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REVIEW: A Prudent Match by Laura Matthews

Dear Ms. Matthews:

Imagine my surprise when I found a release of yours on Fictionwise that I hadn’t bought. I spent last week re-reading some of my favorite traditional regencies and I lamented anew how much I missed this sub genre. I’m not certain what it is about the trad regency that I like so much, but I think it’s that the setting seems so genuine that I can really lose myself in the period and enjoy watching the pleasurable courtship take place.

The focus of the relationships are rarely overtly physical which makes A Prudent Match so unusual. The story starts out with said William Ledbetter, Eighth Baron Ledbetter, and Prudence Stockworth tying the knot. Prudence inherited a great deal of money from her deceased fiancé of three years and most everyone, including William’s sister, believes that he is marrying Prudence for her money.

Prudence doesn’t object to this exactly. She isn’t forced into marriage. She isn’t so on the shelf, particularly with the great fortune, that she had to marry Ledbetter and only Ledbetter. I think Prudence had a good sense of her own worth and she didn’t hold Ledbetter in awe like some did, given his distinguished family name and handsome countenance.

For Ledbetter’s part, he likes Prudence, but can’t help but wonder if he entirely has her measure.

He heard her whisper, "Oh, I shall miss you, Pru. Write to me often. Promise you will!”
“I will," his bride agreed, "for with Ledbetter to frank my least significant words, I shan’t hesitate to post them.”
He eyed his bride sharply. Somehow it almost sounded-’though of course she hadn’t meant it to-’as if she had married him because he could frank her letters to her sister. And there was that gleam in her eyes, the gleam he suspected meant that she was amusing herself at someone else’s expense-’in this case, his.

And then there is the issue of Prudence’s innocence which Ledbetter stultifyingly announced that he found so charming earlier. Prudence found Ledbetter to be too overwhelming for her and it made her quite afraid of marital relations. She recognizes her "duty" and resigns herself to that fate which, in turn, makes Ledbetter quite angry for her wants Prudence to want him like he desires her.

“But you and I are wife and husband now," he protested. “That doesn’t make it any less embarrassing … or frightening.”
“It should.”
“How? Because a few words are spoken in front of us? Because we said "I do’?" Prudence scoffed. "I scarcely know you, and yet I am to allow you to … to do with my body what you wish

It’s fairly amusing watching Ledbetter have to deal with Prudence’s embarrassment and fear of intimacy given his appreciation of her virginity. In all fairness, Ledbetter is beyond patient and tender and loving with Prudence and it’s a way to show how truly wonderful a character Ledbetter is behind his sometimes evident superiority complex.

There’s a mystery that Prudence has to unravel about the "why" of Ledbetter’s need for her dowry. His property is well maintained. There are plenty of family jewels. The why is a bit complicated and adds to the already precarious relationship between the newlyweds.

I fully appreciate how every plot thread was discussed and how it affected the conflict and interplay between Prudence and Ledbetter ever so subtly from Prudence’s fear of being abandoned and Ledbetter’s real purpose in marrying Prudence. B

Best regards,

Jane

This book is out of print and can be purchased through various used bookstore outlets such as Amazon or ebook format from Fictionwise.

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

18 Comments

  1. DS
    Dec 10, 2008 @ 15:37:18

    I always liked Laura Matthews. She did some fun things with Regencies.

    If you haven’t already done so, I might suggest you look up some of her Silhouettes written under Elizabeth Neff Walker. There was one Silhouette Intimate Moment(?)– never could tell those lines apart– where she turned the sophisticated woman/innocent ingenue pair on its head. Wish I could remember the title but I think I destroyed those brain cells years back.

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  2. orannia
    Dec 10, 2008 @ 15:45:17

    Thank you Jane. I’ve never read any of Laura Matthews’ books, but A Prudent match sounds good. Is it the best place to start?

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  3. Jane
    Dec 10, 2008 @ 16:27:05

    @orannia: I probably liked A Curious Courting, The Lady Next Door, The Village Spinster a little better. A Curious Courting is my favorite Matthews book but she’s fairly consistent so if you like Trad Reg featuring the more pragmatic heroine, most of her works will be satisfying.

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  4. (Jān)
    Dec 10, 2008 @ 16:42:49

    @DS, was it That Other Woman? Where the guy falls for a homemaker after he’s together with the sophisticated heroine?

    I’ve recently re-read many of my Matthews books. I enjoy her because she’s lower-key and subtler than a lot of trad Regency writers, at least the ones of the later years.

    You know, when I need a comfort read I still pick up trads. I’ve read most on my keeper shelves several times now. It’s still my favorite subgenre of Romance.

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  5. Michelle
    Dec 10, 2008 @ 16:57:34

    I just started re-reading a bunch of Carla Kelly traditional regencies. I also miss that sub-genre. I know they’ll have a real strong sense of time and place – kind of like world-building in fantasy. I don’t think I’ve ever read any Laura Matthews, but I do have a stash of traditional regencies at home that I haven’t read. Since I can’t get them new anymore, I pace myself through that stash. I’m pretty sure I have some L.M. books in that collection. Who are some of your other favorites?

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  6. DS
    Dec 10, 2008 @ 17:16:33

    @ (Jān) No, it was the one where the hero who is already involved with the heroine, (I think) meets the ingenue (picks her up hitch hiking or something) who is convinced that she is going to get the hero because she is all the things the average romance heroine was at the time– younger, interested in domestic things, etc.

    It was a nice turn around. I need to see if I can figure which one it was, though The Other Woman would have been a very good title for it.

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  7. (Jān)
    Dec 10, 2008 @ 18:20:10

    I’m pretty sure that’s the one, but it’s been a long time since I’ve read it.
    The Other Woman at fictiondb.com

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  8. Patricia Briggs
    Dec 10, 2008 @ 19:20:29

    Some of my favorites:

    The Girl from the Diadem by Jean Merrill. Though it is an Edwardian romance, the flavor is the same. I don’t know if this is the same Jean Merrill who wrote The Pushcart War or not. I do know that it is the only romance by Jean Merrill, which is a shame.

    Anything by Laura London — though many of them feel slightly dated now, I love their (Tom and Sharon Curtis are Laura London). The Bad Baron’s Daughter (which I originally picked up because of the terrible terrible, but very appropriate title) and The Gypsy Heiress are my favorites among their regencies.

    Aunt Sophie’s Diamonds by Joan Smith. I love most of her earlier work, but this is one I go back to a lot.

    Best,
    Patty

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  9. Jane
    Dec 10, 2008 @ 19:25:53

    If we are talking trad regencies in general, I love Joan Wolf’s trad regencies even more than her full length mass markets. I’ve read “His Lordship’s Mistress” too many times to count and London Season might be one of my favorite books of all time.

    I tried one Elizabeth Neff book featuring antiques in the story and it wasn’t to my taste but maybe I should give her another try.

    Bantam is releasing a bunch of Mary Balogh’s out of print trads next year. Maybe with Random House’s new POD program, we can send in enough requests for them to revive the Bantam trad line, at least in ebook format, for the ones that they still have the rights to. (which maybe isn’t very many)

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  10. Michelle
    Dec 10, 2008 @ 19:32:43

    Thanks, Patty and Jane. I’ve read the Laura London Amish book (contemporary) but have never read a regency by them, and I’ve read Joan Wolf’s single titles. I adore Mary Balogh and have read every trad by her I could find. I’ll look for regencies from all of the authors you recommend.

    It turns out that the Laura Matthews novel I have is The Baronet’s Bride, published by warner in 1981.

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  11. meanne
    Dec 11, 2008 @ 07:37:41

    It was DA who introduced me to Laura Matthews when it reviewed A Curious Courting. I loved it and tried her other Regencies as a result.

    Favorites also include: The Seventh Suitor, In My Lady’s Chamber but my absolute favorite is The Nomad Harp… The start of the story had both H/H already engaged to each other ( to be married ) but whose emotions weren’t engaged at all. It was only when they broke up and the hero got himself engaged to another woman, that he fell for the heroine.. but being an honorable man…Oh, you just have to read it! Wonderful story!! One that I reread often. It has the same gentle, heart-tugging quality of the best of Carla Kelly and Mary Balogh — Two authors I’m also a huge fan of…

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  12. Phyl
    Dec 11, 2008 @ 08:27:46

    @Jane–you said:

    If we are talking trad regencies in general, I love Joan Wolf's trad regencies even more than her full length mass markets. I've read “His Lordship's Mistress” too many times to count and London Season might be one of my favorite books of all time.

    I love HLM, too and have re-read it often. I’m also very fond of her An American Duchess which touches on post-partum depression (without calling it that, of course). I really liked how JW did that.

    I’m so glad to see more and more of these older books available again and I pick them up at Fictionwise whenever I can.

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  13. Janet W
    Dec 11, 2008 @ 09:06:08

    Excellent regency — the heroine has a subtle sharp mind and the husband is so intrigued by her. The thread of intimacy is so real and involving as well. Their arguments, how they work out what kind of a marriage they’ll have: it’s a very involving book.

    I too have all the Baloghs (well almost all, and I’ve read everyone). The Beverleys, Wolfs (YES to His Lordship’s Mistress) and also another great mistress book: A Scandalous Proposal by Julia Justiss. Lastly, from the man who must marry money perspective (and Ledbetter is somewhat in that situation), The Fortune Hunter by Diane Farr. Absorbing, honest …

    Thanks a lot for this review: I treasure my Keeper Trads altho frankly, I buy tons of them and give them almost all away: but this one is a keeper!

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  14. orannia
    Dec 11, 2008 @ 16:16:11

    Thank you Jane!

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  15. Anita C.
    Dec 12, 2008 @ 03:20:53

    FYI, Laura Mathews (writing as Elizabeth Neff Walker) wrote 4 contemporaries in the mid-1990s, all linked, all set in and around a fictional Fielding Medical Center in SF. I’m holding “Heart Conditions” (Signet, 1994) in my hand. It’s the first, I think, ’cause there’s a Coming Soon excerpt at the back for the next book, “Rising Temperatures.” She’s always great, no matter what name she’s using. I’m also holding a 1985 Silhoutte Special Edition #251, “Paternity” by ENW. Have had it about 5 years; I guess I’m saving it for a good rainy day read.

    P.S. The inside cover lists two other SE romances by her: #122 “Antique Affair” and #176 “That Other Woman.”

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  16. Julia Justiss
    Dec 12, 2008 @ 08:06:44

    What a joy to find a review for a Trad Regency! I join with others in mourning its demise in print, although Cerrodean (sp?) is taking up the slack in e-books and some of the trad writers (Blair Bancroft, another of my favorites) have gone there. I have shelves full of trad keepers that I read and re-read.

    Yes, yes, yes to Joan Wolf’s His Lordship’s Mistress, one of my all-time favorite books along with Loretta Chase’s Knave’s Wager. I really like the trad Chase books better than the longer Regency historicals she is writing now, with their obligatory boatload of love scenes. Lord Perfect is my favorite of the “newer” ones. Love all of Carla Kelly, particularly Miss Whittier Makes a List and One Good Turn. Thank heavens she’s still writing (for Harlequin Historicals now) and has a new book coming out in January, so be sure to look for it! It features sea captains, and since I loved the treatment of the sea in Miss Whittier, I can’t wait!

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  17. Diane FArr
    Dec 12, 2008 @ 11:37:28

    I just came across your site and am so pleased … How terrific that you are reviewing a traditional Regency! Signet has reissued three of their old Christmas Regencies this year (my ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS among them) as a sort of test, I believe … I have no real clue how well they are selling, but if they are doing well, who knows? Trad readers may be turning out in droves … resurrecting the Signet line.

    I can dream, can’t I?

    Merry Christmas!
    Diane
    http://www.dianefarrbooks.com

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  18. Janet W
    Dec 13, 2008 @ 19:31:13

    Could Misses Justiss and Farr be more modest? Check out their Regencies — they’re wonderful and Justiss just got an AAR DIK for “A Most Unconventional Match” … and lucky me, I just read a very OOP Regency called The Loving Seasons by Elizabeth Walker and the heroine, like the heroine in “A Most Unconventional Match” was a painter. Very unusual … but not unheard of …

    A little plug for The Loving Seasons: you get THREE love stories — three friends from school in London for their first season. Really absorbing and a bit off the beaten track!

    I have to add this: I just found out that Elizabeth Walker and Laura Matthews are one and the same … OMG! She writes about relationships in a very frank but not over-the-top way … really like her style!

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