REVIEW: A Peculiar Enchantment by Kathleen Buckley
What can you look forward to when your only relatives call you ugly, unbalanced, and a scandal? What would you do if your only friend was threatened? Dependent on her half brother, the Earl of Lamburne, Adelaide knows. She wants to escape.
Gervase Ducane, invited to Lamburne’s home to court his daughter, is torn. He needs to marry well and soon but not this spiteful chit. Should he buy a commission instead? Seek a wealthy merchant’s daughter? As a marquess’s brother, he has at least a noble connection to offer an heiress apart from his good manners. And why is he only now meeting the earl’s delightful half sister?
Ordered to stay away from the house party, Adelaide rebels. She will make her unwelcome, embarrassing presence known to avenge herself and her pet. Sometimes when you least expect it, magic happens.
CW – Humane death of an animal (not the cat)
Dear Ms. Buckley,
It was the cat who caught my eye. Yes, I will at least read the blurb of a book with a cat on the cover. I wish that there had actually been a little magic in the story but when I discovered it’s a Georgian era romance, I was delighted for the chance to read it. At this point, I believe this will be the last A grade book to make it to my Best of list for 2022.
Lady Adelaide prefers to stay in the shadows and away from the spite and sneers of the household. Her older half-brother mainly ignores her but her haughty sister-in-law and nasty nieces take delight in snubbing “Madelaide” as they call her. The servants take their cues from the Family, speaking slightingly to her or making Adelaide’s life a misery. One thing Adie won’t allow is for anyone to harm her beloved cat, Tabby.
Saving Tabby brings her into contact with Lord Gervase, there to meet Lady Sophia and see if he wishes to pursue an engagement. Gervase’s mother, the Dowager Marchioness of Blacklaw, arranged his visit as Gervase needs to marry quickly – and to a wealthy woman – now that his brother has an heir. Startled to finally meet his host’s half-sister, Gervase soon sees how Adelaide is treated by her relatives and is horrified. She’s not pretty but he finds in her an intelligent, well mannered woman while the more time he spends with Sophia, the worse he discovers she acts.
A crisis of manners brings Gervase and Adelaide together and they discover that a marriage of convenience suits them both. But Adelaide fears her family’s reaction – more than one well bred woman has been shut away in a madhouse when it suits her relations – and it will take ingenuity along with quick thinking and a keen witted man-of-affairs to pull it off. Is there a chance that their marriage might become more than what they were happy to settle for and is it true that revenge is a dish best served cold?
As I got further into the story, it began to remind me more of the Fawcette Crest books of old that I used to read in the 70s. There are no secret societies of women, Adelaide doesn’t long to be a scientist, Gervase doesn’t act as a spy for the Home Office, both are quite willing to enter into a marriage without falling in love first, and there is no sex on page. Okay all that has probably dulled a lot of people’s interest but I loved that I could sink into this book and feel like it was an old friend.
It is a book of manners which pays close attention to how people acted, dressed, interacted, were placed in society, and of the things expected of them in the positions they held. Most of the main characters are aristocracy and by gum they act as if they are. Certain things were done in certain ways. But they also had noblesse oblige and were supposed to treat those who worked for them with consideration. Good landlords cared about their tenants and ensured that their servants were also taken care of. As Adelaide moves out into the world, she realizes how badly run her brother’s household is and how much she enjoys properly taking care of hers.
The romance is a slow, delicious burn. Gervase treats Adelaide well from the moment he meets her because that is what a well mannered gentleman does. He is baffled by the way her family disdains her – as are the other guests who are invited to the estate party. Adelaide is amazed to be accepted by her peers as an equal in a way her family never accorded her. Watching her begin to flower into her own was wonderful. Seeing Gervase take her concerns seriously and act quickly made me cheer. As they begin to work together, they talk and reveal more of themselves to the other – far more than most new acquaintances would normally do – but the circumstances demanded it and made sense to me. They discover a mutual love of country living and estate management. No, they’re not saving England but to me this seems far more believable.
Their families must still be convinced and seeing Gervase and Adelaide handle his Marquess brother and imperious mother with skill, tact, – no shouting or high-spirited stamping of feet please – and a bit of honesty when needed showed more period manners and believability. The comeuppance of those who treated Adelaide badly is delicately and delightfully done. Yes, yes I was happy to see just desserts dished out. Those people had earned them and they got them. Apologies and new understanding come from a few while others will have to live with the consequences of their own actions. Being seen to live your best life is a final coup de grace and cherry on the cake of Gervase and Adelaide’s new found love.
So fair warning to readers, this is a minuet of a story. It is stately, mannered, and much is performed before the critical eyes of Society. Sparks don’t immediately strike between the heroine and hero and they control many of their interactions, with each other and with Society, carefully – Gervase because he doesn’t want to accidentally commit himself to an engagement and Adelaide because of the way her family has always treated her. The way Society viewed one mattered and one’s actions could reverberate positively or negatively on one’s family. I know it will probably not be to the tastes of readers looking for a more “modern” historical but for those wanting something else, it might just fit your bill perfectly. A-