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REVIEW: Hareton Hall by Lynne Connolly

REVIEW: Hareton Hall by Lynne Connolly

Dear. Ms Connelly,

At this point, I think writing a review in this series would be hard to do and still manage to avoid spoilers so, though I’m going to try, I can’t guarantee anything. In “Hareton Hall,” you have Richard and Rose plus their daughter Helen and Richard’s brother Gervase, journey to Rose’s childhood home in Devonshire, all done up now, to witness two marriages. But by the time it’s all said and done, the smugglers from book two will make another appearance, a frightening disease will strike down a beautiful young woman and someone from Richard’s past will begin a plan of revenge.

Hareton Hall by Lynne ConnollyThough there are still things I enjoy about this series, I’m beginning to wonder if it hasn’t gone stale for me. The care you take with getting the historical details correct is a joy to me. Imagining Rose’s gorgeous new clothes and sumptuous jewelry is great fun. Reading about men who positively delighted in wearing lavender evening coats, powdered wigs and smallswords makes me swoon. And I’d love to witness some of Richard’s practiced, polished public moves: taking snuff, disposing of the skirts of his coat or making a magnificent leg to the lady of his choice.

It’s nice to see Rose’s family again and watch them settling into their newly redesigned old home place now made grand for James’s new Earldom. I see that it hasn’t changed his wife Martha’s practical nature nor her concern to be sure Rose is truly happy in her grand society marriage. I also like that Rose hasn’t forgotten those who were kind to her while she was growing up or that she’s not above a bit of Ladying it over those who snubbed her. She’s only human after all.

But there are some issues in the story and with the characters that didn’t work for me. The biggest is the way in which Richard deals with, or rather doesn’t deal with, the villain. I can see why Richard wouldn’t want to hand him over to the authorities but this is someone who threatened Rose – on more than one occasion, was willing to use germ warfare – which has affected the life of another young woman for life and which could easily have spread far wider, and who obviously isn’t going to reform. Just saying that he’ll have the person watched until that person’s inevitable downfall doesn’t cut it.

Since there is so little conflict between Richard and Rose, it all must come from others and frankly the whole smuggling subplot got boring. When I had finished the book and began thinking back, it hit me that it all just seemed to go on endlessly and meant nothing to me. The bit about their old enemies the Drurys also basically went nowhere until suddenly Stephen gets hauled front and center for a short act then dropped just as quickly. I also wanted to see a bit more about Lizzie and her fantastic wedding only to end up getting very little of this.

The Kerres have seen Richard’s love for Rose and now her family gets a taste of it. Rose has had her chance to do the “Lady Strang” thing in Exeter so I would hope that this will lessen in scope for any future novels. As well, despite the fact that Richard is *so* private about his feelings for Rose, he’s let them show so damn much that the whole country ought to know of them by now. Just get them the matching tattoos done and T-shirts to wear and drop this.

But my major disappointment with this book is the romance I’ve been awaiting for Gervase. Finally, finally Richard’s brother finds true love. After suffering heartache as a young man, then self banishing himself to India after which he returned and watched his twin find love with Rose, Gervase has been one I’ve wanted to see get his own HEA. I had an idea of who might turn out to be his love interest and wasn’t wrong. Yet, you don’t show him falling in love. Gervase simply confesses to Rose whom he loves and Rose finds out that the love is reciprocated and, ta-da! it’s over. Wha…t Where’s the suspense? Where’s the conflict? Nowhere and I felt cheated to have waited 5 books for this.

I’m not even sure that you plan further adventures for Richard and Rose though the ending of this one sort of leads me to believe there will be more books. After all there’re villains to deal with and one pissy younger sister of Rose’s to sort out plus an heir for Rose to produce. I just hope that Rose makes some more progress in becoming the grand lady and that I don’t have to read too much more about Richard’s public displays of his private feelings. C


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REVIEW: Eyton by Lynne Connolly

REVIEW: Eyton by Lynne Connolly

Dear Mrs. Connolly,

Eyton Cover imageAt last, at last. The continuation of the series faithful fans have been waiting for. It all started years ago with “Yorkshire,” “Devonshire,” “Venice” and “Harley Street” as we watched the aristocratic Richard Kerre, heir to the Earldom of Southland, and Rose Golightly, daughter of the gentry, fall in love at first sight then battle for the right to marry. Everyone said it would fail, that rake Richard would never stay true to quiet wallflowerish Rose. But these two knew their own hearts and found in each other that which most married couples didn’t even bother to look for: true love.

Now Rose has finally given birth to their first child. I say finally not because it’s been so long since R&R were married but rather it’s been so long since the last book in the series, “Harley Street,” when Rose announced her “interesting condition.” What was it? five years? Not even elephants stay pregnant that long! [G] Anyway, the Kerre family is gathering to celebrate the birth of young Helen (I totally agree with Rose’s reaction to the name suggestions Richard jokingly made) and love, theft and murder are in the air. Can R&R further the cause of true love, discover who’s got the light fingers, solve a murder and keep scandal away from the family?

I love the snapshot of the mid-eighteenth century presented in these stories. Your history is definitely not wallpaper but detailed, in depth, well researched and integrated into the fabric of the plot. R&R discover that the theft of a necklace ties in with the murder of one of the victims but to do this requires learning about the working class victim, his duties, his opportunities, his past and who might have directed his actions. This allows us to see a comparison between the aristocratic world of the Kerres and that of their working class servants.

But when the crime seems headed in the direction that would hit close to home with the Kerre family, Richard, who has a passionate interest in seeing justice done, is caught in a dilemma. Does he let nature take its course and risk a scandal for the family or does he work behind the scenes and do what’s right but not necessarily legal?

The eighteenth century world doesn’t seem that much different from today in that the masses avidly read about the rich and famous and are just waiting for the great families/famous celebrities to flub up. And you make quite clear what flubbing up for the Kerres would mean – difficulty in making advantageous marriages, weakening the power of the Earldom and wrecking the chances of Gervase who is standing for Parliament.

I like how you also use this subplot to point out the first bit of contention between Richard and Rose. Raised in the gentry, Rose is bothered by Richard’s decision to not only not tell the constable the truth but to actually lead the man’s investigation astray. Up until now, the personal differences R&R faced were seemingly minor and easily overcome by their love for each other. But here’s something that will present Rose with a major division between her old life and her new one. This showcases one of the strengths of the series – that it portrays the evolving relationship between these two characters as would be expected in any marriage.

In the previous books, Rose is seen to be struggling a little to find her way in her new world. In “Eyton” I’m glad to see that her confidence, or at least her public acting ability, is increasing. She’s not just aping the great lady anymore but we see that she’s slowly becoming one. She’s also a new mother, dealing with the changes that brings to her station and to those who, up until now, had stood closer in the line of succession to the Earldom.

As well, she’s worried about how motherhood might change her relationship with Richard – which surely all new mothers must feel. Richard is a champ in this department, displaying his love for his wife and new daughter to their family and in some cases to the masses. I have to admit that I got tired of having the point driven home about Richard’s public mask of aristocratic hauteur and how he sometimes lets it slip to show his real feelings for Rose. I recall it from the previous books and didn’t need a reminder every other chapter.

And now for the questions. You know I always have questions about your books. Is Eyton based on any particular stately home? Were international marriages among the aristocracy common? How did the Kerre family silver avoid being melted down to support the King during the Civil War? Are there prospects for Georgianna? And of course I’m still “Waiting for Gervase.”

Though new readers could actually start the series with this book, I would suggest beginning at the beginning to catch all the references and see the evolution of Richard and Rose’s relationship. I’m thrilled to see the series continuing and eagerly waiting for the next installment. B for “Eyton.”


This book can be purchased at Samhain.