REVIEW: The Husband Criteria (The Lorings Book 3) by Catherine Kullmann
How can they discover the private man behind the public façade?
The primary aim of every young lady embarking on the Spring frenzy that is the Season must be to make a good match. Or must it? And what is a good match? For cousins Cynthia, Chloe and Ann, well aware that the society preux chevalier may prove to be a domestic tyrant, these are vital questions. How can they discover their suitors’ true character when all their encounters must be confined to the highly ritualised round of balls, parties and drives in the park?
As they define and refine their Husband Criteria, Cynthia finds herself unwillingly attracted to aloof Rafe Marfield, heir to an earldom, while Chloe is pleased to find that Thomas Musgrave, the vicar’s son from home, is also in London. And Ann must decide what is more important to her, music or marriage.
And what of the gentlemen who consider the marriage mart to be their hunting grounds? How will they react if they realise how rigorously they are being assessed?
A light-hearted, entertaining look behind the scenes of a Season that takes a different course with unexpected consequences for all concerned.
Dear Ms. Kullmann,
I’ve seen your Regencies and pondered reading one but this blurb caused me to pull the trigger and say, “This one.” I had the impression that all three young women would find their match by the end of the book but in truth, only one does though the other two talk about marriage and about the men to whom they are introduced.
One review I read rated the story lower because of the wedding night scene at the end and how surprised she was by it given the fact that the rest of the book is a usual “Trad Regency” which typically had no sex scenes. Had I not read that, the inclusion of the scene might have surprised me but it didn’t bother me. Other reviews mentioned the number of characters. This seems to be a mingling of characters from the first two books of this series as well as possibly one or two of the other series. Yeah, it’s a lot. I spent the first third of the book awash in people and desperately trying to keep the tangled familial and social relationships straight. Several times some characters would attempt to explain a cousinly connection from their grandmother’s being cousins or some such but it didn’t really stick until I’d read the names enough times. It did seem realistic though and at one point someone pondered that if one goes back three generations or so, most of the ton would be able to find some kinship.
The reason behind Chloe, Ann, and Cynthia being worried about what a man might really be like outside of social engagements among the beau monde is mainly, I believe, due to Chloe’s parents. I read the blurbs for the other books and her parent’s marriage was acrimonious. Ann’s mother apparently also didn’t have a happy marriage. Cynthia, the one in her second Season, has happily married parents but her marital prospects are dimmed somewhat due to the fact that her grandfather was a Nabob. The three young women have discussed marriage and hit upon the idea of listing the characteristics of what type of man they’re looking for. Looks and money are a factor as no one wants to be married to someone who physically repulses them and who wants to live in poverty but the most important things they’re looking for are compatibility, kindness, someone who listens to them, and respects them.
Cynthia’s first meeting with Marfield (or Rafe as she finally learns his Christian name after they are tentatively edging into a relationship) is at Gunter’s (the book makes good use of the standard “Season” events and places). Something makes her maintain eye contact with him instead of dropping her eyes with maidenly blushes which makes him decide to saunter over. When he is asked a question to which he replies a bit dismissively (he honestly didn’t have an answer to it), Cynthia springs to her friend’s defense and firmly puts him in his place. Intrigued he later asks her to dance at a ball and the two find themselves beautifully matched while waltzing. As this is her second Season, Cynthia knows the rules and doesn’t seek to snag his attention unlike other debs in the hunt for his (future) title. She also doesn’t simper nor bat her eyes at him. Rafe finds this refreshing, thinks Cynthia is unique among women, and begins to seek her out. But with the ton watching, how can they truly get to know each other and be sure they’ll match for life?
There are many things I enjoyed about the book. We get Cynthia’s brother’s and Rafe’s PsOV on how the men see the Season. At first Rafe isn’t looking for a bride but after his father indicates that he wants Rafe to take over a family property, Rafe begins to change his mind thinking that having a wife would help that. Neither his parent’s nor Cynthia’s met during a Season so they don’t have first hand knowledge of trying to court and be courted in public. Cynthia advises another deb to try and develop topics for conversation as her brother has told her that when a deb says little beyond “yes” or “no” it appears to others that she thinks him a dull fellow. There’s also the intimidation of approaching a young woman across a dance floor.
Cynthia and Rafe actually talk. At first he’s surprised by her frankness and honesty but soon finds he looks forward to hearing what she has to say. They astonish their parents by stating they want to spend time together before entering into any agreement and that either one should be able to back out. This shows readers how hampering the rules of Polite Society were. The darker sides of the London events are shown by how Cynthia’s mother’s request for vouchers to Almacks is capriciously denied while those for Chloe and Ann are approved. The three are determined to stick together and various family members of them all send theirs back after a discussion of how this could affect the young women’s popularity and invitations. Newspaper gossip threatens reputations as well but once Rafe and Cynthia are sure (to the delight of their parents) Rafe’s mother has the perfect polite revenge for the Patronesses.
There is no plot other than the Season and how marriage and prospects affect the lives of the ton. What is shown is how people navigated this important Social event, how reputations needed to be protected, how eyes were watching everything to sniff out intentions and tittle-tattle, and how important finding your feet and having friends were to enjoying the balls, routs, drives in the Park, and musicales. The Rules were paramount and flouted at risk. I didn’t feel, despite the discussions the debs have about women being able to support themselves or Cynthia and her brother have about social order, that these are twenty-first century people dressed in period costume. This felt like a refreshing return to the type of historical books that pay attention to detail and being authentic. I enjoyed it so much that I’m looking into acquiring and reading the first two books. B