What I Read in May 2016 Part VII . . .My Fair Gentleman by Nancy Campbell Allen--Regency Romance
Jack Elliot is soon to take command of his own ship when a messenger from his estranged grandfather, the Earl of Stansworth arrives with the news the old man is on his death bed and demands Jack's presence. Jack's first thought is to not go but he decides to go and thumb his nose in his grandfather's face. The old Earl names Jack as his heir and while Jack would love to refuse, the old Earl knows Jack's sister and mother are on the brink of ruin. Jack can hardly refuse what will make his mother well again and his sister the ability to enter the world of the ladies whom she has been serving as a maid. Jack is bound and determined though to find a loophole in his grandfather's will and return to sea. Ivy Carlise's grandmother, the bosom friend of the late Countess of Stansworth, enlists the aid of her favorite granddaughter to help ease Jack into Society. Ivy is the best person for the job for she secretly writes an etiquette advice column for ladies and gets paid for it. Something about the big, raw Earl brings out the worst - and the best- in Ivy. Ivy must be careful though to keep her emotions in check and behave with the utmost propriety or her family, already under a cloud of scandal, will be socially ruined. Jack needs an occupation to keep him busy, other than needling Ivy. He thinks he can handle the ton on his own but it's so much fun to banter with Ivy instead. The one thing his tutor can't give him are lessons in love. What is a sailor turned Earl to do?
The author calls this a take on My Fair Lady but it's similar to Georgette Heyer's The Unknown Ajax and some other copycat plots. I really enjoyed the story for all it's a rehash of a plot I've read a few times before. The author did a great job studying up on etiquette of the period but she seems to have missed a few legal points. As far as I am aware, a peer can't pick and choose his heir. Usually the heir is the direct male descendant - either a son, grandson, nephew or cousin. If an Earl could choose his heir, Downton Abbey wouldn't have a plot. However, I believe the old Earl had every legal right to cut off financial support so the premise of the plot still works. Other than that, the writing style is modern enough to be accessible to newcomers to the genre but doesn't sound terrible modern. It sounds a little bit modern American to call one's grandmother "Nana" but mostly I didn't have a big problem with the language or story telling style.
I could do without the mystery, it doesn't sound plausible. It was actually a bit of a surprise to find out who the villain was. It wasn't who I thought it was or at least not entirely. Still the reveal isn't surprising. The action of catching the villain happens off page which is a let down. All that effort and poof the plot just wraps up nice and neatly.
I especially love the love story in this book. It develops slowly as first Jack and Ivy are wary of each other and must come to trust one another. Then they develop a friendship before falling in love. It does drag on a bit too long though. The love story features a few kisses but nothing at all more than a PG movie.
The characters is this story are great, for the most part. Jack is extremely proud and stubborn but not so proud that he would ruin his mother and sister. He cares for them very much and their bond is so sweet. He has a temper but never loses it at Ivy and restrains himself from killing his father's cousin because Jack thinks his cousin is a scoundrel. He also accepts friendship when given and knows who to trust once he gets to know someone. He is a great hero! Ivy is a character I think modern readers will like but also one that Jane Austen's readers would understand. Ivy has a cheerful character and a loving heart but that doesn't stop her from having a bit of a temper. She knows the rules though and knows she's on the brink of social ruin through no fault of her own. I especially love how her Nana encourages Ivy to be the best she can be and to be on the outside the woman she is on the inside. Though Ivy is young, she's very mature for her age. I liked her a lot.
I also liked Sophia. She's worldly wise but still young and innocent enough to dream of romance. It's nice to see a bond of female friendship form between Sophia and Ivy. I like how perceptive Sophia is and how she looks after her brother when he thinks he's looking after her. She has a lot of compassion and a beautiful heart to match her beautiful face. Nana is the most fun grandmother! She is progressive for the time, women of her day had more freedom, and she is the woman Ivy would be if she could. Nana is a big influence on Ivy because Nana is strong, strong willed and can get things done. Nana also knows how to catch more flies with honey than vinegar, though she can dish it out if needs be.
This story would appeal to Christian romance lovers. Though it is not specifically Christian, there does seem to be some Christian themes woven into the story. Traditional Regency lovers will probably enjoy this too but it is mostly recommended for newcomers to the genre or those who can't get through Heyer because of her excessive use of slang.
I really would love a sequel featuring Sophia and Lord Anthony Blake or just Sophia and one with Anthony. I'm not ready to let the characters go just yet!