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REVIEW: Met by Chance by Lynne Connolly

Dear Mrs Connolly,

met-by-chance.jpgI know we at DA (okay, me in particular) have harshed on some of your latest paranormal books but with “Met by Chance” I can happily say you’re cooking with gas again. After finishing this, I need to go back and try the first two books in this “Triple Countess” trilogy from Samhain.

You have this gift for being able to give modern readers a real feel for the Georgian period and life among the upper classes. In public it’s all show and aristocrats were trained for this from birth. There is one’s public ‘show’ face and the private self only revealed to a select few. Charles Dalton, Marquis of Petherbridge, is a master at hiding himself in plain sight. He seems more of a throwback to Richard, Lord Strang. Here’s a man who makes an entrance.

A stir at the other end of the room made her look up. People moved aside, silks and brocades swirling in a kaleidoscope of movement. "Now that," came her mother’s low voice, "is what I call an entrance." Rarely had Perdita seen anything so fabulous. A rara avis, a man so beautiful it was only by the male attire she could be sure of his sex. And even then she wasn’t positive. The newcomer wore a pale rose coat and breeches, with a delicate embroidered ivory waistcoat underneath. His natural hair, if he had any, was covered with an elaborate wig, the bulk of the confection drawn into a queue behind, with careful formal curls adorning his temples. Perdita gasped when she saw his face. He wore a full maquillage in the French style, rarely seen on a man in London’s ballrooms but usual in Versailles. Thick white ceruse covered his skin, and a delicate pink blush enhanced his cheekbones. One tiny patch close to the left corner of the rouged lips stood out against the matte starkness around it. A French exquisite. Perdita stared, fascinated by the effect.

When he finally allows Perdita to see the “real him,” it’s all the more meaningful. Few will ever see him at his ease or uncontrolled and you show us just how unthinkable this would be. He’s a man of power in an age when that meant something. His lessors and especially servants would jump when he issued a command and none would dare to presume any familiarity.

Lady Perdita Garland, daughter and sister of Earls, is of his class and even she’s a bit in awe of him. Recently returned to society after a disastrous experience at the hands of a suitor, she’s almost as adapt at hiding what she’s thinking and how she suffered during her rehabilitation from her riding accident. I think Perdita is one of your stronger historical heroines yet she still manages to remain an eighteenth century woman. She’s intelligent enough to work out how to help Charles and adaptable enough to switch horses midstream, so to say, when the occasion demands.

Both Charles and Perdita are experts in the rules of society which makes it all the more fun when they break most of them. Yet always in the back of their minds is the knowledge that what they did while trying to save Charles’s sister from eloping with a fortune hunter and recover Charles’s kidnapped young daughter must be kept secret. It’s staggering the amount of effort demanded from everyone to work out socially acceptable excuses for their movements around England. If you hadn’t’ve had Charles trained by his father in how to survive as a common man, I would have had trouble believing that he could submerge himself into working class Liverpool.

You went down to the wire with Charles’s daughter Aimée and sister Millicent. What a pair those two are and perhaps Charles ought to consider the fact that two females in his family are spoiled rotten — dare I say it? Yes, I dare — beotches. Perdita is not the sort to let any daughter of hers act as these two do, thank goodness. I’m not sure of Charles’s decision to let Aimée go back with her maternal grandparents where he admits she’ll be spoiled more but I certainly would want to live with her either. Good for Perdita for sticking to her guns about that situation. Will we see a reformed Millicent in the future?

As always, I adore reading about the clothes of the period. Though lovely to look at in pictures and period movies, I’m sure they must have been vastly uncomfortable to actually wear day in and day out. Did you base your descriptions on actual extant clothing or just make them all up? The glimpse into working class Liverpool was fascinating as well. I do have a question. Perdita mentions something about slavery being illegal in England yet refers to ‘the Colonies’ which I assume means that the story is set before the American Revolution. But I thought slavery wasn’t abolished until the 1830s so… what gives? Did I misread her thoughts? Also, thank you for mentioning that the villain of the story was probably going to come to a bad end in America. It’s one of my pet romance book peeves that so many English baddies end up in America!

I think readers waiting for the reissue of your complete Richard and Rose books 1-4 and first issue of the last two books of that series (me!!) should try this book to see what they’re missing and perhaps to spur them on to inundate Mundania Press with requests to speed up their schedule. B+

~Jayne

available in ebook format from Samhain

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

16 Comments

  1. Laura Vivanco
    Mar 22, 2008 @ 13:30:33

    Re slavery, I wonder if Perdita was thinking of Lord Mansfield’s 1772 ruling (full details here):

    On 22 June 1772 Mansfield delivered his judgment. He knew the significance of the case and said “Fiat justicia, ruat coelum” (Let justice be done, though the heavens fall). His decision was carefully worded and focused on the legality of forcible deportation. He argued that Stewart was not entitled to seize and deport Somerset by the laws of England. The laws of Virginia supported slavery but there was no law in England which did and in “a case so odious as the condition of slaves” there must be a positive law. “No master ever was allowed here to take a slave by force to be sold abroad because he deserted from his service… and therefore the man must be discharged.”

    Did Lord Mansfield free slaves in England?

    Well, the St James' Chronicle and general evening post (held in Guildhall Library Printed Books) and the Middlesex Journal, both of 23 June 1772 and Felix Farley's Bristol Journal certainly thought so, reporting “That every slave brought into this country ought to be free, and no master had a right to sell them here”. Other papers more accurately reported that the Somerset case had decided only that black slaves in England could not be forcibly removed from England.

    The trial had been attended by a large number of Black people who celebrated the verdict with delight. A ball for Black people only was arranged at a pub in Westminster where Lord Mansfield's health was drunk. James Somerset wrote to a friend that the judgment meant all slaves were now free.

    There were still many slaves in England long after 1772 – adverts for finding and returning runaway slaves like the one on display in case 2 continued to appear in English newspapers, especially in Bristol.

    The term ‘the Colonies' would include places in the West Indies such as Barbados, Jamaica and Antigua (which is mentioned in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park). Slavery was abolished in these colonies by the 1833 Slavery Abolition Act, which abolished slavery throughout the whole of the British Empire (although in fact, you can read here about how slavery continued in some parts of the Empire much, much longer).

  2. Jayne
    Mar 22, 2008 @ 18:55:50

    That could be exactly what Perdita was thinking of. Thanks for your erudite post complete with linkage. I love linkage! Let’s me learn all kinds of new stuff.

  3. Laura Vivanco
    Mar 22, 2008 @ 19:28:30

    I’m glad you liked the links. I found the pages interesting when I found them, so I thought I’d put in the links in case other people were interested in reading more. But the link I put in about Mansfield Park doesn’t seem to be working, so I’ll put it in again here.

  4. Angela James
    Mar 22, 2008 @ 19:42:57

    Yay! I mentioned these books to Jane a few weeks ago, because I remembered you had both liked the Richard and Rose series (as did I) and I was hoping she’d give these a whirl, despite the misgivings about her paranormals. Lynne has a flair for writing unusual historicals with vibrant characters. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  5. Lynne Connolly
    Mar 22, 2008 @ 19:55:24

    Slaves were never legal in England. Serfs were the nearest the country got. But they bought and sold slaves all over the world. But there were legally never any slaves on English soil and they were not legally bound in that way. “Rule Britannia, Britannia rules the waves, Britons, never, never, never shall be slaves!”
    But there are different degrees of slavery. While no one could ever buy and sell people in England, after the Romans left the country, there are other forms of slavery. Poverty, obligation, ignorance (literally in the sense of ‘not knowing’) could create slaves. Black pages, extremely popular as a fashionable accessory in the period which I write in, were not legally slaves, but far from home, pampered and then abandoned in a strange country, they were subservient.
    The anti slave movement began in the fashionable salons of the bluestockings of the era, people like Mrs. Elizabeth Montagu, but it was a movement against the slave trade and of British citizens were never transgressed the law because the slaves remained in transit and in countries were slavery was not illegal. Ephemera from that period, such as scarves and fans fetch a lot of money in the auction rooms these days. The movement spread, until campaigners, notably William Wilberforce, moved for the abolition of slavery throughout the British Empire. One of the reasons it gained in popularity was the very principle that British citizens were never slaves. The tragedy was that non citizens were not under that jurisdiction, so British citizens could legally engage in trading slaves outside Britain and remain within the law.
    A recent DNA study by the University of London (not online, sorry) showed that nearly 100% of British citizens had some African blood in them. The slaves who gained British soil and were accepted as British subjects didn’t disappear – they were integrated.
    It’s the continuing story of the island that accepted so many different races. Integration, intermarrying and gradual acceptance.

  6. Lynne Connolly
    Mar 22, 2008 @ 19:57:21

    Oh, and thank you for the lovely review.
    As for the paranormals – no worries. Not everybody likes the same things. And I think you only reviewed one – an old Triskelion title?
    But no worries.

  7. Jayne
    Mar 23, 2008 @ 06:35:56

    Now I remember why I assumed that the story is set before the American Revolution and thus that the “colonies” referred to were the American ones: because the villain gets shipped off to South Carolina which, Perdita assures Charles, is just the back of beyond and then some. [G]

  8. MS Jones
    Mar 23, 2008 @ 09:11:08

    An interesting thread. Lynne, I have to disagree with your statement that “Slaves were never legal in England…there were legally never any slaves on English soil and they were not legally bound in that way.” Wikipedia has an entry on slavery in England and Ireland which notes Cromwell’s enslavement of the Irish, as well as some background on the Mansfield decision that Laura cites above; in fact, that whole court case was initiated because a slave on English soil (James Somerset) had run away from his master. During that time there was no English law declaring slavery to be illegal (or legal, for that matter), and the Yorke-Talbot opinion in 1729 had indicated that the enslavement of Africans in England was legal.

  9. Lynne Connolly
    Mar 23, 2008 @ 10:26:44

    The main thing is, that the British Constitution is not a written one. The three main components are Acts of Parliament, Case Law and Common Law, with Common Law coming a very poor third (but it can be accepted as a valid argument in court – “We’ve always done it that way” can constitute law).
    So until the judgement of 1771 (don’t beat me up about the date – it was between ’71 and ’73, but I’m too lazy to drag the book off the shelf and look it up) slaves were ‘unofficially’ kept, but not many of them – they weren’t needed.
    Then that law declared that as soon as a slave set foot on English soil, he was free. Because it was case law, it was open to challenge, but public opinion was slowly moving towards reform anyway, so it formed one of the bases of the anti-slave movement. It came as a bit of a dilemma to the traders who would chain slaves in transit in the big dockside buildings but they brushed that aside and made excuses. Anyway, the poor human cattle didn’t know, so they didn’t try to escape, for the most part.
    It just never became a big issue before then. To look at it another way, economically Britain never needed slaves. Feudalism never really took off, and that was the nearest Britain came to institutionalised slavery. The country is a small one and it’s always had a source of cheap labour. Get a slave and like every other property you have to look after him to enhance his value. Why bother, when you can drag the nearest peasant off the field, get him to do what you want for a pittance, then throw him away to die and find the next healthy specimen (probaby his son).
    If it had suited the economy, then Britain would probably have been the greatest slave holding nation evah, but it didn’t. Instead they became the greatest slave trading nation.
    what is right and what isn’t is rarely the deciding factors in any argument. Follow the money and the real reason emerges. Or maybe I’m getting too cynical.

  10. Lynne Connolly
    Mar 23, 2008 @ 10:41:50

    God, I’m mouthy today.
    Anyway, I noticed a few other questions:
    “Good for Perdita for sticking to her guns about that situation. Will we see a reformed Millicent in the future?”

    I don’t think so. There’s one more book to do, Corin’s story, then I’ll rest the series for a while. I might do Corin’s sisters in the future, it’s hard to say if a story will occur to me.
    But – there’s a new trilogy coming from Samhain, the Secrets trilogy. I’ve taken some of the aspects of the 1750′s like the agrarian revolution, optics and the beginnings of industrialisation and written stories about people involved with them. Each hero or heroine or both have secrets to reveal. Same era, though. Like Heyer, this period in history calls to me and I’ve been studying it for – well a very long time. Longest love affair of my life!

    “Did you base your descriptions on actual extant clothing or just make them all up?”

    My editors tend to make me take too many descriptions of clothes out, which is another way of saying – yup, I adore them too. Think of the beginning of “Dangerous Liaisons” where they’re getting dressed. People spent a great deal of the day in “undress,” that is, semi formal, in far more comfortable clothes, or when on show in London, because it took time to dress they’d admit visitors to their chambers for what was called “levees,” you can see one in Hogarth’s “Marriage a la mode” series.
    Make them up – kinda sorta. In those days when a dress went out of fashion it was remade, over and over. All costume collections have found this, even with grand court gowns, so the clothes that exist are usually the smaller sizes because they couldn’t usefully be cut down any further, or clothes deliberately preserved for some reason. That led to the fallacy that people in the past were smaller than we are – only the ones that didn’t have adequate nutrition were. The rest had their clothes refashioned for their children.
    I’ve spent a long time in costume departments, every time I can beg or con my way into the hidden storage rooms. And because the people who look after them are as nuts as I am, they love to show them off. As long as they’re sure you’re not a madwoman who wants to smuggle matches in there (I swear, costume curators wake sweating in the night dreaming of matches and lighters). So I know how these clothes were constructed, and since I’ve had the privilege of handling them, I know how they were draped and stitched and how the fabrics handle. No darts before the 1840′s, that kind of thing. That, and being the daughter of a sample machinist and pattern cutter (works with designers to bring a garment to life) helped. Spending most of my young adulthood with my arms held out from my sides to the sound of women screaming “don’t move!” actually proved useful sometimes!
    So I kinda make them up, but based on the construction and the fabrics of the time. For instance, I don’t have to think to know that the large, sprawling designs of embroidery and prints in the 1740′s gave way to smaller, more intimate patterns in the 1750′s, as hoops began to shrink in size and women in court gowns looked a bit less like walking sofas.
    Got to stop now before I get really obsessed and start telling you about changes in riding costume!

  11. Jane
    Mar 23, 2008 @ 22:50:42

    So, there are two books that precede this book? I’ll have to give it a try as I love the Rose and Richard stories. (I know, Angie, that you mentioned these books, but . . . I’m a goose and forgot).

  12. Jayne
    Mar 24, 2008 @ 06:32:09

    Yep, the first book is about this heroine’s half-brother and book two is about her brother.

  13. Jayne
    Mar 24, 2008 @ 06:35:26

    I don’t think so. There’s one more book to do, Corin’s story, then I’ll rest the series for a while. I might do Corin’s sisters in the future,it’s hard to say if a story will occur to me. But – there’s a new trilogy coming from Samhain, the Secrets trilogy. I’ve taken some of the aspects of the 1750′s like the agrarian revolution, optics and the beginnings of industrialisation and written stories about people involved with them. Each hero or heroine or both have secrets to reveal. Same era, though. Like Heyer, this period in history calls to me and I’ve been studying it for – well a very long time. Longest love affair of my life!

    Well, it wouldn’t kill me not to have a book on Millicent. There’s always got to be some bad apples. A few family members everyone else hates to see at holiday parties!

    I’m quite happy that your love affair has lasted this long and hope it lasts much longer. I can almost never get enough of this period. Me wuvs it.

  14. Jayne
    Mar 24, 2008 @ 06:51:48

    Regarding clothing. I love those scenes in DL with them dressing! Such a different world from my pullover tops and stretch knit pants. I’d also love to be let loose amongst all those period pieces though I can completely understand why that’s not possible.

    For instance, I don’t have to think to know that the large, sprawling designs of embroidery and prints in the 1740′s gave way to smaller, more intimate patterns in the 1750′s, as hoops began to shrink in size and women in court gowns looked a bit less like walking sofas.

    I remember a hilarious scene from Patricia Veryan’s “Time’s Fool” in which the heroine is balancing on a second story window ledge in a fancy ball gown and has to worry about her hoops dragging her down.

  15. All About Samhain « Jorrie Spencer
    Mar 25, 2008 @ 07:53:04

    [...] Met by Chance by Lynne Connolly B+ [...]

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    [...] by Chance” by Lynne Connolly – Historical romance.  The review at Dear Author piqued my interest.  And it’s Georgian! [...]

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