Hmmm. What to say, what to say. Well, Three Weeks With Lady X was not horrible, per se, but it will not go down as one of my favorite Eloisa James' books either. That sounds like damning with faint praise, but a week after finishing the book I still have this tiny frown when I think about it. I'm sure lots of people have read Lady X and liked it a lot. Or even loved it. A lot. I just didn't.
First, I had a huge problem with the level of precociousness in Rose, Thorn's 6-year old ward whose first words (practically) are these:
'I don't, in the general course of things, like to be carried.' (46)
Followed shortly thereafter by:
'Didn't you announce that you don't like to be carried?'
'I make exceptions when I am ill shod.' (50)
Or how about this?
'My father said that in the event of tribulation or strife, I was to be sent to you.'
'Tribulation?' (...) 'Do you know how to read?'
'Of course. I've been reading ever since I was born.' (53)
'I didn't complain.' (...) 'Or cry. At least,' she added, 'until I reached your house, when I succumbed to exhaustion.' (54)
Oooookaaaay. That got really old, really quickly. Though I recognized that Rose softened Thorn's prickliness (sorry!), I just felt it was just a little too much.
Then there's Thorn, whom I thought was really a cardboard historical hero. Bastard son of a Duke? Check. Sports erections just because heroine walks into a room? Check? Says things like: 'But I won't marry you simply because my cock has been inside you.' (191) while his hand is under her dress? Check. A 'hero' who rationalizes jumping into bed with one woman while planning to marry another by saying he never 'promised a damn thing' to the other woman? A man who has no problem boinking the woman he hopes his best friend will marry? Check and check. Or whose limitless sexual prowess sends shivers of delight down the heroine's body with sweet nothings like these?
'I like you,' he muttered against her lips.'but I have as good as committed myself to marry another.' (191) (A very good reason not to suck on her face, if you ask me.)
'We're not contemplating marriage, because you will marry better than I, and I am all but promised to another.' (195) (Did he really say that in the throes of passion?)
Waiter? Oh, waiter? Check, please.
And then there's India, Lady X, short for Xenobia, who's so hot for Thorn that she, too, jumps on the rationalization bandwagon. Though she likes Laetitia (Lala) Thorn's potential fiancée, she decides that until Laetitia actually arrives at Starberry Court, and Thorn and Lala actually become engaged, it's quite all right to canoodle with him in a hammock. Despite their employer/employee relationship. Despite his avowals ad nauseum that he will marry Lala, not her. Despite her preoccupation with being 'proper' and fear of social ruin. India. India. India. Can we talk, dear? A lady who has a profession (interior design/organizer) is probably already 'ruined.'
And she says things like this while she tries to rip of his shirt:
'I do not want to marry you,' she said, being as clear as she could. (...) 'I don't even like you very much.' (191) (I don't know, but I really hope you'd at least like someone you're about to have sex with. At least a little.)
Followed by this exchange:
'You taught me how to kiss, and that didn't make me want to marry you. Now you can teach me this,' she said, feeling as if she were about to jump out of her skin. 'If you won't, just tell me, because-'
The fierce look he gave her made the words catch in her throat. 'Because what?'
'Because I'll find another man who's not a gentleman,' India said...(191-192)
Orgasms, orgasms, orgasms - in the hammock, in the gatehouse, against a wall in the footmen's livery closet - ensue, but India is appalled at Thorn's idea to 'make love' in his red bedroom.
'Your bedchamber is for your wife. For a man and his wife. We're not that...'
'...the house ...the bedchamber is for you and your wife,' she tried again, stumbling into words as she tried to read his eyes. 'You'll make memories there, and I don't want any of those memories to be-' She broke off awkwardly. (195)
She believes a mistress would 'sully' his home, Starberry Court, but the hammock? Well, that's OK. And the gatehouse? Yeah, that's okay, too. It's all quite relative really. Certain places are fine for debauchery while others are ...not. I'm confused.
And then there are all the lovely ways India castigates herself after she persuades Thorn to cooperate: referring to herself as a 'hussy', a 'trollop', a 'loose' woman, a 'slut', a 'night-walker', that she had 'shamed' her dead parents who pretty much abandoned her, that her seduction of Thorn means she was not 'virtuous.' That clacking sound you hear? Those are my eyes rolling around in my head like the fruit in a slot machine.
Of course, Lala was a very sympathetic character. She's not very socially adept, tending to clam up because she's shy and socially awkward. Everybody except two characters believe her to be stupid, a 'simpleton', a 'noodle.' Her mother, Lady Rainsford, in particular takes great pains in telling anyone and everyone that Lala can't read. Lady R is atrocious, criticizing everything Lala says, or doesn't say, what she wears, telling Lala she's 'lazy', and being especially critical of the width of her bottom. I wondered if there was more than just meanness to Lala's mom because she's described a couple of times as having a 'wild tinge' in her eyes and that 'sanity poured back into Lady Rainsford's eyes.' But it's just dropped and never mentioned again. Also I couldn't help wondering why Laetitia was saddled with the moniker 'Lala' when she has a perfectly fine name already? I guess it was to reinforce her appearance of being an airhead? Ugh. Just ugh.
Lala doesn't want to marry Thorn. He intimidates her because he is 'remarkably male' (she prefers a 'mild fellow') and views her future father-in-law, Villiers, with 'dread.' But she'll marry him to get away from her mother and to replenish her father's coffers. Lala is, of course, not a 'simpleton.' But the explanation for her inability to read just felt really jarring to me, especially when Lala's love interest sees at first glance (literally) that there is a Medical Reason why she can't read.
Despite it all, I was still leaning toward a solid C/C+ until the last third or so. India's stupidity in dealing with Lady Rainsford's discovery of Rose didn't make sense and set up a series of events which can only be labelled as a gigantic snowball of misunderstanding. This is quickly followed by Thorn's ridiculous attempt to 'prove his love' to India which just felt like a way to extend the conflict between India and Thorn unnecessarily. Three Weeks With Lady X is loosely tied to the Desperate Duchesses series which I enjoyed a lot. I was really looking forward to Thorn's/Tobias's story very much as I loved this character in A Duke Of My Own, and he is definitely Villiers' son. But this book had so many issues for me.
2 1/2 stars.