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REVIEW:  Rules for a Proper Governess by Jennifer Ashley

REVIEW: Rules for a Proper Governess by Jennifer Ashley

Rules for a Proper Governess Jennifer Ashley

Dear Ms. Ashley:

As many readers here know, I’ve really struggled with the historical romance genre in the past few years despite it being my favorite genre in romance. And it’s not that I haven’t been trying to read it, but it’s been hard to lose myself in the books.

I was chatting with another reader and mentioned that I didn’t think historicals were as raw and earthy as I would like (because my tastes were changing as a reader). Despite the title, the story in Rules isn’t rigid and uptight. It’s a story about a small time grifter, a barrister with secrets, and two children who need more love in their lives.

The heroine is Roberta “Bertie” Frasier, a small time thief. A friend of hers is being tried for murder whom she knows is set up to take the fall for Bertie’s would be suitor’s brother. As she watches from the gallery, Bertie is convinced that she’s watching the verbal lynching of her innocent friend by barrister Sinclair “Basher” McBride. When McBride turns the tables and gets her friend off, Bertie tumbles half in love.

Her father and the suitor, however, aren’t as pleased. Her father sends her to steal something from McBride, just to get a little of their own back. She does so because the threat of being beat is a good motivator and, truthfully, she wouldn’t mind getting closer to McBride. The theft of the watch leads to McBride chasing her into a trap but Bertie doesn’t want to see McBride hurt so she helps him escape, but not before she steals a kiss from him.

McBride would have let about anything go, but not the watch. It was given to him by his long deceased wife and he treasures it. After Bertie saves him from a beating and kisses him senseless, he returns home with a sense of emptiness.

Bertie is intrigued by McBride and semi stalks him. This stalking leads her to be in the right place, at the right time, when the governess for the McBride family basically quits on an outing with Sinclair’s two children. The boy is a terror and the girl is a silent wraith. Bertie takes them to a pastry and tea shop, enjoys the heady experiences of being part of the moneyed class.

Andrew ate most of the cakes. Bertie managed to eat her fill in spite of that, and she lingered over her last scone. This was like a wonderful dream—a warm shop, clotted cream, smooth tea, and no need for money. What a fine world Mr. McBride lived in.

I love that Bertie is the instigator. She’s the one to kiss McBride, more than once. She inserts herself into his life and readily accepts his offer as governess. And she becomes instantly protective of not only McBride, but his children and his household. In some ways, the script if flipped here. Bertie is the stalker. Bertie is the aggressor. Bertie is the possessive one. But she does it in such an easy, nice way that you can’t help but love her.

She’s a creature of instinct. Every action she takes is of instinct and very little forethought. Fortunately she doesn’t come off as headstrong and stupid but rather entertaining, fun, and engaging. I read a lot of her scenes with a smile on my face.

McBride is a little harder to warm up to. He still has strong feelings for his dead wife and he’s not a particularly good father, something the story really doesn’t acknowledge. But because Bertie finds McBride fascinating and desirable and I like Bertie, I root for their inevitable pairing. There’s a surprise in McBride’s past that I really, really enjoyed. It made his relationship with Bertie all the more believable and helped soften his sometimes priggish edges.

If there’s a strong character arc change in either one, I didn’t see it. Yes, McBride falls for Bertie but Bertie is the same cheerful, sweet, impulsive woman at the end as she was in the beginning. Perhaps the changes were subtle. The most obvious changes occur in McBride as he lets go of his past and with his children as they both become more settled under Bertie’s direction. (She plays the most perfect governess, knowing when lessons should be had and when fun should be had. That might be irritating to some)

The romantic tension simmers on low for a while and I was glad for that because I wasn’t ready for the two to consummate their relationship in part because I wanted to see McBride be fully into Bertie when the physical relationship commenced.

An underlying suspense thread wends through the book as someone threatens to reveal McBride’s secrets and there are many returning characters, some that I remembered and some that I did not. Hart is still stern and stuffy and Ian is still mysterious. If Bertie was a bit too perfect, I didn’t mind but I do wish McBride was a more vibrant character. B-

Best regards,

Jane

As a side note, this book takes place before Daniel’s book.

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REVIEW:  The Weaver Takes a Wife by Sheri Cobb South

REVIEW: The Weaver Takes a Wife by Sheri Cobb South

The-weaver-takes-a-wife

Beautiful, haughty Lady Helen Radney is the daughter of a duke who has gambled away his fortune. The duke’s plan is to marry her off to recoup his losses, but the only one interested in this sharp-tongued lady is Mr. Ethan Brundy. Once a workhouse orphan, Brundy is now the owner of a Lancashire textile mill, a very rich man–and smitten with Helen.

Dear Ms. Cobb South,

I vividly remember when I first heard about this book. Back then, I was a faithful visitor to AAR and closely perused their DIK list in my quest to expand my romance reading lists. After reading their review, I immediately added “The Weaver Takes a Wife” to my handwritten TBB list and began searching for it in local stores. I searched high and I searched low. I went through new book stores and used book stores and finally had to order it. But oh, when I finally got my hands on it, I fell in love with Ethan Brundy and his ‘elen. Now newcomers to the series can buy the ebook with a few mouse clicks – lucky devils.

The book might be a touch of Almackistan but not by much. Indeed, it still sticks to the conventions of the genre while at the same time turning them on their heads. It has a non-Duke hero with a lower class accent but manages to include a trip to Almacks. The hero is finally dandified in a form fitting evening coat but it’s not from Weston. The aristocratic heroine might have her nose in the air but she ultimately falls in love with her workhouse brat husband. It is an homage to La Heyer yet carves out a new niche in Regency romance.

Ethan is such a wonderful hero. He’s unfailingly cheerful, mostly happy with his lot in life, aware that things could be so much worse and willing to help those he can. He also seems to be a shrewd businessman, an excellent judge of character and a true romantic. His friends in the ton adore him, including his friend’s lady love who is willing to teach him how to waltz so he can dance with his wife. He makes people want to do better and also pricks the conscience of those in a position to help craft new laws for the poor and working class. And Ethan even helps his friend come to the sticking point with his own romance.

He initially lets drop how much he values ‘elen in terms she’d understand – to the tune of £75,000 – but later reveals his heart when asked why no woman in Lancashire had snatched him up and he’d moved to London – because that’s where ‘elen was. Ethan, more than most men, is aware that nothing worth having is easily obtained so he’s ready to put in the work to win ‘elen’s ‘eart.

“What could one do with a man who merely smiled at one in a way that made one feel suddenly hot and cold all at the same time?”

He astounds ‘elen by simply not recognizing his inferior status. Ah, but she has to learn that this is because he never feels about himself that way except where her love might be concerned.

Mr Brundy might be a man of low birth but he’s also a man of the highest integrity, resourcefullness and determination. He gently waits for his wife’s regard, all the while showing her his worth by his actions as well as his words. Indeed, bit by bit, day by day, gesture and deed by gesture and deed, he shows up almost everyone who would dismiss him as merely a workhouse brat.

Folks this is unconditional love. Does ‘elen deserve it? Frankly early on in the marriage, I wanted to shake her. However one can’t stay too mad at her since she’s probably never known a man as wonderful as Ethan – though her brother shows signs of being salvageable.

‘elen’s changing opinion comes slowly but so clearly – to us and to Ethan – that her brusqueness is easy to bear because we all know she’s falling in love with her besotted husband. She worries about the Luddites and defends him against her former beau Waverly’s sneering.

She discovers she likes the look of his face when it’s not hidden behind an epergne. She sees how his workers adore him and why and strives to present him in London to them in the best light possible. She sees he’s kind to children in a way she and her brother never experienced while growing up. She mourns a honeymoon trip to Brighton because she worries about Ethan thinking she’s using him to help her brother then finally thrills to his KISA rescue. By book’s end, she has realized, and happily admits, that he’s the finest true gentleman she’s ever known.

I love this book because it not only tells me about all the characters but it shows me all their flaws, foibles and strengths. It’s storytelling in action, it’s alive with movement rather than feeling static. It’s funny (watch for the hilarious below stairs view of the marriage through the morning reports of upstairs maid Sukey to the housekeeper Mrs.Givens) as well as heartfelt and by the time ‘elen decides she’d rather not wait the full six months (you’ll see what I mean), I’m bursting with happiness for them and the love they’ve found.

I adored this book 15 years ago and after a blissful reread, I can say that it’s just as good the second time around. A

~Jayne

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