Somewhere in the pages of Three Nights… there was a DIK screaming to get out. But – very, very regretfully – some beautifully written, sexy, sweet, and romantic early chapters give way to a painful mishmash of melodramatic goings-on and overwrought prose culminating in a kind of group hug straight out of a bad sitcom. And, considering the promise of those early chapters, it’s one of the biggest disappointments of my (admittedly young, so far) reading year.
What makes those first 93 pages so wonderful? A likable heroine finds herself forced to give up her virtue and spend three nights with a ruthless rouge in exchange for forgiveness of her father’s gaming debts and a promise not to engage him in a duel. But, instead of whining, complaining, and refusing to enjoy the experience, heroine Aveline Stoddard gives herself to the experience and thoroughly enjoys three sensuously adventurous nights with devil-may-care scoundrel Lucien DuFeron. Of course, Aveline can’t help herself from falling for her lover, and, for her pains, Lucien (loathe though he may be to admit it) begins to care for her. Such is the author’s skill that her exquisite rendering of the tenderness slowly invading the rake’s heart ranked right up there with some of my favorite fictional romantic scenes. (Remember Sara’s discovery that Derek Craven was keeping her missing eye glasses close to his heart in Lisa Kleypas’s Dreaming of You?) Clearly, great care was taken with these early chapters and it shows.
But then comes the crash. Unfortunately, describing latter events definitely falls into spoiler territory, but suffice it to say that the lovers separate when the three nights are over. (Not a surprise since there has to be a conflict.) And almost immediately Lucien is kidnapped and forced to spend five years away from England, leaving Society – and Aveline – believing that he is dead.
From that point on, the pages that follow bear little to no resemblance to the first 93. Villains all but hiss, a previously forthright heroine dabbles in TSTL behavior when someone very close to her is threatened, and love scenes rendered so beautifully in the first chapters degenerate into exercises in purple prose that had me thinking of Beatrice Small. (And not in a good way.)
As for Lucien and Aveline, I loved them in the early chapters. The bastard son of a Duke, Lucien is a charming young rogue who knows that he is only tolerated by his family and by Society for his “golden touch” in making money. Unlike a lot of heroines with a feckless father, Aveline is understandably furious with her father for putting the family in an impossible position. Aveline is no doormat and she forthrightly does what she has to do to take care of the problem.
And then there’s the rest of the book. Again, detail would add spoilers, but both characters frustrated me to no end in the remaining chapters consisting primarily of a relentless quest for revenge, stupid assumptions by smart people, and Victimhood (always a hot button for me). However, there is one positive I want to point out: Eventually, Aveline and Lucien do talk to each other, cutting short to some degree the painful Big Mis keeping them apart.
Frankly, I’m torn here in whether or not to recommend this book. I absolutely and unhesitatingly recommend the early pages and, for me, they alone would be worth the price of the book. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.
One final thought. Whatever parts of herself Debra Mullins called upon to write the first six chapters of this book, I sincerely hope she can find again. A book by that author would decidedly be one to remember.