A Waltz with the Outspoken Governess by Catherine Tinley
Set in 1810, this historical romance features a “woman with no plan to ever marry” at the age of twenty, sent to school by her loving father who has spent her childhood talking to her about books. I found this a lovely read, full of details about a difficult household situation. Moreover, Mary is a realistic, determined character who tries so hard to fit in for the sake of her father, but is compelled to address the assumptions about women being interested in books and having an opinion. Sir Nicholas is a well rounded character who is not immediately smitten by Mary; indeed thinking that she is a little dull, and is merely grateful that she is deflecting some of the difficulties of his sister’s visit. He is full of pride and somewhat unapproachable because he assumes it is his right to dominate the household, area, and especially his servants who he struggles to see as people. As is common in this sort of intelligent historical romance, it takes a woman who challenges his view of life to attract him. He has had his adventures in London, but he now feels able to merely follow obscure academic pursuits while others take the strain of life. Altogether this is an escapist read which I really enjoyed, and I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book.
The book opens with Mary getting into trouble with her teacher as she does not want to conform to expectations of ladylike behaviour. A sudden letter from her father’s housekeeper leads to Mary seeking a position near to where he is being held. Fortunately she encounters a remarkable agency with a business woman willing to take a risk on placing her in the right area. Meanwhile the very private Sir Nicholas is disturbed to hear that his sister is intending to bring her five children for an extended stay at his house. Adopting the policy of employing a full set of servants to distract them, Mary arrives with his Secretary, Bramber, to be an additional governess. She soon discovers that Nicholas’ sister, Mrs Susan Fenhurst, has an elderly governess who is desperate not to be replaced by a younger, more capable woman, despite the fact that she can no longer cope with the boisterous children. Keenly aware that she must retain her employment at the Hall in order to help her father, she tries to teach the children without openly challenging anyone. The second daughter, Beatrice, is actually attracted by more scholarly material, and it is in revealing this that compels Mary to announce that women can be clever “I believe it to be a myth when people say that women’s brains are less capable than men’s”. It is this sort of outburst that arouses Nicholas to take notice of the young woman in his household, and that notice soon goes beyond an admiration for her bravery.
I found this a really engaging read, with Nicholas a far from perfect hero, but who can be persuaded to go beyond humourous asides to actually take action. The romance element is well handled, and would not offend any delicate sensibilities. Mary is an interesting character, of necessity attractive, but confident in her beliefs. This is an intelligent, sometimes funny, always interesting historical romance, and is to be recommended to all those who enjoy this genre.