Four Nights With the Duke by Eloisa James
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Negative 500 stars, really.
I give up. I struggled to listen to 19 chapters' worth, but I simply can't take it any more. This book is AWFUL!! The narrator's breathy, sleazy voice exacerbates the Ick Factor so badly that I almost didn't make it past the first chapter. In retrospect, I kind of wish I had given up right away and not wasted my time listening to such a wretched travesty of storytelling.
Mia is secretly a popular author of ridiculous Gothic romance novels, but when she's jilted at the alter a month before the deadline her deceased brother imposed on her to marry in order to remain guardian of her nephew, her money doesn't help. She resorts to blackmailing the son of her father's lover into marrying her right away. Their parents caused scandal with their 20-year relationship and more scandal by dying together in a fire at an inn, and further association with the Carrington family is the last thing Vander wants, so he's pretty livid. Stupidly, he doesn't read the letter she leaves with him explaining the terms, which include dissolving the marriage as soon as Charlie's safety is assured. Instead, he burns that letter but does NOT burn the one she also leaves with him that proves his mentally ill father was also treasonous. (Yep, bafflingly moronic decision.)
I'm still not sure why she felt she had to resort to blackmail instead of just telling him the truth and asking for his help. If he'd understood her predicament and met Charlie at the beginning, not to mention the sociopathic uncle scheming to control Charlie's inheritance, perhaps he wouldn't have been as furious or nasty or a complete and total jerk to her. They could have worked together to thwart her uncle and uncover the truth of what happened to her father, brother, and fiance. THAT would have been a much more interesting story for Ms. James to tell. Not to mention actually romantic as they got to know each other and gradually fell in love.
Instead, Ms. James wrote a story in which an a$$hole lusts after his new wife but treats her like garbage and still expects her to be an enthusiastic bed partner. He's controlling and vicious--his only redeeming quality is that he's nice to Charlie. Mia is supposedly independent and brave, but other than her initial determination to follow through with the blackmail, she's a spineless ninny who completely believes she's ugly and has no worth. All scenes between them were excruciatingly painful to listen to and usually resulted in me rolling my eyes, gagging, howling, grinding my teeth, and/or shouting, "THAT'S NOT HOW THAT WORKS!!!"
Case in point: every time Vander was cruel to Mia and then grabbed her, manhandled her, forced kisses on her, or in any other manner sexually assaulted her, and she went from being devastated/furious/anguished/heartbroken to instantly turned on and responsive. WHAT?!?! It's like Ms. James wished to invalidate the trauma of thousands (millions, really) of rape victims by saying, "Oh, it's OK--I know you SAID you didn't want him to touch you, but once he did, you loved it."
I so wish I could prevent Eloisa James from writing another book until she took every single one of Alison Armstrong's PAX workshops. Every. Single. One. Perhaps repeatedly, until the lessons really sunk in.
So what kept me listening through 19 dreadful chapters? I wanted to know whether Mia's uncle had murdered, bought off, or abducted her fiance on the way to the church, and whether he'd set the fire that killed her father. I can't remember how her brother supposedly died, but it wouldn't surprised me if her uncle had killed him off, too. In fact, if anyone reading this review knows the answers to these questions, I'd be grateful if you'd tell me in the comments section below!
I did like the character of Vander's drunken uncle, Sir Cuthbert (Chuffy? hard to tell with an audiobook), and I liked little Charlie. Also, I was amused at the references to Julia "Quiblet" (a.k.a. Julia Quinn, one of my favorite historical romance authors) and Lisa "Klampas" (a.k.a. Lisa Kleypas, another historical romance author).
Unless you wish to alarm your fellow drivers by shouting and gesticulating angrily at invisible people, I'd say skip this audiobook entirely. (If you do wish to freak people out during rush hour, then by all means, download this book.)
For readers' advisors: setting doorway (i.e. England, circa 1800). Swearing and sexual content. Abusive relationship.
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