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REVIEW: Mistress of Willowvale by Patricia Veryan

Dear Readers,

While not strictly part of the Golden Chronicles, MoW sets the stage for it and features lots of characters who appear throughout it and the follow up series, the Jewelled Men. It’s one of Veryan’s rarer titles and as such sells for lots of money. This is my second reading and while it’s gone up a bit in my estimation since the first time, I still doubt it’s worth the monetary investment for all but dedicated Veryan fans.

Kit Thorndyke and his older twin, Kevin, were devoted to each other all their lives and when Kit discovers his twin dying on the battlefield of Prestonpans (right before the final showdown battle of Culloden), he is devastated. He also inherits the Earldom of Aynsworth, something he never wanted. When Kit sells out of the cavalry and returns to London, he discovers two things. Lots of people wonder if the vicious rumors that he allowed his twin to
die so he could inherit the Earldom are true and two, the woman he has loved his entire life has been publicly unfaithful to him during the six years he fought as a cavalry officer in Europe and as a result has a bastard son.

Kit is appalled by the first discovery and devastated by the second. But since he has publicly stated his intention to marry Leonie before discovering the truth, he has no choice but to honor his word and marry her. Leonie
refuses to name the man with whom she had an affair and pleads for Kit’s understanding. His pain demands an outlet and he salvages his wounded pride by lashing out at her. After the wedding, they move to his estate, Willowvale, and he begins to discover that he can’t forget the love they had for each other. Nor can he withstand the growing love he feels for Alexander, Leonie’s son. But when the military arrives hunting fugitive Jacobites, the whole family and their friends are pulled into a growing disaster that threatens not only their love but could end with the specter of a ghastly traitors death for them all.

MoW ends up mainly being Kit’s book. And because of him and the usual trademarks of Veryan’s books, great duels, close friends, near disaster endings, wonderful period touches, it gets a qualified B- from me. What drags it down? Leonie. Quite simply, she never becomes more than a cypher heroine and as most of the book is shown from Kit’s POV, I ended up not knowing much more about her than I did at the beginning. The secret behind her fall from grace is revealed (and she does have good reasons for what she did) but she comes off as very colorless and not too interesting.

What I came away with during this reading is a greater appreciation for Kit. I had seen him as cruel to Leonie (and he is, at times) but now I can see why and how deeply he suffered. The Veryan group has discussed this book and one member pointed out how Kit’s personality type matched her own (we think he is a Myers-Briggs ISTJ – The Duty Fulfiller). After having read this personality profile, I must say that she has a point and I can see some of the driving factors behind Kit’s actions and feelings. I also enjoy his interactions with five year old Alexander and how he begins to be a role model for the impressionable lad. They began to inculcate the Code of a Gentleman very early then.

Veryan’s writing style is very much like the old Hollywood swashbucklers of the 30s and 40s. Sort of larger than life at times and full of drama and, well, swashbuckling. The Code of Honor is paramount and is lived to the letter. Men worship their Ladies Fair and would rather die than break their word. Women might appear weak and frail (and that’s how lots of the men see them) but have deep inner strengths that come into play in surprisingly realistic “true to the times” ways (you’ll never see a Veryan heroine grab a sword and engage in a duel).

While MoW isn’t as good overall as most of Veryan’s other books, it does have its strengths and is worth reading for those and to see some of the other characters from her series. But don’t spend too much money for it and be aware of its weaknesses. B-

~Jayne

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

24 Comments

  1. Kristie(J)
    Jun 08, 2007 @ 16:06:59

    Ooooh Oooooh Ooooh – I’m just giddy with delight to see this author being reviewed here!! She was the one who brought me back to romance and was a huge contributing force in making me what I am today – romance reader wise (and thus spreading to on-line wise). I’ve read this particular book and it was the least favourite of all her earlier Georgian books. I enjoyed The Wagered Widow and the whole Golden Chronicles series more than this one.
    She does have a wonderful writing style – not for everyone – but it really works for me!! And another thing I don’t remember so much from this one but really shines in so many of her other books, is a wickedly wonderful sense of humour. Many times when reading her books I find myself chuckling or even laughing out loud.
    And I would classify all her heroes as noble. That’s what stand out the most about her books

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  2. Marg
    Jun 08, 2007 @ 16:26:09

    I’ve never heard of this author before…but I am going to go and have a look and see if I can find some of her books!

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  3. RenéeW
    Jun 08, 2007 @ 16:48:37

    I was a huge fan of PV and read this one many many years ago and promptly put it in my keeper shelf. I still have it (with the same cover here) and have been meaning to pull it out for a re-read one of these days. Your review has reminded me why I used to love her books. They had substance and the social and political attitudes always seemed accurate, unlike some of the historical fluff I have read. Although MoW was not her best work, it made a deep impression on me and I went on to read the rest of her work. I do remember that Kit was a terrific hero and I enjoyed the second chance at love story line.

    The Golden Chronicles was her best series with its conclusion, Dedicated Villian, being my favorite. I also thoroughly enjoyed the Jewelled Men series (with The Mandarin of Mayfair) and the Sanguinet Saga. Her later works were very disappointing (Riddle series). But she has retired from writing now (probably a good thing).

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  4. Kristie(J)
    Jun 08, 2007 @ 16:56:05

    Renee: Ah yes! Poor Rolly. She did make him suffer didn’t she? And mine is a paperback copy and when I finally found a copy – I was SO disappointed in the cover of it after some of the gorgeous covers of her other books.

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  5. RenéeW
    Jun 08, 2007 @ 17:17:38

    Kristie: Yes, he was the villain of previous 5 books so he went through a lot, poor guy. But when he finally gets his HEA… wow, it was wonderful. The hardback cover of this was beautiful as I recall.

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  6. WandaSue
    Jun 08, 2007 @ 17:22:47

    I remember reading “MOW” ages ago. Twenty years ago, at least. And boy, did I fall hard for Kit. Honorable, kind, vulnerable, and funny. Yeah, Leonie was shadowy, but she loved him so much, so … whatever. And I loved the little boy, Alexander. The rapport he and Kit develop, which gradually shifts into love, was very well done. This one of my favorite books of all time. If only knew what happened to my tattered copy of it …

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  7. Lynne
    Jun 08, 2007 @ 17:38:34

    The Dedicated Villain is my favorite Veryan, ever. I’m afraid to reread it because I halfway suspect it’s much cheesier than my current tastes in reading, but I have fond memories nonetheless.

    I finally had to get MoW from the library after I couldn’t find it for under $80 online. I have no idea what it’s selling for, these days.

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  8. Kristie(J)
    Jun 08, 2007 @ 17:41:44

    Jayne – hope you don’t mind me taking over *g*
    Renee – I found some copies and posted ‘em at my place

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  9. Jayne
    Jun 09, 2007 @ 03:50:25

    Marg, an online friend of mine wrote the DIK review at AAR for the GOlden Chronicles series and those are what got me started reading and collecting her novels. I think I just have an anthology left to go before I own everything.

    I love her writing but admit that I’ve not yet read the Regency “Riddle” series (not to be confused with the two books she wrote that finish out the GC and JM series that also have “Riddle” in the titles) which are considered her weakest books. If you take the Veryan plunge, be prepared to pay a lot for a few of the titles. For some reason, there are about 5-6 which are very expensive though the others can be found for resonable prices.

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  10. Jayne
    Jun 09, 2007 @ 03:57:58

    Rolly and August both go through a lot on their way to hero status. I think Rolly much more so, though.

    PV’s humor delights me each time I read one of her books. The single title Regencies I’ve read don’t seem to have quite as much but the GC and Jm series are brimming with it.

    She was the one who brought me back to romance and was a huge contributing force in making me what I am today – romance reader wise (and thus spreading to on-line wise).

    Kristie, I used to devour the old Fawcett Crest line of Georgians and Regencies way back when and PC reminds me a lot of them.

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  11. Jayne
    Jun 09, 2007 @ 04:02:39

    Lynne, I just checked a few online sellers and there are some copies of MoW for about $30 which would be, what? about £15? Not too bad for this book. ;)

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  12. Keishon
    Jun 09, 2007 @ 06:49:33

    I have found a few of her books, just never tried them. As some are part of a series. This is one author where people keep her books.

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  13. DS
    Jun 09, 2007 @ 07:24:57

    She’s a writer I should like and I have most of her books including this one but for some reason I’ve been easily distracted in the past. I think I’ll give them another go and see what happens.

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  14. Jayne
    Jun 09, 2007 @ 07:47:54

    DS, I think her series books would be better enjoyed if read in sequence. Especially the Jewelled Men. The first 4 books of the Golden Chronicles could probably be read in about any order but “Cherished Enemy” and “Dedicated Villain” should be read last. Here’s a link with the Chronology. Note that Shipwrecked Spinster and Dangerous Dandy should go after the JM series and not the Riddle series.

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  15. Robin
    Jun 09, 2007 @ 10:41:58

    I just picked up Tyrant and Love Alters Not for .01 and 1.50, respectively, figuring that if I love those I’ll choke down the 20 or 30 bucks for each of the first two (the last two are everywhere and they’re cheap). Thanks for posting that DIK AAR review, Jayne; it was exactly the clue I needed to figure out how to approach the buying dilemma. I don’t mind spending a lot for an old Romance (I just got a mint copy of Shana Abe’s The Promise of Rain for 25 bucks, a deal, even though it seems ridiculous), but since I’ve never read Veryan I figured I’d take it slow.

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  16. Kristie(J)
    Jun 09, 2007 @ 11:50:16

    Jayne: I’ve read those DIK reviews a number of times and she does a wonderful job in capturing the feel of the whole series. While still wonderful as stand-alones, when you read all books it really enriches the whole series. I think Love Alters Not is my favourite of this series and indeed of all her books.
    And because I’m a visual kind of person *g* except for the PB copy of DV, all her covers are great in PB form. The first Veryan I ever read – Cherished Enemy – I picked up strictly for the cover – and then discovered the real treasure inside!
    Robin – I think you could probably read either one of those two you have and get a feel for her style to see if you like her or not. She really isn’t for everyone. Her books are kisses only, but she still manages great sexual tension between her heroes and heroines.

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  17. Jayne
    Jun 09, 2007 @ 12:12:21

    Robin, I agree with Kristie. The Tyrant and Love Alters Not are great books and will give you an idea of whether or not you like her writing style. If you do, I’d see if your library has “Practice” and “Journey.” If not, you can always try for a ILL. I would read the GC series before the JM.

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  18. Jayne
    Jun 09, 2007 @ 12:15:14

    Kristie, PV got showered with some good coverluv, didn’t she? Some of the foreign covers are fairly awful but most of the US hardback and paperback ones are great. For those who’ve never seen them, check out this link.

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  19. Kristie(J)
    Jun 09, 2007 @ 12:30:25

    She really did some great covers. Years ago when I was in the depths of my Veryan love I wrote her a letter and she wrote back. She mentioned that she had a blown-up copy of The Tyrant that she had received.
    Heh Heh – I’ve visited that site before. Great place to ‘borrow’ covers. The one that really made me chuckle was Ask Me No Questions (when you click on the cover you see the European versions) For those who’ve read her books – the suggestive covers are SO far removed from the type of books she writes it’s actually funny.

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  20. Robin
    Jun 09, 2007 @ 13:54:05

    Her books are kisses only, but she still manages great sexual tension between her heroes and heroines.

    I ADORE the old Tom and Sharon Curtis Regencies, and they are also kisses only. IMO, if today’s Romances managed 1/2 of the erotic and romantic tension those old Curtis books did, I’d be one happy reader. I wonder, sometimes, if the genre’s openness to more graphic sexuality has ironically made many of the books less sexy. I would guess that it’s a lot more challenging to use the characters only and not all their intersecting naughty bits to create a palpable erotic spark.

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  21. Julie Leto
    Jun 10, 2007 @ 14:53:27

    Where can I find this book? My library doesn’t have it…and eBay sellers want a whole lot o’ money. Even at Amazon it’s over $30. Jayne, was this a rare find?

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  22. Jayne
    Jun 11, 2007 @ 03:44:17

    Julie, I had to finally bite the bullet when I bought my copy a few years ago. I think I paid about $30 for it. You could try asking your library to do an Inter-Library Loan. There’s a form to fill out (my local library won’t do this online) which then gets sent out to see if other libraries in the country have a copy they’d loan to yours which would then loan it to you. Or you could keep checking online UBS sites. Every now and then someone will list one at ebay and the bidding won’t go up too high.

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  23. Julie Leto
    Jun 11, 2007 @ 07:21:01

    Thanks, Jayne. This book sounds like a perfect companion to the research I’m doing on Georgian England for my paranormal series–which is not historical, but has historical characters…if that makes sense. Anyway, my library apparently doesn’t do ILL online either, so I’m heading over today. I also found a copy in Jacksonville and I have a friend there I might ask to get it for me. I appreciate it!

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  24. Jayne
    Jun 11, 2007 @ 07:40:34

    Oh cool. Research. That means you could deduct it as a business expense. Right? I’m pea-green with envy. ;)

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