Three Weeks With Lady X

Last updated
First edition (publ. Avon Books) ThreeWeeksWithLadyX.jpg
First edition (publ. Avon Books)

Three Weeks With Lady X is a historical romance written by Eloisa James and published in 2014. It was a New York Times Bestseller and was nominated for two Romantic Times awards.

Historical romance literary genre

Historical romance is a broad category of fiction in which the plot takes place in a setting located in the past. Walter Scott helped popularize this genre in the early 19th-century, with works such as Rob Roy and Ivanhoe. Literary fiction historical romances continue to be published, and a notable recent example is Wolf Hall (2009), a multi-award-winning novel by English historical novelist Hilary Mantel. It is also a genre of mass-market fiction, which is related to the broader romantic love genre.

Eloisa James is the pen name of Mary Bly. She is a tenured Shakespeare professor at Fordham University who also writes best-selling Regency and Georgian romance novels under her pen name. Her novels are published in 30 countries and have sold approximately 7 million copies worldwide. She also wrote a bestselling memoir about the year her family spent in France, Paris in Love.

Romantic Times was a genre magazine specializing in romance novels. It was founded as a newsletter in 1981 by Kathryn Falk. The initial publication took nine months to create and was distributed to 3,000 subscribers. In 2004, the magazine reportedly had 150,000 subscribers, and had built a reputation as "Romance's premiere genre magazine".

Contents

The novel is considered a Regency romance, with much of the conflict revolving around the societal expectations of the time. In a departure from other novels of this type, James gave her heroine an occupation. Her interior decorating skills were inspired by James' love for HGTV. The hero is also unusual for the time period, being neither a lord nor legitimate. The primary and the secondary characters are richly drawn and fully developed. The novel is considered very sensual, and marked James' first foray into more explicit love scenes.

Regency romance subgenre of romance novels

Regency romances are a subgenre of romance novels set during the period of the British Regency (1811–1820) or early 19th century. Rather than simply being versions of contemporary romance stories transported to a historical setting, Regency romances are a distinct genre with their own plot and stylistic conventions. These derive not so much from the 19th-century contemporary works of Jane Austen, but rather from Georgette Heyer, who wrote over two dozen novels set in the Regency starting in 1935 until her death in 1974, and from the fiction genre known as the novel of manners. In particular, the more traditional Regencies feature a great deal of intelligent, fast-paced dialogue between the protagonists and very little explicit sex or discussion of sex.

HGTV American pay television channel

HGTV is an American pay television channel that is owned by Discovery, Inc. The network primarily broadcasts reality programming related to home improvement and real estate. As of February 2015, approximately 95,628,000 American households receive HGTV. In 2016, HGTV overtook CNN as the third most-watched cable channel in the United States, behind Fox News and ESPN.

The hero was first introduced as a child in James' 2009 work This Duchess of Mine. The protagonists have secondary roles in James's next book, Four Nights With a Duke .

Inspiration and publication

Eloisa James is the pen name of Mary Bly, a professor of English at Fordham University. [1]

Fordham University American university

Fordham University is a private research university in New York City. Established in 1841 and named for the Fordham neighborhood of the Bronx in which its main campus is located, Fordham is the oldest Catholic and Jesuit-affiliated university in the northeastern United States, and the third-oldest university in New York State.

Three Weeks With Lady X is the seventh novel of James's Desperate Duchesses series, [2] and the first to focus on the children of the original characters. [3] The hero of Three Weeks, Tobias "Thorn" Dautry, was introduced in James' 2009 novel This Duchess of Mine. In that book, Thorn was a child. [4] James said that having years, instead of weeks, to think about the character helped her to bring more depth to his story. [3] James also noted that she quite enjoyed bringing back those characters, ten years after the events of the book in which they were featured. [5]

The story was partially inspired by Homes and Gardens Television (HGTV). James is an ardent fan of the network's competitions between decorators and interior designers, and the programs made her think more about what redecorating may have been like during the Regency period. Her research had shown that many noble families were essentially bankrupt and often sold their estates or lost them to gambling debts. She speculated that the new owners, similar to those featured on HGTV shows, would want to redecorate. [6]

The novel was released as a paperback, ebook, and audiobook on March 25, 2014 [2] [7] It is a full-length novel, as opposed to a category romance, with the paperback running to 384 pages. [4] James had significant input to the cover of the American edition. The cover is bisected, with a strip of black on the left side and the picture of a woman on the right. James takes credit for suggesting the solid color on the left, although the art department had to convince her that black was the appropriate color. [8]

A sequel to the book, Four Nights With a Duke , was released in March 2015 and follows one of the secondary characters, Lord Vander Brody. [9]

Plot summary

The novel is a historical romance, set in England in 1799, [2] which is commonly known as the Georgian period. [7] The book begins with Lady Xenobia India St. Clair enduring yet another bad marriage proposal. [5] The orphaned daughter of a marquess with unusual ideas on child rearing, India, as she is known throughout the novel, is determined not to marry for money. After the deaths of her parents, she supported herselfand earned herself a sizable dowry as an interior designer. Now aged 26, she wants children and is prepared to leave her career to find a husband. Her friend Eleanor, the Duchess of Villiers, who was featured in This Duchess of Mine, convinces her to take one last commission, with Eleanor's stepson, Tobias "Thorn" Dautry. [3] [10]

As explained in the earlier novel, Thorn had been abandoned by his mother and worked as a mudlark in the London slums before being rescued by his father, the Duke of Villiers. According to the constraints of English society at the time, as both an illegitimate son and a man who had made a fortune in trade (rather than inheriting one), Thorn is not considered respectable. He wants his future children to be accepted by society, and concocts a plan to marry a docile, well-bred young woman who likes children. [10] He chooses Lady Laetitia "Lala" Rainsford, whose father is out of funds and willing to evaluate Thorn solely on his wealth. Lala's mother, however, is a snob who wishes her daughter to marry a man with a title. To impress his future mother-in-law, Thorn purchases a country house and invites the Rainsfords to visit in three weeks' time. [4]

The novel depicts Thorn's new estate as fairly run-down, with a debauched decorating scheme inappropriate for Lady Rainsford's eyes. [4] He hires India to completely renovate the home. [2] From their very first scene together, the characters indulge in significant verbal sparring. [10] Once India travels to the estate, their relationship develops over a series of hilarious letters. [2] [11] The two become friends, and then begin a flirtation. [2]

The second half of the book takes place after the renovation is complete, allowing India and Thorn to be in the same location. [12] As they secretly court each other, India and Thorn are forced to confront their own insecurities and fears and to determine how to handle society's expectations of them. [4] In this half, Lala's character is also heavily developed. [12] Other characters perceive her as sweet and biddable, a counterpoint to the independence and spirit attributed to India. [2] In actuality, Lala has definite opinions, and she does not want to marry Thorn, who intimidates her. [12] As the book progresses, it is revealed that Lala cannot read. Although most of the other characters, with the exception of India, believe this means Lala is stupid, readers can recognize that she is actually dsylexic.

A secondary plotline involves Thorn's new ward, Rose, an overly precocious child. The interactions between Thorn and Rose show his softer side. [10] Rose's point-of-view is made quite clear in certain sections of the story. [7]

Themes

In what she calls an homage to classic literature, some of James's scenes and dialogue borrow from her extensive knowledge of English literature to provide additional insight into her characters and foreshadowing of future events. The opening scene of the novel closely imitates Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice , as Lord Dibbleshire proposes to Lady India using speech very similar to the proposal that Darcy gives Elizabeth; James intends this as foreshadowing that India has much in common with Elizabeth, and Dibbleshire is just as arrogant as Darcy. [5] Later in the novel, James writes a small speech for the Duke of Villiers that is reminiscent of T.S. Eliot. [5]

In many ways, the book is fairly typical for a Regency romance, in that it focuses heavily on manners and societal expectations. [13] To keep her career, India must take extreme care with her reputation. [10] She is the consummate professional, able to keep her composure despite any challenges. This allows James to play with the stereotype of the "ice queen" who needs to be melted. India's reserve intrigues Thorn, who deliberately acts to provoke her temper and make her lose her cool. [12] The difference in their social stationshis bastardy compared to her status as daughter of a marquessofficially makes it seem impossible for them to have a permanent relationship. [4] The novel does departs from the traditional in two distinct ways. [13] First, the heroine has an occupation, and, second, the hero is not a titled noble, but is instead in trade. [8] [13]

James usually writes her books in sets of three or more novels, allowing her to more fully explore the relationships between all of the characters, not just the hero and heroine. In the past, the books have been generally connected by sets of very good female friends or sisters, as Bly finds those relationships important in her own life. [14] In Three Weeks With Lady X, James continues the tradition of reusing her characters, bringing back the popular characters of the Duke and Duchess of Villiers. [4] Rather than focus on sisters, however, the novel explores the brotherly relationship between the hero and his best friend, Lord Evander Brody. [10]

The novel is quite sensual, with Romantic Times labeling it "Hot", [7] and Kirkus Reviews describing it as "intense and explolsive". [4] This is the first novel in which James has used the term "cock" for male genitalia, a decision she says was made deliberately. Melissa Mohr, author of a book on the history of swearing, says that although the term has been in use in pornography since the Victorian era, "because romance novels are written for women, that word would have been seen as kind of masculine, kind of harder, and so previously, romance novels would have used other words.” [1] James chose to use the more explicit terminology in this novel, rather than euphemisms, in order to keep up with the language used by young women today. Her editor, Carrie Feron, notes that "I think it’s really hard to shock readers these days, especially after ‘Fifty Shades’ — which is not a romance — has become so mainstream." [1] James was given free rein to write the love scenes, as Feron's policy is not to change those as long as the rest of the novel is good and the love scenes don't cause laughter. [1]

Reception

Reviewers frequently commented that the plot was fairly simple, but the complex characterization made the book a joy to read. [4] [10] [12] At Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, reviewer Elyse noted that the characters had well-drawn emotional depths, and were forced to surmount problems that would resonate with most readers, particularly the idea of making peace with one's past. [12] The review in Kirkus highlighted the "complex, intriguing, and endearing" characters and noted that the secondary characters, as well as the protagonists, were richly drawn. [4]

The witty dialog and the twist of having much communication occur by letter, were also lauded by many reviewers. [2] [7] [11] [12] Publishers Weekly called the novel James' "most enticing work to date, replete with sizzling romance and riveting characters". [2] Kathe Robin's review in Romantic Times predicted that "readers will be hooked from beginning to end". [7] Kirkus named it a "compelling and passionate book" that was "emotionally rewarding and elegantly written". [4] In USA Today, Madeline Hunter wrote that "readers will be enthralled by Lady X and Thorn Dautry as soon as they meet these two willful, formidable characters." [8]

The novel garnered two nominations for the 2014 Romantic Times Awards, for Book for the Year and British Isles-set Historical Romance. [7] Kirkus named it one of the Best Fiction Books of 2014. [4] It reached number 11 on the New York Times Bestseller List for mass-market paperbacks [15] and number 37 on the USA Today Best-selling books list. [16]

Related Research Articles

Julia Quinn American novelist

Julia Quinn is the pseudonym used by Julie Pottinger, a best-selling American historical romance author. Her novels have been translated into 29 foreign languages, and she has appeared on the New York Times Bestseller List 19 times. In July 2018, it was announced that her Bridgerton series of books would be adapted for Netflix by Shonda Rhimes.

Barbara Palmer, 1st Duchess of Cleveland English royal mistress from the Villiers family

Barbara Palmer, 1st Duchess of Cleveland, more often known by her maiden name Barbara Villiers or her title of Countess of Castlemaine, was an English royal mistress of the Villiers family and perhaps the most notorious of the many mistresses of King Charles II of England, by whom she had five children, all of them acknowledged and subsequently ennobled. Her influence was so great that she has been referred to as "The Uncrowned Queen". Barbara was the subject of many portraits, in particular by court painter Sir Peter Lely. Her extravagance, bad temper, adultery with the king, and influence at court provoked the diarist John Evelyn to describe her as the "curse of the nation", whereas Samuel Pepys often wrote admiringly of seeing her. In the Gilded Age, it was stylish to adorn an estate with her likeness.

Elizabeth Hamilton, Countess of Orkney British noble

Elizabeth Hamilton, Countess of Orkney was an English courtier from the Villiers family and the reputed mistress of William III & II, King of England and Scotland, from 1680 until 1695. She was a lady-in-waiting to his wife and co-monarch, Queen Mary II.

<i>Kirkus Reviews</i> American book review magazine

Kirkus Reviews is an American book review magazine founded in 1933 by Virginia Kirkus (1893–1980). The magazine is headquartered in New York City.

<i>The Murder Room</i> novel by P. D. James

The Murder Room is a 2003 detective novel and the 12th in the Adam Dalgliesh series by P. D. James. It takes place in London, particularly the Dupayne Museum on the edge of Hampstead Heath in the London Borough of Camden.

Victoria Alexander is an American author of historical romance novels. She has been nominated for the Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Award four times, winning once, for A Visit From Sir Nicholas, which Romantic Times described as "overflowing with heart-tugging scenes, simmering sexual tension, marvelous characters and meaningful lessons about life and love. " Alexander has also won a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award.

Sarah MacLean American writer

Sarah MacLean is a New York Times bestselling American author of young adult novels and romance novels. Her first adult romance novel, Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake debuted on the New York Times Bestseller List, where it stayed for four weeks. Since then, all of her adult romance novels have been on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists. Since February 2014, MacLean has written a monthly romance novel review column for The Washington Post. She is a two-time winner of the Romance Writers of America RITA Award for Best Historical Romance for A Rogue by Any Other Name in 2013 and No Good Duke Goes Unpunished in 2014.

Tessa Dare American writer

Tessa Dare is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling American historical romance novelist. She has authored fifteen novels and novellas and created four different series. In 2012, she won the prestigious Romance Writers of America RITA award for Best Regency Historical Romance for her book A Night to Surrender.

The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy is a Regency romance written by Julia Quinn and published in 2015 by Avon Books. Quinn's 24th novel is also the final installment of her series known as the Smythe-Smith Quartet. It features Iris Smythe-Smith and the eponymous Sir Richard Kenworthy. The novel reached number 2 on the New York Times Bestseller List and was in the top 10 for the USA Today bestseller list.

No Good Duke Goes Unpunished is a historical romance written by Sarah MacLean and published by Avon in 2013. Is it the third of four books in the Rule of Scoundrels quartet. The novel won a RITA Award for Best Historical Romance and a Romantic Times award for Historical Romance of the Year.

<i>Four Nights With the Duke</i> book by Eloisa James

Four Nights with the Duke is a historical romance novel written by Eloisa James. It was published on March 31, 2015 by Avon and debuted on the New York Times bestseller list at number 6.

Sherry Thomas American writer

Sherry M. Thomas is an American novelist of young adult fantasy, historical romance, and contemporary romance. She has won multiple awards including the Romance Writers of America RITA Award for Best Historical Romance for Not Quite a Husband in 2010 and His at Night in 2011. Most best-of-romance lists include one of her titles.

Lorraine Heath is an American author of contemporary romance, historical romance, paranormal romance and young adult novels under multiple pen names, including Rachel Hawthorne, J.A. London, and Jade Parker. She is known for her "beautiful, deeply emotional romances" and in 1997, she received the Romance Writers of America RITA Award for Best Short Historical Romance for her novel Always to Remember. As of June 2015, fifteen of her titles made the USA Today bestseller list.

<i>The Luckiest Lady in London</i> Book by Sherry Thomas

The Luckiest Lady in London is a historical romance by Sherry Thomas.

<i>Lord of Scoundrels</i> book by Loretta Chase

Lord of Scoundrels is a Regency romance novel by American author Loretta Chase. Published in 1995 by Avon Books, it is the third installment of her Débauchés series. Set in 1828, the story follows the Marquess of Dain, a half-English half-Italian aristocrat known as "Lord Beelzebub" and the "Lord of Scoundrels" for his unscrupulous, immoral behavior. Hardened due to a difficult childhood, Dain meets his match in Jessica Trent, a 27-year-old bluestocking more than capable of trading wits with him.

Edith Villiers, Countess of Lytton wife of Edward Bulwer Lytton, later court-attendant

Edith Villiers, Countess of Lytton was a British aristocrat. Wife of Robert Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Earl of Lytton, she led the Indian Imperial court as Vicereine of India. She was later a court-attendant of Queen Victoria. Her children included the suffragette Lady Constance Bulwer-Lytton.

Elizabeth Boyd British poet, novelist (fl. 1727–1745)

Elizabeth Boyd was an English writer and poet who supported her family by writing novels, poetry, a play, and a periodical. She also wrote under the noms de plume Louisa or Eloisa. Boyd is one of three known members of the Shakespeare Ladies Club.

Norma Lee Clark was an American actress and author of romance novels who worked for over 30 years as the private secretary and assistant to filmmaker Woody Allen.

Kari Lynn Dell is an American romance novelist and rodeo competitor.

References

  1. 1 2 3 4 Charles, Ron (December 12, 2013), "Romance writers feel the heat from 'Fifty Shades of Grey'", Washington Post, retrieved February 11, 2015
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 "Three Weeks with Lady X: Eloisa James, author", Publishers Weekly, February 3, 2014, retrieved February 11, 2015
  3. 1 2 3 Kantra, Virginia (October 7, 2014), "Virginia Kantra chats up Carr, Shalvis, James about ongoing series", USAToday, retrieved February 11, 2015
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 "Three Weeks With Lady X", Kirkus, February 6, 2014, retrieved February 11, 2015
  5. 1 2 3 4 Lamb, Joyce (March 26, 2014), "Eloisa James: Parody vs homage in 'Three Weeks With Lady X'", USAToday, retrieved February 11, 2015
  6. Herkness, Nancy (June 4, 2014), "For romance characters, it's just a job ... or is it?", USAToday, retrieved February 11, 2015
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Robin, Kathe, Three Weeks With Lady X, Romantic Times Book Reviews, retrieved February 11, 2015
  8. 1 2 3 Hunter, Madeline (March 26, 2014), "Romance Unlaced: The buzz about historical romance", USAToday, retrieved February 11, 2015
  9. "Four Nights With the Duke", Kirkus, January 8, 2015, retrieved February 11, 2015
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Owens, Caz (April 2014), Desert Isle Keeper Review: Three Weeks with Lady X, All About Romance, retrieved February 11, 2015
  11. 1 2 Bowen, Sarina (January 6, 2014), "Three Weeks with Lady X", New York Journal of Books, retrieved February 11, 2015
  12. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Elyse (May 27, 2014), Review: Three Weeks with Lady X by Eloisa James, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, retrieved February 11, 2015
  13. 1 2 3 Rodale, Maria (February 4, 2015), 2014's Best Books for Women, Huffington Post, retrieved February 11, 2015
  14. Ward, Jean Marie (May 2005). "Eloisa James: Regencies With a Shakespearean Twist". Crescent Blues. Retrieved 2007-02-07.
  15. "Paperback Mass-Market Fiction", New York Times, April 13, 2014, retrieved February 11, 2015
  16. "Three Weeks With Lady X", USA Today, retrieved February 11, 2015