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REVIEW: One Night in London by Caroline Linden

Dear Ms. Linden:

I picked this one up when I realized I hadn’t read many historicals lately. This is the first in a three book series involving the de Lacey brothers who discover that their recently deceased father may have been a bigamist threatening their standing in society and their inheritances. Edward, the second son, has been managing the estates of the Duke of Durham for some time and thus it falls to him to see to securing the legal claim to their estates while his younger brother searches for the blackmailer. The eldest, and new Duke of Durham, appears to be a dissolute do nothing (I’m sure he’ll have some dark secret to regale us with in his own book).

One Night in London by Caroline Linden Edward’s plans however, upset those of Francesca, Lady Gordon who is trying to retain a solicitor to assist her in obtaining guardianship over her dead brother’s daughter. When Francesca’s solicitor abandons her case to help Edward, she flies into a rage and confronts Edward, demanding that he compensate her loss by assisting her obtaining a new solicitor. Her fiery demeanor incites a passion in Edward that has been heretofore undiscovered.

The story starts out with Edward engaged to Louisa, a gently bred woman with whom he is in love. Despite his brothers’ urging to NOT divulge their scandal to Louisa, Edward does.

Edward nodded. “Agreed, except . . . I must tell Louisa.”

“Louisa!” Gerard frowned. “Must you?”

“How can I not?” Edward frowned back. “She deserves to know.”

His brother looked unconvinced. “I know you care for her, but I suggest you reconsider. You’ll have to put the wedding off because of Father’s death, but there’s no need to tell her of . . . this.”

“Gerard, she is my fiancée,” Edward replied, each word coated in ice. “I cannot keep something like this from her.”

Gerard hesitated. “Perhaps you should, if you want to keep her as your fiancée.”

Edward stilled. “I will pretend I didn’t hear that,” he said quietly. “Louisa is a woman of understanding and discretion. Moreover, she is the woman I love, and the woman who loves me. I wouldn’t dream of keeping such a terrible secret from her.”

Of course, Louisa doesn’t keep his secret, breaks their engagement and sells the story to a scandal sheet. From that point on, Edward spends most of his thoughts contemplating Francesca’s beauty:

Now that he was staring at her, he seemed unable to stop. His eyes roamed over her face, beautifully flushed, and her gleaming hair, so glorious against her skin. The other day, when she railed at him for stealing her solicitor, she’d been magnificent, in the manner of an avenging Fury. Francesca Gordon in a passion was quite a sight. The little devil that had invaded his mind tonight couldn’t stop comparing her to Louisa, who went pale and silent in emotional upset. Francesca—he really mustn’t become accustomed to thinking of her as such—reacted with anger and action. She stormed his house, the home of a total stranger, and upbraided him for inadvertently ruining her hopes. She said she would never forgive him, and smiled wickedly when he called her a managing female. By God, one could have a rousing good row with a woman like this, and then. . .

In fact, it isn’t until 43% of the book (mine was a digital arc) that Edward ponders Louisa’s betrayal, this woman that he loved so greatly that he could not countenance keeping such a secret from her. I think Francesca may have spent more time contemplating Edward’s loss than he did. This bothered me a great deal during the first half of the story. So much of the first half is Francesca and Edward thinking lustful thoughts about the other and that just didn’t fit. Shouldn’t Edward have felt a twinge of hurt, after all, he referred to Louisa as his “idealized model of womanhood” and despite this passage in the middle of the book, his broken engagement has little affect on him.

It hurt too much to think of the woman he had loved, honorably and faithfully, betraying his confidence and jilting him without a qualm. He wanted to know why. He wanted to demand she explain herself, even though he had no desire to repair the breach now. He wanted to know how he could have been so deceived in her character; he had thought her loving and loyal, trustworthy enough to hear his darkest secret and keep it so.

On the one hand, I am supposed to believe that Edward was deeply in love with Louisa. On the other, I’m to believe that this emotion can be cast off in a matter of hours and transferred onto Francesca. Once I gave up thinking about this, I appreciated the story once more. In other words, if I, like Edward, totally forgot about his prior love and Louisa altogether, I enjoyed the romance between Francesca and Edward.

I liked that Francesca, a widow, had a prior good marriage. There were definitely surprises that occurred in the second half that I hadn’t anticipated and that added a level of poignancy to the story. The dispute over the dukedom was set up well and read very plausibly. There was one scene in which Edward was yelling at Francesca for acting dangerously when she kissed him to shut him up which I thought was a nice gender reversal. I actually found the agnst free way in which they embarked on their affair was refreshing and I enjoyed how completely they enjoyed each other.

Having said that, I never saw Francesca as a lively, passionate woman outside of Edward’s previous experience. Sure, she showed a strong desire to be a mother to her niece, but that just didn’t seem very “fiery” to me. And Edward’s character wavered between kind of uptight in the beginning to completely unfazed about having his affair with this widow be well known amongst society. In short, I never got a good handle on either character. I didn’t feel like I knew them. I felt more like their actions were played out according to what the scene dictated rather than having the scene dictated by their characters. Both characters are perfectly likeable, but not very real. C

Best regards,

Jane

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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

11 Comments

  1. Lynne Connolly
    Sep 01, 2011 @ 06:52:41

    I reviewed this one, too, I thought you might pick up that she seems to have confused the roles of solicitor and barrister, something that irritated me a bit.
    But mainly, I wanted to say – is it just me, or is that cover just a bit weird? Don’t want to put that on the author’s shoulders, because she has little or no say in the cover, but wtf?

  2. Jane
    Sep 01, 2011 @ 07:37:48

    @Lynne Connolly: I’m not very familiar with the British legal system and so I felt like I couldn’t competently comment on it. I did wonder because I thought that there was big difference but I didn’t know when those differences began (i.e., more modern era) etc.

    And yes, the cover is a bit weird.

  3. Nicole
    Sep 01, 2011 @ 08:31:48

    I have not read this one, but I don’t understand why the solicitor (or barrister) needs to drop one case to work on another. A solicitor definitely has more than one client and a barrister could go to court for more than one matter, You would not make much money simply working on one matter at a time. I don’t think it requires any legal knowledge to figure out that concept.

    As for not being able to tell the difference between a solicitor and barrister, it would be a pretty common mistake for a North American since lawyers over here are both. In Canada, we are called to bar both as barristers and solicitors, and the general public doesn’t really know the difference since we can do all tasks. However, if an author was writing a book about it, I would think the author would make some attempt at learning the difference, either by watching Rumpole of the Bailey, or that show Garrow’s Law or maybe just doing a wikipedia search. There really is no excuse for not doing the research for something like that.

  4. Lynne Connolly
    Sep 01, 2011 @ 09:32:54

    Basically in the UK, a solicitor is the man (In the Regency era, always a man) who takes and deals with the case in its early stages. If the case needs to go higher than, I think, Crown Court, and certainly to the great Courts of Law in London, a barrister is needed, as only a QC or KC (Queen’s or King’s Counsel) can appear in those. The solicitor briefs the barrister, and they work together. There’s an easy way to tell them apart. Barristers drink a lot of red wine and wear wigs (lol!).

    My other problem was the legal one. There is a quick and relatively easy solution and it was both well known and used. Why not have the Crown remove the present title, and then re-create it? Better than a Jarndyce v Jarndyce situation.

  5. DS
    Sep 01, 2011 @ 11:25:10

    I’m pretty sure the separation came first. The solicitor was actually given power of attorney while the barrister spoke for the client– which is why there are so many evil solicitors in historical fiction but far fewer evil barristers.

    A lot of these books would be improved if the author would just go to the Newgate site and read some of the cases online there or at least download a copy of the Newgate Calendar.

  6. Lynne Connolly
    Sep 01, 2011 @ 12:49:18

    I’ve now heard from an expert in legal matters in the period, and it’s absolutely fascinating. I’m waiting for permission to quote her, then I’ll do so on TGTBTU. Well I think it’s fascinating, anyway.
    Two courts, one the House of Lords Committee of Privileges, the other a Church consistory court, with different representatives at each. The issue of the marriage and the property/title would be decided separately.
    I’ve had my wrist slapped for referring to Jarndyce v Jarndyce, which was property only. Rather more like the Duchess of Kingston bigamy case, which was a bit fascinating in its own right.

  7. Caroline
    Sep 01, 2011 @ 12:54:45

    Thanks for a thoughtful review as usual, Jane.

    But I actually did quite a bit of research for the legal part of this book, and am concerned that I might have missed something. I do know the difference between a solicitor and a barrister. I have minutes of the House of Lords in actual hearings on contested peerages. According to everything I found, solicitors did the legal drafting, investigating, and prep work for the case, then brought in a barrister to handle the courtroom part (during which the solicitor could still offer support in many ways). People didn’t engage barristers directly; the solicitor did. As this particular book dealt with the early stages of a legal case, it was a solicitor. (The barrister doesn’t enter until Book 3.)

    At least, that was the result of my research. I’m very sorry anyone found the story lacking emotionally, but please do send me references to any point of historical research I got egregiously wrong (allowing for some dramatic license, given the book is written for modern readers and not as a guidebook on peerage law). I always appreciate being better informed.

    And as for the cover… I have never yet been able to change a single thing about any of my covers, including the one where the girl’s nipple is visible. But I like the color of this one. :-)

  8. Sunita
    Sep 01, 2011 @ 12:54:52

    I think of it this way, which probably doesn’t capture everything: Solicitors are the family and company lawyers. They do the routine stuff, filing, etc. Barristers are the rock stars who come in and argue the case in court.

    I know solicitors and barristers in India. Watching barristers perform in court is like theater. They have solicitors on hand with all the pertinent documentation, if they need to refer to case materials, but they stand before the judges and take their questions. It can be over in 15 minutes or go on for days. Good ones are a privilege to watch. In India the best ones command extremely high fees and are hard to get.

    But yeah, there’s a big difference and any author writing about it should understand at least the basic contours.

  9. dick
    Sep 01, 2011 @ 13:44:17

    The story and characters were OK, IMO, but I got very weary of the repetitive bemoanings which occurred in the internal monologues, especially the heroine’s. I suppose a woman might have the same thoughts over and over, but in real life, a reader wouldn’t know that. I didn’t want to know in fictive life either.

  10. Lynne Connolly
    Sep 01, 2011 @ 15:39:10

    The trouble is, when you base a story on a legal case or an exception, you have to spend a lot of time explaining the details rather than developing the romance.
    And I hear you on the cover. It’s a lot like the cover of “Just One Season in London” by Leigh Michaels. Same colours, similar pose, but different publisher. Similar title, too.

  11. What Jane Has Been Reading, Week of August 29 - Dear Author
    Sep 13, 2011 @ 07:08:03

    […] REVIEW: One Night in London by Caroline Linden […]

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