Four Nights with the Duke
When Mia blackmails Vander, Duke of Pindar, into marrying her, she intends the arrangement to be temporary, but since he has no intention of letting this unaccountably intriguing woman escape, he imposes conditions of his own: he will only spend four nights a year in her bed, and then only if she begs. As one character remarks about Twelfth Night, “The whole premise… is absurd. Shakespeare created an improbability and hung the whole story on it.” That does not stop their difficult path to happiness being entertaining, however.
Two features distinguish this Regency romance: the heroine’s courage and independence, despite her insecurities, and the way James plays with the conventions of romance fiction. Mia secretly is the highly successful author of several gothic romances, and this provides ample opportunity for self-deprecating humor and different levels of irony: like Mia, James has another identity (Shakespeare professor), and they both have to satisfy the expectations of their readers. Mia insists her novels “have nothing to do with real life,” but the scene where she reveals she is a novelist is inspired comedy. Highly recommended.