable. He arrived with his kitchen crew in tow, and I hired them as well. I trust that Lord P does not send you a challenge, but if he does, I’ve not doubt you will be the victor at fisticuffs or something of that nature.

India

 

 

Dear India,

You may keep the mirror if you could restrain yourself from filching staff from other households. I have indeed heard from Pistlethorpe, who is not pleased.

By the way, we used to call him Mortar-and-Pestle at school, owing to his nocturnal activities.

Thorn

 

 

Dear Thorn,

I have no idea what you are talking about with reference to Lord Pistlethorpe, and I don’t wish to know […]

 

 

Dear India,

I was referring to a man’s wish to pleasure himself under the covers in the dark. Pistlethorpe treated his tool to a vigorous drubbing nightly in such a manner that every boy in the house knew it. Do women do the same? Were you sent to school?

I suspect that marquess’s daughters are too delicate and precious to leave the paternal eye, but I have no idea. My sisters were kept at home, but then we were all special cases.

Thorn

 

 

Dear Mr. Dautry,

You may not write to me in this manner or shall cease to send you notice of what I am doing with your estate. I will simply forward the bills.

Lady Xenobia India St. Clair

 

 

Dear India,

I surmise from the irritation in your letter that ladies do not lie about at night touching their softer parts, which is a huge loss on their part. You should try it. It’s greatly relaxing, and you seem prone to vexation.

Thorn

 

EPIC REGENCY SASS OFF

The dialogue, the banter in this book is most excellent. When Thorn and India start to soften, when they replace sharp words with kisses, I really started melting. The middle of the book, when India and Thorn are alone prior to the house party, exploring their newfound affection for each other had a wonderfully dreamy quality to it. I could read it over and over again.

There’s so much more going on in this story too. Lala has her own love interest—a country doctor. Lala’s mother is a truly awful person we all hate. Thorn takes in the daughter of his friend as ward. She’s a bit of plot moppet, but a charming one.

I really, really didn’t want this book to end. It was worth reading till two a.m., worth being exhausted the next day, worth all the feels it made me have, and it’s going straight to the top of my favorites list.


This book is available from Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Kobo | All Romance eBooks.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Diana says:

    I agree with everything you said!
    I also read it in one sitting, I just couldn’t put it down.

    The letters, oh, the letters! This book had everything a book needs, and more.

  2. 2
    Natalie says:

    Yes, yes, yes, and yes. I can’t decide which is my favorite book: the father or the son. But those two are most definitely James’s top two books as far as I’m concerned. Your review makes me want to read it all over again … so I think I will.

  3. 3
    Jan says:

    Great review.  I’d like to add my two cents.  I think James has a talent for writing great heroines.  They all represent strong, independent women who aren’t afraid to go after what they want.  I’m delighted to see her continue the Desperate Duchesses series. 

    The letters were simply scrumptious.  Worth reading just for those delicious bits.

  4. 4
    LML says:

    Am I not lucky?  I have this entire series to look forward to reading!

  5. 5
    Dora says:

    This sounds like a great read. I really do prefer books where the two leads start a friendship first, rather than the INSTANT LUST EPIC LURRVE EH MAH GERD. It’s just a personal taste thing, but I feel like giving the characters the chance to come to know and respect one another as people and friends first allows the reader to do the same better than just immediately tumbling into an abyss of passion or whatever the kids are doing these days.

  6. 6
    Layla says:

    I liked your review a lot – helps me think about why India might be attracted to Thorn, and it’s always nice when people see books totally differently –  although I was one of those readers who was whelmed by the book.

    I loved India but I found Thorn kind of icky, and while I know I was supposed to find the letters sexy, I just couldn’t get behind “do you touch yourself at night? tell me now!” from an employer. I love banter and sexual innuendo, but the power differential – that Thorn blackmails India into working for him – just made these moments weird and gross to me.

  7. 7
    SB Sarah says:

    @Dora:

    I really do prefer books where the two leads start a friendship first, rather than the INSTANT LUST EPIC LURRVE EH MAH GERD.

    Oh, yes, me too. That + letters developing character = superpower catnip for me. If there’s something faster than insta-buy, that’s what I do with epistolary or partially-epistolary fiction.

  8. 8
    pooks says:

    I listened to this as an audiobook and enjoyed it, but not to your level of squee.

    Now I have to sit down and actually READ it.

    Not that I’m complaining!

  9. 9
    Christine says:

    Sold!  I haven’t read too many historicals lately, but will definitely pick this up!

  10. 10

    Just this morning I read a review of The Jade Pagoda (http://www.likesbooks.com/blog/?p=8537), and now I have a tremendous urge to read that and this back to back, as a sort of “interior decorating romance” mini-spree.

  11. 11

    That’s it—my debit card ran and hid from me the moment I clicked on this review! :) I haven’t read one of her books in a long, long time, but I think I’m long overdue. And the letters! Oh my. *click*

    Enjoy,
    TBQ

  12. 12
    LauraL says:

    Three Weeks With Lady X is in my to be read pile. A real pile, not a Kindle pile. With Eloisa James, I must have the physical book and make sure I have the uninterrupted time to read. Now I am really looking forward to savoring it, sooner than later, I hope.

  13. 13
    Julie Brannagh says:

    I LOVE THIS BOOK.

    I think I’ll read it again. ;-)

  14. 14
    Emma says:

    The reading of these reviews, and a feeling that I’ve read Eloisa James before and liked her, resulted in me purchasing a copy of Three Weeks with considerable enthusiasm.

    I’m only about two pages in, and I’ve come across the line ‘aggravation marched up her spine like a troop of perfectly dressed soldiers’. Um. What? Is that not a distractingly bad simile? Hoping it was a momentary glitch but it taking some getting over!

    (Soldiers? Marching? And what difference does the state of their attire make?)

    Ack, see, I’m still not over it.

  15. 15
    Lindsay says:

    Oh my goodness, I really loved this too for all the reasons you said. The weirdest thing is that it was the second book that week I’d read epic interior decorating romance with what was basically the SAME HOUSE—except I can’t recall for the life of me the title. Yes, I forget what books I read a few weeks ago. :(

  16. 16
    Heather S says:

    @SB Sarah: Since you love epistolary books, PLEASE tell me you’ve read “Almost Like Being In Love” by Steve Kluger. PLEASE. If you haven’t, I can’t recommend it enough. The letters format a bit oddly as an ebook, so I must advocate for the paperback – but take that book any way you can get it. SO good. I loved the main characters. I loved the secondary characters. I didn’t feel an urge to throttle a plot moppet (this is considered a major accomplishment, since I generally LOATHE plot moppets with extreme prejudice).

    Get it. Get it NOW. :)

  17. 17
    HollyS says:

    I just finished this book yesterday, and I actually came to SBTB to see if anyone reviewed it….well lo and behold.

    I LIKED this book. Not loved. I loved the letters, I thought the way she developed the relationship between Thorn and India was spot on.

    My gripe with the book came towards the end, when it seemed like they were constantly missing each others signals and misinterpreting actions. Ugh. I can deal with it once or twice, but anything more is enough to make me want to throw a book before I pick it up to finish.

  18. 18
    Meredith says:

    I loved this book to the point that I went on an Eloisa James glom and bought the whole series and have been reading them constantly for a week. I haven’t glommed this hard in a while! (Yaaaay, summer vacation reading! Boooo, bad hip that gave me the time to read 1.5 books a day! Yaaaay, hip feeling better!)

  19. 19
    Turophile says:

    “EPIC REGENCY SASS OFF”

    I love it!

  20. 20
    Vasha says:

    I can second the recommendation for Almost Like Being in Love—it’s charming and very funny, and I say this as someone with a selective sense of humor. One of my go-to cheer-me-up reads.

  21. 21
    Sarina Bowen says:

    I loved this one too! The epistolary bits were also my favorite.

    Also, the not-in-love triangle issue is very cleverly teased. There’s an honest moment while reading this book where you have to wonder how those two might ever end up together. (Every romance is supposed to bring the reader to that point, but not all do.)

  22. 22
    nabpaw says:

    I love Eloisa James and I loved loved loved A Duke of Her Own that featured the father of this book’s hero.  I was looking forward to Tobias’ story, but to be honest I didn’t particularly take to it.  There was some good stuff, but I didn’t like either character that much.  He was a boor, as exemplified by the letters that elyse quoted, and she was sometimes really stupid.  I can’t reveal the incident that made me want to slap the shit out of the heroine, but trust me she was really stupid in it. 

    i’ll probably reread it, though.  it’s Eloisa james, dammit!  of course, i’ll reread it!

  23. 23
    Brynhild says:

    So after reading all the glowing reviews here, I got this and read it over a weekend when I was sick. I finished it, but I really lost my enthusiasm towards the end.

    The Plot Moppet was indeed charming, but entirely unbelievable. I *wanted* to believe, though, because I love the idea of a perspicacious six-year-old who by turns tells it like it is and shows that she is indeed still a child. And I really liked Lala. In fact, I was much, much more interested in reading about Lala getting out from under her mother’s thumb and finding a good and decent partner than I was in reading two selfish, terminally sassy people with anger problems and an inability to keep their hands off each other for the sake of someone else’s heart.

    It’s a damn good thing that Lala wasn’t actually interested in Thorn. If she had been, I think I would’ve stopped reading it once he started fooling around with Xenobia. Thorn, as others have said, really came across as boorish to me, less devil-may-care and more this-guy-is-going-to-be-an-abuser-someday. His letters to Xenobia? So much creepy. And in the creepy bits, something about the language seemed… off. Like, historically inaccurate.

    I’m not slut-shaming. I’m just a little appalled that I’m supposed to root for two people who sneak around, knowing what they are doing could massively hurt someone, and endangering their own livelihoods in the process. The excuse is that they ‘can’t control themselves’. In respect to him, especially, this is really disturbing, like she’s somehow responsible for the way that he acts and the fact that he surreptitiously decides when it’s time for sex.

    I liked it, in the end, and I suppose I was satisfied with the ending, but I didn’t actually like the ‘hero’ enough (and felt the ending conflict was really contrived and entirely avoidable) to care about the main romance. I would love to see Lala get her own book where her point of view is further examined. In the end, I certainly don’t consider it a waste of time, and there was some good banter, but I didn’t like it nearly as much as I’d expected to. It was too hard to relate to the characters.

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