Thorn Dautry was neither sleek nor self-satisfied. Even when he seemed relaxed, he was alert to possible danger, and with good reason: he’d spent his formative years warding off death. As an adult, he’d become a man who controlled his world and everything and everyone in it, and he didn’t bother to pretend he didn’t know the reason.
Having made a fortune, Thorn Dautry, the powerful bastard son of a duke, decides that he needs a wife and has set his sights on Laetitia “Lala” Rainsford, who is beautiful and gentile, the well-born daughter of a cash-strapped nobleman.
But to marry a lady, Thorn must acquire a gleaming, civilized façade, and for that he’s going to need the assistance of Lady Xenobia India. Exquisite, confident, and immensely talented, Lady India has forged an independent and financially successful path for herself by organizing and decorating households for the elite of society. In his pursuit of Lala, Thorn has acquired a substantial country estate in desperate need of the veneer of respectability. Lady India will have a scant two weeks to turn what was once a brothel into the epitome of charm and refinement.
Thorn and India share a palpable fire from their first meeting, one marked by belligerence and a struggle for dominance. India is not accustomed to being spoken to like a servant, and Thorn is taken-aback when India fails to flinch from his commanding personality.
She looked at him with about as much warmth as you might expect from a wild boar.
Thorn is a delightful lug with well-earned swagger, understanding that his wealth, appearance, and success give him substantial sway despite his illegitimacy. India is smart and confident in her non-traditional choices, her beauty and personality as well as enormous talent have made her a favorite of the ton and a sought-after wife. Despite their obvious chemistry, there is no potential romance between the two because Thorn is committed to his plan to pursue Lala. While it would be easy to make Lala an unlikeable shrew, and thus easily cast aside, she’s a sweet if beleaguered (due to her abusively horrible mother) woman deserving of love in her own right.
Still the snarling flirtation between Thorn and India is crackling fun. In person or via correspondence these two spar with fire and wit. I particularly like their ongoing exchanges regarding the house renovation:
I received an invoice from an Italian painter who is charging $150 for painting swallows. Where are these swallows? They must be formed from liquid gold, so I want to make sure I notice them.
Today I received an invoice for Aubosson carpets. Are you nailing them to the roof in lieu of slate? There isn’t enough floor space in the entire house for this number of rugs.
Even as their flirtation turns physical, neither question Thorn’s plan to marry Lala. Eventually the house is finished to perfection, just in time for Thorn to host a country house party, surround himself with estimable friends and family, and secure Lala’s hand in marriage. One guest, Thorn’s closest friend since Eton, is the Vander, the future Duke of Pindar, a rakish charmer in his own rights who has justifiably noticed India’s ample charms. So it seems all is going according to plan, Thorn will get his sweet, lovely, bid-able wife Lala and Vander and India will make an elegant and well-matched pair.
If only the passion between Thorn and India would allow it.
I’ve been rather unimpressed with the few books by Eloisa James (I almost strained myself with eye rolling while reading When Beauty Tamed the Beast, her popular take on Beauty and the Beast) but found Three Weeks with Lady X a delightfully fun and saucy read worthy of a best-of list.
Until the last 20%, however. Thorn and India are strong, passionate, slightly-damaged characters and it should be great fun to watch them relinquish their preconceived plans of “what should be” and open up to the vulnerability and inevitability of “what is”. Yes Thorn is a lug who has inadvertently hurt India with his slightly-brutish ways and we can’t wait to see him earn her love and trust with a grand gesture. Unfortunately instead things veer off into weeds with unexpected elopements, public revelations, and near-death experiences to achieve a far less satisfying HEA.
That being said there is much to recommend this novel and I’ll definitely keep an eye out for her next book, which will focus on Vander. If it’s got even half the heat of this one, it’ll be worth a read.