Eloisa James' "Four Nights with the Duke"

Four Nights with the Duke (Desperate Duchesses Book 8) - Eloisa James


Mia Carrington, the heroine, is a 28 year old spinster who is extremely self-conscious about her figure (short and busty) and thinks she is completely unattractive to men.  She has a couple of good reasons for this - a traumatic experience of exposed infatuation with the hero at age 15, and the ensuing ridicule, and being jilted literally at the altar on her wedding day. Mia has a nephew who is an orphan and due to a complicated provision in the will of her brother, the boy's father, she can't get the guardianship of the boy unless she marries before the time specified in the will runs out, i.e. in a month's time.  Otherwise the guardianship goes to Mia's evil cousin Richard. So Mia blackmails the hero and Duke of the title into marrying her on the spur of the moment, fully intending to have the marriage annulled once she has been given the legal guardianship of her nephew. Of course things don't go quite a planned ...


The premise of the story isn't bad, but I wasn't too excited by the execution. Each chapter in the book is started with a page from Mia's notes about her next novel - Mia is also a successful romance novelist (under a pseudonym). These notes are probably the best part of the book - they're hilarious, and a wonderful illustration of how a romance novelist goes about constructing her stories. Trouble is, the notes take the reader out of the story - I would start to think about the plot and character developments outlined in the notes and then I would have to think about the actual plot and characters of the story, and how the author developed these, instead of just enjoying the story. So the plot developments with the evil, mustache-twirling uncle came off as completely contrived and melodramatic, all because Mia had already explained how she was going to work an evil character into her novel. The subplot with the horse Jafeer and how Mia tames him instantly just by showing up in the stables also came off as contrived and unsatisfactory. The only really satisfying character in the book, IMHO, was the character of the young physically-challenged nephew.