Sunday, April 13, 2014

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week Part I . . .

A Proper Companion (Regency Rakes, #1)A Proper Companion by Candice Hern -- Regency Romance

Twenty-six years ago, an enceinte Lady Gwendolyn, daughter of the Earl of Pentwick, climbed out her bedroom window to elope with the unsuitable Walter Townsend. She was disowned by her family for her transgression, but happy enough with her husband and only daughter by her side. After her death, her husband lost his heart, his fortune, and finally, his life. Now their daughter Emily is companion to Countess Bradleigh and prefers to keep in the background. Lady Bradleigh is a kind employer and a good friend to Emily. She's a doting Grandmama but fiercely protective of her family and friends, so when she discovers through the newspaper that her grandson Robert, Lord Bradleigh, is to marry the very young and empty-headed Miss Augusta Windhurst. Worst of all, Lady Windhurst is an encroaching mushroom who would NOT be a welcome addition to the family. Dear Robert would be better off with someone more mature and sensible... like Emily! Lady Bradleigh then delves into a matchmaking scheme of grand proportions. She has to not only get her grandson to see her companion's worth, she has to make Miss Windhurst cry off. For that, Lady Bradleigh needs to visit London for the first time in many years. She endeavors to bring Emily Out into Society despite the young lady's protests. Lady Bradleigh's loyalties will be tested time and again as her wayward grandson sticks to his engagement promise. Emily's strength is tested as she faces suitors and villains and finds herself increasingly drawn to the irresistible, rakish Lord Bradleigh.

Take all your Regency cliches and put them in one novel and you have the plot of this book. I found it very formulaic and not all that interesting. The only time I enjoyed the plot was when Lady Bradleigh was on page scheming. The rest of the time I found myself rolling my eyes and skipping passages about the characters' physical attributes hoping to find some sort of redeeming factor in this novel. Sadly, I found none. The author includes way too many period details. I love period details but I don't need a description of every fashion plate, every piece of drawing room furniture, etc. etc. Emily is interested in politics and classical literature, yet those conversations are glossed over. The conclusion to the "romance" is too quick.

The characters are dreadful. Lord Bradleigh is a libertine. He admits that some of his reputation is based on gossip that he doesn't discourage because he hasn't wanted to be the target of matchmaking mamas. He confines his amorous exploits to matrons, widows and an occasional opera dancer, yet throughout the story he is continually frustrated because his engagement is hindering his usual way of life! He has decided to be a dutiful fiance but once the business of getting an heir is over, he'll resume his usual way of life and as long as Augusta is discreet, she can carry on with whomever she likes. This is the only way of life he has ever known. He grew up in a society that accepts such things, however, he discovers that middle class morality has crept up into the ton and his soon-to-be bride and her family will expect him to be a pattern card of propriety! He chafes against the idea and lusts after Emily. He flirts with her and wants her physically and feels anger towards any other man who wants her for himself. He doesn't really exhibit much growth by the end of the novel except realizing his own feelings. I guess we are to infer that now he has fallen in love, he will be a faithful husband? He also has a violent temper and uses his fists when he is angry. Needless to say, Lord Bradleigh is one rake I do not love.

Emily is a Mary Sue character or a Fanny Price with slightly more gumption. Actually, she's quite a lot like Jane Eyre. She's kind and caring; a good friend and excellent companion. She's too proud to accept charity and feels uncomfortable when Lady Bradleigh buys her new clothes and introduces her to Society. She is able to easily pacify the temperamental cook and is friendly to everyone she meets. Emily sticks to her convictions and chooses styles that she feels comfortable wearing and will suit her best. She can't help but be attracted to the seductive Lord Bradleigh but she's so sweet she can only see his good qualities. He's very close to his family members and loves his grandmother very much, he's caring and considerate and eager to help protect Emily against her enemies. She knows he's a rake and she knows he's engaged, but she can't help but fall in love with him. When she encounters the villain, her response is to cry. I would have been angry and defended myself. I did like that she is able to hold her head high in the face of gossip and she keeps a cool head when confronted with danger.

The two characters I liked best were Lady Bradleigh and Lottie, the maid. Both characters speak their minds and help direct the action. Lady Bradleigh is a kind-hearted lady but she can be the grande dame when she wants to be. She's a fun character, always meddling and manipulating so subtly that only those she has confided in know what she's up to. I liked that she wasn't your usual elderly dragon. Lottie is a young girl from the country so she doesn't have the airs that London servants do. She adds a lot of humor to the story. I also liked Anatole the temperamental French cook mainly because he was funny. His plot comes way out of nowhere and deserved a bit more explanation but it was cute.

The villains were so stereotypical. I guessed the motive even before they were introduced because the plot device has been used too often in these sorts of novels. The villains are truly despicable. One is the worst sort of villain. Both are rather weak and defeated too easily. I didn't like the way they were dealt with.

Technically the story is kisses only but there's a near seduction scene where the hero fondles the heroine's breast and also a shocking near ravishment scene that I did not like one bit.

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