Dec. 10th, 2016

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The Shocking Lord Standon by Louise Allen

One of Louise Allen's Those Scandalous Ravenhursts series, which is a group of Regency romance novels centered around the descendants of the fictitious Francis Phillip Ravenhurst, 2nd Duke of of Allington, and Lady Francesca Templeton, the various friends and allies of the Ravenhurst cousins, and the romantic relationships they all wind up in.

This particular book centers around Ravenhurst cousin Gareth Morant and his romance with a governess named Jessica Gifford. At the start of the book Jessica has been kidnapped by a brothel that Gareth and his more disreputable friends have wound up visiting: Gareth rescues her before anything too horrible can happen and she winds up at his house sharing breakfast with him when in marches Gareth's childhood friend Maude.

Maude's father once made an agreement with Gareth's father that their children should be betrothed when they grew up; years have passed and Gareth's father has since passed on, and Maude and Gareth have no interest in marrying each other, sharing a more sibling-like relationship than anything else. Unfortunately, Maude's father is making an increasing nuisance of himself insisting on the match, so eventually Gareth settles on the faultless plan of convincing Maude's father that he's actually a terrible libertine who has no business marrying Maude, via carrying on a fake affair with an "adventurous" French widow named Mrs. Carleton- played by the somewhat bewildered Jessica.

So it's basically a Pygmalion-esque love story with Gareth and the cousins in on the conspiracy trying to teach Jessica How To Courtesan while dealing with their own sexual tension, Jessica's mother issues, Gareth's jewelry fetish, Maude's unreasonable father, and Maude's unreasonable father's even more unreasonable henchman. The brothel with a penchant for kidnapping governesses is just sort of ignored after the first chapter, which I suppose is realistic but kind of "uh" inducing.

Pretty readable though! I usually find Louise Allen to be so.

A Season of the Heart by Dorothy Clark

Love Inspired Historical (note: "love inspired" romances, afaik, basically means "romances where the characters are Christians and you won't see any sex scenes.") set in 1840s America around Christmas time. Ellen Hall is the daughter of a seamstress and her wealthier husband who's been spending most of her time in the city of Buffalo taking part in High Society. She's been groomed since childhood for the purpose of basically landing a rich and influential husband- to the point where, though it's not deeply examined, I'd say her parents' actions qualify as emotional abuse- and she now has two suitors to choose between: Bachelor A is Mr. Lodge, a rich man with a mustache who's apparently physically incapable of not being a condescending douchebag, while Bachelor B is Mr. Cuthbert, a rich-but-not-as-rich-as-Mr.-Lodge suitor who's considerably older than Ellen but has a promising political career going on.

Indecisive about which of her oh-so-charming suitors to pick, Ellen decides to revisit her teeny hometown of Pinewood Village for Christmas to consult with her parents and make up her mind. While there, Ellen runs into her old childhood friend, a teamster named Daniel Braynard.

They wind up bickering a lot because Daniel doesn't really like how Ellen's grown up into this ambitious socialite and Ellen doesn't like how Daniel still insists on calling her Musquash. (A nickname originating from when Daniel rescued her from almost drowning in a creek.) Naturally Daniel has secretly been in love with Ellen since he was twelve and is still in love with her despite telling himself very firmly that stop it, she's a haughty gold-digger now and you're an impoverished teamster and it's been over a decade, you idiot.

However, when they both volunteer to a mutual friend to help with the town Christmas decorations, Daniel and Ellen wind up repeatedly forced to spend time working together, and gradually thaw out, make friends, and develop UST... and then one of Ellen's city suitors comes into town and complicates matters.

Kind of thought the narrative was a little harsh on Ellen- I feel like she was owed at least one character saying "I'm sorry your parents literally forbid you to hang out with your friends once you hit puberty and had one of their servants spy on you and were generally kind of creepy" but iirc the other character's were mostly just "It's a shame she grew up to be so haughty :(" without thinking about what her actual feelings were? I mean it wasn't horribly blatant or anything, there was just enough of it to make me go "HMM." Cute book otherwise, though.


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