REVIEW: Met by Chance by Lynne Connolly
Dear Mrs Connolly,
I know we at DA (okay, me in particular) have harshed on some of your latest paranormal books but with “Met by Chance” I can happily say you’re cooking with gas again. After finishing this, I need to go back and try the first two books in this “Triple Countess” trilogy from Samhain.
You have this gift for being able to give modern readers a real feel for the Georgian period and life among the upper classes. In public it’s all show and aristocrats were trained for this from birth. There is one’s public ‘show’ face and the private self only revealed to a select few. Charles Dalton, Marquis of Petherbridge, is a master at hiding himself in plain sight. He seems more of a throwback to Richard, Lord Strang. Here’s a man who makes an entrance.
A stir at the other end of the room made her look up. People moved aside, silks and brocades swirling in a kaleidoscope of movement. "Now that," came her mother’s low voice, "is what I call an entrance." Rarely had Perdita seen anything so fabulous. A rara avis, a man so beautiful it was only by the male attire she could be sure of his sex. And even then she wasn’t positive. The newcomer wore a pale rose coat and breeches, with a delicate embroidered ivory waistcoat underneath. His natural hair, if he had any, was covered with an elaborate wig, the bulk of the confection drawn into a queue behind, with careful formal curls adorning his temples. Perdita gasped when she saw his face. He wore a full maquillage in the French style, rarely seen on a man in London’s ballrooms but usual in Versailles. Thick white ceruse covered his skin, and a delicate pink blush enhanced his cheekbones. One tiny patch close to the left corner of the rouged lips stood out against the matte starkness around it. A French exquisite. Perdita stared, fascinated by the effect.
When he finally allows Perdita to see the “real him,” it’s all the more meaningful. Few will ever see him at his ease or uncontrolled and you show us just how unthinkable this would be. He’s a man of power in an age when that meant something. His lessors and especially servants would jump when he issued a command and none would dare to presume any familiarity.
Lady Perdita Garland, daughter and sister of Earls, is of his class and even she’s a bit in awe of him. Recently returned to society after a disastrous experience at the hands of a suitor, she’s almost as adapt at hiding what she’s thinking and how she suffered during her rehabilitation from her riding accident. I think Perdita is one of your stronger historical heroines yet she still manages to remain an eighteenth century woman. She’s intelligent enough to work out how to help Charles and adaptable enough to switch horses midstream, so to say, when the occasion demands.
Both Charles and Perdita are experts in the rules of society which makes it all the more fun when they break most of them. Yet always in the back of their minds is the knowledge that what they did while trying to save Charles’s sister from eloping with a fortune hunter and recover Charles’s kidnapped young daughter must be kept secret. It’s staggering the amount of effort demanded from everyone to work out socially acceptable excuses for their movements around England. If you hadn’t’ve had Charles trained by his father in how to survive as a common man, I would have had trouble believing that he could submerge himself into working class Liverpool.
You went down to the wire with Charles’s daughter Aimée and sister Millicent. What a pair those two are and perhaps Charles ought to consider the fact that two females in his family are spoiled rotten — dare I say it? Yes, I dare — beotches. Perdita is not the sort to let any daughter of hers act as these two do, thank goodness. I’m not sure of Charles’s decision to let Aimée go back with her maternal grandparents where he admits she’ll be spoiled more but I certainly would want to live with her either. Good for Perdita for sticking to her guns about that situation. Will we see a reformed Millicent in the future?
As always, I adore reading about the clothes of the period. Though lovely to look at in pictures and period movies, I’m sure they must have been vastly uncomfortable to actually wear day in and day out. Did you base your descriptions on actual extant clothing or just make them all up? The glimpse into working class Liverpool was fascinating as well. I do have a question. Perdita mentions something about slavery being illegal in England yet refers to ‘the Colonies’ which I assume means that the story is set before the American Revolution. But I thought slavery wasn’t abolished until the 1830s so… what gives? Did I misread her thoughts? Also, thank you for mentioning that the villain of the story was probably going to come to a bad end in America. It’s one of my pet romance book peeves that so many English baddies end up in America!
I think readers waiting for the reissue of your complete Richard and Rose books 1-4 and first issue of the last two books of that series (me!!) should try this book to see what they’re missing and perhaps to spur them on to inundate Mundania Press with requests to speed up their schedule. B+
available in ebook format from Samhain