REVIEW: Love in the Country by Jill Barry
It’s December 1925 and the young Annabel Crawford is about to get a surprise. Her mother, Lily Crawford, explains that the Viscount Lassiter is unexpectedly joining them for Christmas dinner – and Annabel couldn’t be less impressed! The Viscount walks under a cloud of scandal after the infamous end of his latest engagement and Annabel, already distraught at having to engage in ‘drawing room silliness’ over the festive period, is irritated that she will have to entertain this reprobate aristocrat who she has never even met.
On Christmas Eve the headstrong Annabel escapes her Aunt Hester’s dreadful carol singing and takes her beloved horse Juno out for a ride. But while riding, she is thrown off her horse and into the ditch. Rescued by a two gentlemen in a shiny red Bentley, she is eternally grateful – that is until she discovers her hero is Lord Lassiter and his servant Norman Bassett.
Housebound by her swollen ankle, Annabel soon begins to discover their is more to Lassiter – and his enigmatic servant – than meets the eye. As the snow begins to fall and threatens to leave them all housebound beyond the festive season, even the cook is drawn into the complex web of feelings and fancies that surround the party. But with such an outrageous past coming to light, will it all end in tears, or can love prevail?
Dear Ms. Barry,
I’m delighted to see more 1920s romances on offer and this one looked too good to pass up. A headstrong commoner heroine who isn’t impressed by our hero’s title? That sounded interesting. Then I realized that there was a secondary romance involved as well. But I’m afraid that the informal tone seemed just a bit off.
Annabel is forthright about many things including the fact that she’d rather be riding her horse than stuck inside with the relations during the family Christmas house party. Learning that a Viscount who had recently ended his engagement (Oh, the scandal) is to join them doesn’t improve her outlook as Annabel feels the man is a cad to jilt any girl this close to Christmas. She also worries her mother will try to match make her (nouveau riche) family into the aristocracy.
Lawrence Lassiter is a very down to earth Viscount who is immediately attracted to the lovely young woman of the house in spite of the fact that once she learns his name, her attitude cools to frosty. Since he volunteered to take on the role of jilter to save his duplicitous ex-fiancée’s reputation after she betrayed him, Lawrence can hardly tell his hosts the real reason he broke his engagement. As he spends more time with Annabel and learns more about her, he wishes she was the one he’d met earlier and been able to court properly.
Meanwhile, Lawrence’s man discovers an old flame and long held secret below stairs and this time, Bassett is determined not to let a certain woman get away from him.
I like the fact that the story is set in the country and that we see as much of downstairs life as above stairs. The cook worries about her daughter’s future employment (though since she’s an excellent cook and is training her daughter up, Emmie should be able to get a good job in a posh London hotel). She also warns the new maid about the possible wandering hands of the youngest son of the house.
Annabel tends to run hot and cold about Lawrence when the plot needs it and I couldn’t quite buy her off-again reasoning given the relaxation in social mores occurring in England by this time. Once she was on-again, I’m glad her father stepped in and slowed things down enough to give all parties a chance to discover their true feelings outside of the hothouse Christmas party environment. The general informality about names was a touch jarring. The secondary romance is sweet though and I enjoyed watching it progress but overall this was a lite novella I probably won’t remember much of. B-/C+