Series: Desperate Duchesses (Book 8)
As a young girl, Emilia Gwendolyn Carrington told the annoying future Duke of Pindar that she would marry any man in the world before him -- so years later she is horrified to realize that she has nowhere else to turn.
Evander Septimus Brody has his own reasons for agreeing to Mia's audacious proposal, but there's one thing he won't give his inconvenient wife: himself.
Instead, he offers Mia a devil's bargain . . . he will spend four nights a year with her. Four nights, and nothing more. And those only when she begs for them.
Which Mia will never do.
Now Vander faces the most crucial challenge of his life: he must seduce his own wife in order to win her heart -- and no matter what it takes, this is the one battle he can't afford to lose.
The book starts when Mia and Vander are fifteen years old. They have an odd connection because her father has been carrying on an affair with his mother, one that is no secret to anyone. Mia has also developed a crush on Vander and has written a truly awful love poem to him. Unfortunately for her, he finds it, and with his friends, makes fun of it in ways that only teenage boys can do. Overhearing what they are saying, Mia is humiliated and tells him that he's the last person she would ever consider marrying.
Flash forward thirteen years, and Mia finds herself having to eat her words. In order to retain guardianship of her orphaned nephew, she has to marry and marry soon. Her fiance stood her up on their wedding day, and she is desperate to find a husband. Enter Vander, the last man she wants, but the one she has the means to force into marriage. She succeeds in gaining his agreement, but he has conditions of his own.
I had love-hate feelings for both Vander and Mia. I really liked Mia's independence and determination to do whatever necessary to protect Charlie. She has an excellent career as a romance novelist, is smart, funny, and loving. She also has some serious self esteem issues when it comes to her appearance, seeing herself as fat, plain and unappealing to men. These feelings had been reinforced by the comments of Vander and his friends way back, and she has never really forgiven him for them. For the most part,Vander seems like a decent man. He takes care of his uncle, runs his estate well, and is dedicated to his horses rather than being out wasting time in society. He doesn't play by society's rules, being pretty plain spoken. He's also used to getting his own way, whether it is something to do with his horses or women. But when it comes to Mia, he is a bit of an ass.
When she comes to him with the marriage proposal, he is convinced that she wants the marriage because she is still in love with him. He figures he'll get even with her by denying her what he thinks she wants - his body. He's surprised when she insists she doesn't want him. and really doesn't believe her. But having made his demands plain to her, he finds himself regretting it when he discovers that he is very attracted to her. I was pretty disgusted with his attitude, and how he was constantly making lewd remarks to her, even after she told him to leave her alone. He had been determined never to marry because of his parents' actions, and seeing what "love" caused them to do. With his marriage to Mia, he refuses to allow himself the same kind of obsession he saw in his mother, but he can't stop thinking about her. What made me mad at him was that it mostly seemed to be about sex with him. Once in awhile there would be something else about her, something she said or did, that makes him realize how smart, funny, loving, etc, she is, but then it would go right back to sex. It isn't until near the end, when he nearly loses her, that he realizes that his own actions have driven her away. Then he has to figure out how to show her how he really feels.
Mia also frustrated me on a regular basis. I loved her independent spirit. She doesn't really care about society, as she has never wanted to be part of it. She's made a good life for herself writing popular books. She wasn't particularly happy about her father's affair, but her romantic nature saw how much he and Vander's mother cared for each other. When she becomes the guardian of her nephew, she will do anything she has to in order to keep him out of the hands of his uncle, even marry Vander. I really enjoyed watching her poke holes in his conceit by telling him she had no intention of asking for any of those four nights. I felt bad for the way she thought she was so unattractive, even when Vander made it obvious he was attracted to her. But what really bugged me was the way that every time Vander made advances, she would immediately forget her resolve to resist him and give in to the desire. Her brain would be telling her no, but she ignored it. I really wanted her to make him work for it. She would complain about his lack of respect for her, but she didn't seem to have any respect for herself either.
In spite of it all, they did get closer. Vander did see what a wonderful woman Mia was. He did his best to show her that he found her very desirable. He did come to love her, but he had no idea how to show her. Mia realized that she had never stopped loving Vander, but she didn't think he loved her back. His actions when her former fiance reappeared reinforced those feelings. I liked the ending and seeing how Charlie helped Vander. It was sweet to see Vander finally find a way to speak about his feelings. Charlie's uncle makes a brief reappearance, and I loved Charlie's part in vanquishing him. I loved the epilogue.
I really enjoyed two of the secondary characters. Charlie was adorable. I loved seeing the way that he and Vander connected. Charlie really needed the kind of support that Vander provided. I loved their first meeting and the way that Charlie stood up for himself. He also had a pretty good perspective on life, and I loved seeing his determination to deal with his handicap. The other one I like was Jafeer, the horse. It was so much fun to see tiny Mia do things with the horse that all those big men couldn't manage.