REVIEW: Claire, After All (The Penwarrens Book 1) by Karen J. Hasley
Claire Penwarren is a force to be reckoned with. Commissioned by her widowed father, she descends on the green Sussex hills with three assignments. Ready Loden Hall for her father’s arrival as the new earl. Find the perfect husband for her gorgeous half-sister. Acquire a tutor for her rapscallion twin brothers. At twenty-eight Claire—now Lady Claire—has had years of experience running an orderly household in India and cannot imagine England will be any different. Older. Wiser. That’s Claire.
But England refuses to cooperate with Claire’s well laid plans. How did beautiful Loden Hall become such a ruin and how will she make it right in time? Why is her usually cooperative sister so resistant to Claire’s recommendation for a husband? Why are her brothers so unhappy that stowing away on a merchant ship holds more appeal than her loving care at home? Really, if it weren’t for the unexpectedly practical advice of her neighbor the Marquis of Symonton, she would feel quite alone.
For Claire, focused on the tangled knots of her own family, Symonton is the perfect ally. Who better to offer guidance than a man savvy enough to maneuver his way through society for six and thirty years without being trapped into matrimony? And how fortunate that the man is entertained by her family’s exploits! But even with Symonton, Claire manages to get it wrong. It’s not her family he’s interested in and amusement is not what he feels. The man has other plans entirely. Maturity and experience are all well and good, but Claire will learn that neither is as valuable as love.
Dear Ms. Hasley,
One of my fellow bloggers brought this book to my attention and I’m very glad she did. Described as a “light-hearted Victorian romance” it’s also something I find myself increasingly looking for in these days of “every book has to be sexy” – a relatively chaste reminder of those Signet trad Regencies of old.
Claire is the competent general of the family, managing her sister and brothers with quiet love, humor and tact. She is the rock of the family. She will have to learn that she can’t manage everything – especially her sister’s love life. Symonton will have to acknowledge that he’s finally met the woman he desperately wishes to spend his life with – if only he can be patient enough to win her.
Claire and Symonton are both older – she 28 and he 36 – and neither one is looking for love. Claire is a take charge person who is tasked by her “second son” father with managing the family’s return from India after his accession to the title. Symonton is the “Ice Man” whose heart was broken years ago and who has dodged the most determined match making mothers for years. Thrown together by one devil cat and growing family commitments – honestly once all the marriages are celebrated, will they be able to keep relationships straight? – they become friends before any hint of love appears.
It’s almost as much fun to watch the dawning realization of those around them of their undeclared feelings and – on Symonton’s part – his family’s amazement that his heart has finally been captured. Claire of course is perfect for the man who would be bored with the mild or mundane. They also share a delicious sense of dry humor and have practicality by the bushel load.
I found it delightful that he falls first – hard and totally – then spends each subsequent encounter trying to find the right way of speaking of his feelings, his hopes of her feelings and popping the question. By the time he does, they know each other well and I feel their happiness is assured.
I enjoyed the period and historical aspects. There’s no undue fraternization with servants – who wouldn’t welcome it anyway – and the issue of Claire’s half sister’s Indian heritage receives due care before Cece – who is portrayed as just a loving sister rather than an exotic – and her love get their HEA. Claire’s energetic brothers are more than plot moppets and I hope to catch up with one in the next book of the series.
What a charming story with much more plot than I would have thought possible elegantly and succinctly folded into it. And a wonderful declaration of love with which the hero finally wins the day. B
“I think you are the most adorable idiot I have ever met in all my advanced years.” It was not the response she had expected and neither was the expression in his eyes, a laughing look full of tenderness and another emotion that caused her heart to begin beating abnormally fast. “You are not going to do anything of the sort, my darling, no house in Bath, no old maid cap, no spinster aunt visits to your family. I am willing to tolerate devil cat but the rest is the height of absurdity, and if I didn’t love you so desperately and so completely, I would be laughing out loud at your outlandish plan. Although for all I care, you may go to university and learn a trade if that’s what it takes to make you happy. Making you happy, Claire, is my one goal in life.”