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REVIEW: Blossom Time by Joan Smith

Dear Ms. Smith:

big_smith-btime.jpgI 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:

“Au contraire! It is a compliment on your good taste and common sense. You would not toss your round bonnet at anyone ineligible. I’m sure he is an unexceptionable old hedge bird.”

“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.

“Oh, you are planning to serve turbot and mutton again, are you?" was her comment when Rosalind outlined the main features of the menu. "I hope Lord Sylvester does not find it hopelessly rustic. I had thought you might be serving lobster and perhaps a ragout to impress him. Or oysters. Oysters would be a pleasant change.”

“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:

“I never encourage older ladies to seduce minors. If you are in the mood for seduction, you must practice your charms on older gentlemen, like myself.”

“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?

and

“Is that any way to thank me for voluntarily letting Lady Amanda loose in my saloon? I shall be fortunate to get away with my virtue intact.”

“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+

Best regards,

Jane

This book can be purchased as an ebook.

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. vanessa jaye
    Nov 03, 2007 @ 09:26:49

    So you finally got me to join Fictionwise. I love Trads, and this one is not only OOP, but there’s only one book in the entire Toronto Library system, and that’s the reference library and I can’t put a hold/transfer on it. :-P

  2. Jane
    Nov 03, 2007 @ 09:36:04

    It has been a nefarious plot, but by all accounts one that took a lot to succeed.
    You can buy the book at Belgrave House though.

  3. Teddypig
    Nov 03, 2007 @ 12:23:45

    I like Belgrave House they are one of the few that tracks your purchases and keeps them available. Not the fanciest site mind you but well thought out for the customer.

    I love their Regency covers, how appropriate.

  4. vanessa jaye
    Nov 03, 2007 @ 13:08:02

    You mean I could have bought the paperback at Belgrave? *sigh* Too late, I bought the ebook at Fictionwise. I’ll keep an eye out at the UBS for the book though.

  5. Jane
    Nov 03, 2007 @ 13:12:19

    It was a paperback at one time (I think 90s?) but Belgrave House does not sell this title as a paperback book. Belgrave House sells ebooks of out of print books, alot of them old regencies. Joan Smith is one of them that I like and another one is Laura Matthews.

  6. Sarah
    Nov 03, 2007 @ 17:51:39

    I actually found this book at Paperbackswap and swooped it up. I’m very excited. I’ve never read Joan Smith but this review has me on the edge of my seat. Like you Jane, I’m a big fan of the friends to lover theme, especially when it’s well done.

  7. Kay Webb Harrison
    Nov 03, 2007 @ 18:13:19

    This review inspired me to investigate my reading records about Joan Smith. I have read many of her Regencies, several of her Silhouette Romances, and two of her contemporary mysteries. I used FictionDataBase to refresh my memory about the books I have read.
    Finally, I Googled her. Guess what? There are two Joan Smiths. Joan Allison Smith, born in London, is a reporter, activist and novelist. She is the creator of the Loretta Lawson mysteries. The Regency novelist is Canadian; she uses the pen name Jennie Gallant. Both ladies use the name “Joan Smith!” Somehow I just knew that the person who wrote the one Loretta Lawson book I read just couldn’t be the same person who wrote Aunt Sophie’s Diamonds.
    Kay

  8. Jane
    Nov 03, 2007 @ 19:48:06

    Sarah – I hope you enjoy it!

    Kay – have you read the other Joan Smith (Loretta Lawson mysteries). I think I’ve read some Jennie Gallant and haven’t liked them as much.

  9. Little Lamb Lost
    Nov 03, 2007 @ 20:37:53

    I never heard much about buzz about the author but one of my favorite books from her is Escapade. The heroine is a bookworm who happens to write a terribly gossipy column in one of the London papers. She gets to know her main target better and the fun really begins. The book is one of my comfort reads.

  10. Kay Webb Harrison
    Nov 04, 2007 @ 12:50:16

    I think that I read A Masculine Ending by Joan A. Smith; my records are not clear about which Loretta Lawson book I read, but I am sure that I only read one. I think that some of the Jennie Gallant books have been reissued under Joan Smith. Which is her real name and which is the pen name? Or, are they both pen names?
    Kay

  11. Dear Author’s Best of 2007 Ebook List | Dear Author: Romance Book Reviews, Author Interviews, and Commentary
    Jan 06, 2008 @ 04:01:14

    [...] Blossom Time by Joan Smith (Regency with one of my favorite themes: friends to lovers) [...]

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