What I Read in June Part VI . . .Miss Quinn's Quandary by Shirley Marks -- Regency Romance
Miss Larissa Quinn is traveling from the young ladies' seminary where she has spent most of her life to stay with her aunt in the wilds of Westmoreland. When she arrives at an over-booked inn, she declares she is married to ... a stranger, Lord Randall Trent, who was traveling up the Severn on the same boat. Lord Randall knows he's a gentleman and she's safe with him, but what if he wasn't? He can hardly resist the beautiful young woman as it is so when she seems eager for a kiss, he can hardly help himself. Larissa is afraid of living her life without experiences. She is unprepared for how the kiss makes her feel. She's determined to never forget it for it will likely be the only she she ever experiences. He travels on to his Uncle Cyrus, the Earl of Rushton, who decides to sweep Randall up into the world of the haut ton in order to find a new wife. He finds the woman of his dreams, but she needs someone to look out for her ward. Imagine Randall's shock when he discovers that the ward is none other than Miss Quinn! She's a forward little piece of baggage and Randall thinks someone should teach this chit how to go on but it won't be him. He's too busy trying to court the lovely Lady Dorothea Brookhurst. That's fine with Larissa because she is trying to win a kiss from Lord Fenton, who is very slow to come up to scratch. If only she could get the memory of that earth shattering kiss out of her mind. Then, some enemy seems determined to hurt Randall and he is sure to hang if Larissa can't come up with a scheme to save him and bring about a happily every after for all.
This story could have been a funny Heyeresque piece but it failed to meet expectations. The relationship is based purely on feelings and the narration doesn't dig deeply into the characters' heads. I don't really see anything honorable about the way Randall treats Larissa. Despite her forward behavior she is an innocent. The romance is slightly more sensual that I expected from Avalon. I didn't really get Randall and Larissa's relationship. Their story changes from hot to cold and back and forth. I didn't like them together. Larissa is an idiot who innocently breaks almost all the rules and Randall knowingly breaks some of them, yet no one seems to care. The older adults are silly and dim-witted. I figured out who one of the villains was but there were enough red herrings so that I couldn't be completely sure. I wasn't surprised but I was surprised that a certain minor character didn't play a larger role because so much was made about them.
The Abandoned Rake by Emily Hendrickson -- Regency Romance
Joanna Winterton is in mourning for a fiance she didn't love. She feels the ton's sympathy is a little too stifling. The only one who isn't offering kindness and platitudes is the rakish Sir Lucas Montfort. He knows her fiance didn't deserve her. Joanna thinks he's one to talk, for he is engaged to a milk and water miss barely out of the schoolroom. She thinks he needs a bold wife who will stand up to him. Joanna decides to escape London until the gossip dies down. She rents a cottage in the Lakes District with her eccentric, spinster aunt Caroline. When Lucas is publicly humiliated, his pride is wounded and he can't stand the gossip. He decides to go rusticate in the Lakes District, where he hopes for a dalliance to take his mind off things. There he encounters the lovely Joanna. He can't help but tease her but he knows not to dally with a gently bred lady. Lucas's kisses are delicious and Joanna could easily become abandoned if she isn't careful. She knows he isn't serious so she must not refine too much on his actions. He just can't understand why she doesn't dote on him like every other woman he knows. He enjoys the cozy home Joanna and her aunt have made and are kind enough to include him. Then mysterious accidents begin to happen whenever Joanna and Lucas are together. Someone is out to kill one of them, but who would want to kill Joanna or Lucas and why? The pair work together to solve the mystery, coming closer by sharing an experience but Joanna may have to take matters into her own hands if this story is to have a happy ending.
I loved the unique setting for this story. The Lakes District is described so well that I really felt like I was there. It makes the typical plot into something different. The description makes me want to go there. I liked the way the hero and heroine get to know each other. It bothered me at first but as the plot goes on, the relationship develops nicely. The mystery was a bit obvious but kept me wondering why and how it would turn out. It was a little random though. The last third of the novel drags on too long and the ending is a little rushed.
What kept me from really enjoying this novel was the hero. He doesn't have a good opinion of women, which is understandable given his past experiences, but he continually thinks badly of Joanna and assumes things about her that are obviously untrue given what he knows of her. He can't bring himself to think anything different, yet he's constantly teasing her and kissing her and obviously falling in love. His negative thoughts are repetitive and last too long. I can see what Joanna sees in him but I think if she knew what he was thinking, she may not like him so much.
I really liked Joanna. She's smart, witty, strong and brave. Though she's in constant need of rescuing, she doesn't have hysterics and she knows how to save herself if she needs to. I felt sympathy for her because of her father and she shows readers how difficult it was to be a woman at that time, even for a woman with a moderate fortune. Though I didn't really understand that part of the plot because it didn't seem plausible without some explanation like she's so desperate for attention and praise from her father or he'll withhold her fortune or something along those lines.
The secondary characters are great. I especially loved Rex, the Border Terrier. Bonus points in my rating are due to him. He needed more scenes and more to do but I'm a sucker for an animal companion and I am obsessed with terriers, so I loved him. I also loved Aunt Caroline. She's a good influence on Joanna and a good role model. She has a disability but doesn't want or need sympathy or pity. I liked her subplot but I'm not sure that was the right direction to take her in. I could have done without Mary. She didn't serve much purpose unless Joanna was going to end up a copy of her aunt.