I came across this book without knowing that it was a series of novellas (though the plural “Lords” should’ve given me a clue), never mind that it was a series of previously published novellas. The latter fact didn’t really matter, though, since I hadn’t read any of them. And since I have had seemingly years-long trouble sustaining interest in a full-length historical romance, some shorter entries didn’t seem like a bad idea.
Licensed to Wed
Wyatt, Viscount Carbury is very busy and very dutiful – he makes lists at the beginning of every month of tasks he needs to accomplish, and crosses them off as he goes. For the past several months, though, he’s had trouble getting himself motivated to complete one particular task: proposing marriage to a childhood friend, Robina Weston. Robina has been orphaned and is pretty much destitute; Wyatt considers marriage to her a sort of “two birds, one stone” proposition: he’ll do his duty by getting married and at the same time take responsibility for someone whom he knows needs his help.
Robina turns out to have more pride than sense, though (like many a Regency heroine), and Wyatt’s utterly unromantic proposal leaves her cold. She turns him down flat, preferring the thankless life of a companion to a marriage based only on duty. However, fate, as it has a way of doing, throws the two together in a country manor right before Christmas, where Robina is stranded until better weather can allow her to finish her journey to her new employer’s, and where Wyatt is spending time with a widowed cousin-in-law and her sons (they are another of Wyatt’s many responsibilities). It turns out that the widow has her own designs on Wyatt.
Meanwhile Wyatt and Robina find themselves thrown together and begin to see each other in a new light; he realizes she’s more than just an item to cross off on his list, and she realizes that there may actually be a sensitive, caring man somewhere beneath Wyatt’s tightly controlled exterior.
The story is all very predictable, but pleasant enough. I gave it a B.
P.S. I Love You
Christian, the Earl of Bruton, is a soldier and a cynic. A childhood accident has left him with a facial scar that makes him self-conscious and withdrawn from society. His one good friend is his fellow officer and cousin, Frank. Frank has met a beautiful young woman whom he wants to woo, Rosanne Lacy. But Frank’s problem is that while he’s handsome and good-hearted, he’s extremely inarticulate, both in person and in writing. He enlists the reluctant
Cyrano’s Christian’s help in corresponding with Rosanne; Christian may not have much of a use for society but he’s smart and good with words.
Rosanne was attracted to the handsome and dashing Frank when she met him briefly (apparently too briefly to recognize his deficiencies in expressing himself), but it’s through his letters that she really becomes enamored of him. So when the opportunity arises to spend time together at a house party, Rosanne is thrilled. Unfortunately, she finds that in person Frank is surprisingly dull and tongue-tied. Meanwhile, she’s getting to know his cousin, the tormented and brooding but unexpectedly entertaining Christian, and wondering if she really wants a proposal from Frank after all.
This one also was predictable, and also a B. About the only real dramatic tension it had for me was wondering how Frank (who was blameless and quite likable) was going to handle the betrayal. The conclusion was satisfying enough, though.
The Best Laid Planner
I had no idea this author even wrote contemporaries, so I was surprised when I started the story to find it set in modern day England. Arwen Kilpatrick is an American wedding planning who has just taken on her biggest job yet: the nuptials of an old school friend who is marrying an internet billionaire. Because the bride is a historical romance author (cute touch!) and Jane Austen freak, she’s planned a destination wedding, at an old English manor that is being renovated into a high-end hotel. The key phrase is “being renovated” – not all of the work is done and Arwen, under pressure to produce the perfect wedding, is a tough task master, concerned with the lack of internet access (the groom’s Silicon Valley buddies will not be able to exist without WiFi!) and the fact that the facility’s commercial kitchen has not yet passed inspection from the local authorities.
Arwen’s guide in sorting out these messes is the hotel’s handyman (or so she thinks), Harry Compton. Harry is drawn to Arwen right away and convinces…nay, promises, that the hotel can deliver everything needed for the Wedding of the Century. Meanwhile he woos Arwen on a personal level, trying to coax her to be less uptight and more carefree. Harry’s not all that he seems, though, and he has a bigger stake, himself, in the success of the wedding than Arwen might imagine. Meanwhile Arwen has to deal with her hippie parents (her mother shows up all the way from Pennsylvania, outraged that Arwen’s father wants to do something so conventional as GET MARRIED after all these years together) and both Arwen and Harry are beset by an annoying paparazzo lurking on the grounds of the estate.
This was a cute story. Cute book-length contemps (or historicals, for that matter) are not really my thing, but novella length was just about right for this light and fun romance. I will give this one a high B, edging on a B+.
That makes my grade for the whole kit and caboodle a solid B. if you’re a Neville fan and haven’t come across these stories before, Lords for All Seasons is probably worth a look.