Dear Ms. Smith:
I am a devoted fan of yours and have purchased every book that Belgrave House makes available. While not every book is a keeper, there is certainly a consistency of quality that makes me continue to buy your work. Blossom Time is a classic Smith story.
Rosalind Lovelace is a gently bred young woman whose youth has passed her by. Rosalind had been affianced once but her mother died and then her father and so she released her betrothed. Within a year he had married. Rosalind settled in to being the mistress of her brother’s household. She developed a deep friendship with her closest neighbor, Lord Harwell. While Lord Harwell had “featured largely in Rosalind’s daydreams, but she had too much barnyard common sense to let dreams color her reality. Harwell was just a friend.”
To escape from the mundanity of her country life, Rosalind began writing poetry. After several rejections, she resubmitted a few pieces under a male pseudonym and was immediately snatched up by a literary magazine run by Lord Sylvester Staunton. Lord Staunton invites himself to meet Rosalind and while he is initially taken aback that his author is not a male, he immediately warms to the idea as there is nothing that will get the ton excited but a bit of gossip such as a woman masquerading as a male.
Rosalind sees in Lord Staunton a possible suitor and way out of her life in the country. Her brother, Dick, is engaged to a woman who can’t wait for Rosalind to leave the house and Rosalind has begun to chafe at the restraints of being a 24 year old woman with no marriage prospects. She begins to think that going to London to live under Lord Staunton’s sponsorship will give her the opportunity to finally make a match for herself.
Harry (Lord Harwell) begins to realize that the loss of Rosalind, his close friend, to some London swell does not fit his life very well. He’s used to Rosalind being there every year when he returns from London and the idea of her not being there is unsettling. Rosalind’s infatuation with Lord Sylvester awakens Harry’s dormant love for her and he curses himself that he had been such a slow top before.
As with all Smith novels, the reader gets a true sense of period from the discussion about the styles of hats that is easily slipped into conversation between Rosalind and Harry:
“That demeaning 'round bonnet' was quite unnecessary, Harry. I’ll have you know my new spring bonnet has a six-inch poke.”
“The new height is eight inches. Er, what did you say your fellow’s name is?”
To the discussions of what food is considered to be townish v. countrified.
“Cook is making her mulligatawny soup," Rosalind said apologetically. Annabelle had experience of London cuisine and was therefore listened to with interest.
“Pity there would not be time to make a turtle soup. It is all the crack in London, but one must make arrangements for the turtle days in advance. Well, so long as you are not serving apple tart and cheese for dessert.”
Here, at least, Rosalind felt she was on firm ground. "No indeed. Cook is making a Chantilly, and the gardener has some melons in the conservatory that he tells me are ripe enough to serve.”
“That is a good start," Annabelle allowed. "Is there time to prepare an ice?”
“I fear not. It is only a simple dinner party, Annabelle. You know it takes an age to make ices.”
“I doubt Lord Sylvester is accustomed to simple meals. We shall call it potluck. That is the excuse for country fare in London. Let me make up a centerpiece for the table. I am a bit of a dab at that.
The use of language helps to set the period stage for me. The phrase “bit of a dab” or “farouche treatment” or “set him back a packet” lends credibility to the setting.
Another feature that I enjoy is the quick witted exchanges between Harry and Rosalind:
“If I ever feel I require practice, I shall be sure to call on you. Now, shall we stop being foolish and return to the ballroom?
“You would be a magician to end up with what you do not possess to begin with. I cannot imagine why you are planning to invite her.”
The weakness in the story, if there is one, was the broad brush used to paint the villians in the story. It was easy to spot how Dick would rid himself of the harpy fiance and how Rosalind and Harry would find themselves together.
That said, the friends to lover theme is one of my favorites. The easy comradery gave way to discomfort between the two as their feelings, which they didn’t recognize or even acknowledge, began to drive a wedge between them. The slow discovery that their friendship had all been courtship and a precursor to love is part of why I love the genre so much. B+
This book can be purchased as an ebook.