Sunday, May 4, 2014

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

Miss Rowland's Resolve by Samantha Holder -- Regency Romance

Companion to Temporary Wife which I have not read. Paige and David appear in the beginning.

Miss Gwyneth Rowland has had a tough life. At nine and twenty years old she has endured the loss of her mother when she was 9, being jilted practically at the alter by her childhood sweetheart, nursing her father through his final illness; then her younger brother was declared dead while on his Grand Tour and Gwyneth's greedy uncle and his family moved into her home. Gywneth has had enough of being treated like a poor relation and being bullied by her uncle. She heads off to London to investigate the circumstances surrounding her brother's supposed death. She knows in her heart that Stephen is still alive and she's determined to prove it. Along the way she meets Miss Hannah Bradstone, a young heiress and her eccentric former governess, Miss Edith Pickering, who speaks primarily in quotations. Hannah's big heart and love of animals gets her into trouble at Grillon's and she places her beloved pet kittens in the care of Dr. Huntsley, a kind veterinarian who has a hospital for sick and homeless animals. When Hannah decides to rent a home of her own, Gwyneth thinks it inadvisable for so young and naive a girl to live practically alone. Hannah cares not a jot for her reputation, but she manages to convince Gwyneth to move in with her and Edith. Gwyneth reluctantly agrees though she desires her solitude. She and her redoubtable maid Annie head for Hookham's Lending Library where Gwyneth will interview Mr. Peasebody, the man who was with Stephen on his Grand Tour. Unfortunately, Gwyneth gets lost and her pride will not allow her to admit it. Annie has no such qualms and seeks help from the nearest person. Professor Miles Bardsley has returned to his native London after 13 years in Philadelphia. He left nursing a broken heart when the lady he loved chose his older brother instead. Miles is wary of women but he finds Gwyneth an excellent target for his gentle teasing. She rises to his bait and soon they're sparring. The sparring turns to intellectual discussions and they become fast friends as Gwyneth is given a job at Hookham's, where Miles is a frequent visitor. Meanwhile Hannah risks her reputation to rescue homeless animals and help Dr. Huntsley. Their happiness is about to be shattered when Gwyneth's wicked uncle comes to Town with his family. Miles comes up with the perfect solution, but it involves Gwyneth learning to trust and learning to value her own happiness.

This is an unexpected gem of a book! I took a chance on it because of the librarian heroine and was delighted to learn the co-heroine shares my other passion: animal rescue. Naturally I was prepared to give this book bonus points for the heroines' avocations, even if the plot was dreadful. Happily, the plot proved to be quite good. It's a little longer than most paperback Regencies but there are two heroines with stories to resolve. The only part I would have cut was the introduction to Miles, which had no bearing on the rest of the story. I didn't really like the wicked uncle plot, but he is the catalyst for moving the story along. The romances are predictable but I really liked them. The relationships develop slowly into friendships based on mutual interests and like minds. There's one or two kisses and that's it. Most of the plot is taken up with the heroines and their adventures and forming friendships. I liked both the plot immensely because they deal with my favorite subjects. The mystery of what happened to Stephen kept me interested but not enough to stay up all night reading.

I do have a few minor issues with the plot that keeps me from giving it more than 4 stars. First, there's a weird paranormal thing that's tossed in without explanation. I forgot all about it until it appeared again at the end. Second, I found Stephen's story just a bit too unbelievable. I was actually surprised at what had happened. Most of the book is devoted to Gwyneth's quest and the Stephen plot is concluded a little too quickly and easily. There are also some unresolved issues at the end. The romances come a bit slowly and are then rushed. The story needed an epilogue. Then, there are the historical errors. I think the author knew a bit about the Victorian era but not about the Regency era. I picked up on a few Victorian or Edwardian things. I don't know how many sources were available in the 1980s but I have read and liked books that were listed for sale in the back of the book. Marrying one's sister-in-law was not acceptable to the Church of England so that part of the plot didn't make sense logistically. Finally, Tuck IS the current Duke. If he was the future Duke, then his uncle would be the current Duke, which he is not.

The characters in this novel are excellent. The author had the librarian personality down pat. Gwyneth has my personality nearly 100%. I've met other heroines who are very close but not as much as Gwyneth. She's bookish, reserved, values her alone time and peace and quiet, proud, stubborn and doesn't like to be teased. I can easily see myself thinking and saying the things she did and sometimes behaving as she did. Hannah is a sad rattle but she's so sweet and has such a good heart, it's hard not to love her. I admire her dedication to helping sick and homeless animals. I don't think I would go so far as she did, but I liked her tenacity. She adds a lot of humor to the plot. The character development for both heroines is great. Hannah grows more and her development is more obvious than Gwyneth's subtle changes. Gwyneth's development is very subtle but it's there and if you're paying attention, you'll notice. I noticed because she was exactly like me in the beginning. The heroes are great too. I loved Miles even though he's not a rake and is something of a misogynist at first. He's kind, caring and has a sense of humor. He can be alpha when he wants to be. I liked that he was scholarly and not absent-minded or stuffy in any way. He's less formal than a typical Englishman of his class because he's been in America for so many years. He learned a lot there so he's less haughty than most of the Regency heroes. The brooding vet was a bit too much. I liked him a lot but the brooding bit got tossed in for no good reason. The secondary characters are all really well developed too. At first they seem flat but end up moving the story along as they develop. Edith provides most of the humor. I love how she spoke mostly in quotations. In annoyed Gwyneth but I thought it was amusing. The others proved surprising. They weren't the usual cast of characters from the standard casting book for Regency characters.

I'm so glad I took a chance on this book. If you like old-fashioned, sweet, unconventional stories, you will like this one. It would be a good one to digitize on Open Archive. The paperback book is falling apart

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