The Duke’s Runaway Bride by Jenni Fletcher – a special romantic Regency Belles of Bath novel

The Duke’s Runaway Bride by Jenni Fletcher

When a Duke’s new bride runs away on her wedding day, it makes for a tricky start to any marriage. The Bride has turned up in a biscuit shop in Bath, and those who have read the other books in Jenni Fletcher’s series about the “Regency Belles of Bath” will know that surely romance will be in the air. Not that it is necessary to read the other books in this series to enjoy this book; it is a book very much about Beatrix, Duchess of Howden and her relationship with her new husband, Quinton Roxbury. Not that he comes unencumbered; he has a family who in their various ways are almost as challenging as his concerns about his absent wife. This is a book of romance, but also some memorable characters whose reactions to Beatrix are very entertaining, as well as a heroine whose newly found independence challenges every assumption. With humour and a keen understanding of the power of scandal in a world of secrets, this book revels in the setting of a large if shabby house for the discovery of a genuine relationship that could change lives, if both Beatrix and Quinton can understand it. Will the lure of her friends in a fashionable bakery and the attractions of being truly independent for the first time in her life triumph over her relationship with the husband she has barely met? I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this special, well written book.

As the book begins, Quinton is struggling to cope with his difficult family. His mother is an angry woman, unforgiving of her late husband who she hated. His sister Antigone is almost as disagreeable, his two brothers unreachable and his youngest sister silent and hiding. Into the middle of his problems appears a letter from his missing wife. She is living as Belinda Carr, who lives and works with her friend Nancy running Belles in Bath. The fierce Nancy MacQueen is rather anti-men, so when Quinton turns up, wanting to talk to Beatrix, she does not encourage a speedy reconciliation. When the married couple do discuss matters, they reveal some of the reasons why their wedding day ended so badly. Beatrix knows that he only proposed marriage on their first meeting because he wanted her money as she is an orphaned heiress, and her uncle had negotiated for her hand as he wanted the connection with his title. Quinton explains that he had been estranged from his late father and had until recently been in France: “But there was a war!” exclaims Beatrix. “That probably explains why they gave me a sword and a pistol” replies Quinton “I was a Major”. Partly as a result of the revelations, they agree to give their marriage a chance, and Beatrix is to return to Howden, his family house, and live at there as Duchess for six weeks, but she is convinced that at the end of the time she will still want a divorce. The story of those six weeks takes up the bulk of the novel, as they both discover much more about exactly who they have married.

I really enjoyed this novel, especially the developing relationship between Beatrix and Quinton. The family that she encounters is so well described, and a surprising character acts as the catalyst for change. Dealing with Quinton’s mother is especially challenging, as the older woman is stubborn and difficult. Beatrix’s progress is well described, as is Quinton’s emotional revelations. This is a very special book that I recommend to anyone who enjoys romantic historical fiction.  

Spirited by Julie Cohen – a powerful historical novel of love, freedom and truthful lives

 

 

Love, memories and the cost of freedom – this is an historical novel which takes expectations for Victorian life and shatters them. Julie Cohen has created characters that have real life and real emotions, however many challenges they must face. Looking at the secrets of spiritualism, this book considers at what people most want, and what that can cost. Viola is a woman who understands something of grief, and a remarkable discovery means that she wants to help others in their loss. Jonah, a quiet man, is full of duty, but struggles to come to terms with the secret behind his dutiful heroism. Henriette is famous for bringing messages from those who have gone to those who desperately seek, but knows that she must fight to survive. All three become connected, but in different ways, as prejudice, duty and suspicion dominate their lives. This is a splendid examination through people’s lives of the rules of sexuality and more, themes which are still relevant in today’s society. This is a beautifully written book, and I am so pleased that I have had the opportunity to read and review this book. 

 

The book opens with a vivid picture of quite a dull event in many ways, the marriage of Jonah and Viola. Viola is a vicar’s daughter, but her much loved parent has just died. The vicarage where she has grown up, where the young Jonah stayed during holidays, can no longer be her home, and Jonah has promised to marry her. So while she is dislocated by grief, and he is nursing a secret which he feels unable to share, they marry and commence parallel lives. Moving to Dorset, they set up home where they are unknown, but gradually they receive invitations partly because of Jonah’s fame. Until her father’s death, Viola had been a keen amateur photographer with him, learning about every stage of taking images and producing photographic prints. It is only after meeting the remarkable Henriette that she feels inspired to attempt photographs again, with remarkable results. Jonah feels challenged in a completely different way by a session with Henriette; he feels consumed by memories of his life changing experiences in Delhi, an unresolved guilt and an overwhelming sadness. Henriette, it soons becomes plain, is not what she seems, and her determination to survive and follow an unexpressed love is what drives her, but her discoveries are revelations to a woman who shocks others for a living. 

 

This is such a well balanced book of twists and turns, revelations and surprises which fit beautifully within a very English setting, where even the weather seems to mirror the emotions. Contrasted with that is the bright whiteness of life in Delhi, the confusions of cultures, the limitations placed on Jonah. I found that the characters in this book are really well drawn and powerfully presented, especially the women who must fight to create truthful lives for themselves. The societies presented also hint at the inequalities of poverty beyond gender though that is a sufficient restriction on many lives. This is more than a historical novel; it deals with faith, love and truthful lives, and I recommend it as a powerful read. 

 

It is books like this which remind me while I love historical fiction which goes beyond royalty and the famous, to look at what life for people, especially women, was actually like. Far from being a straightforward romance, this book revels in so much more.

 

 

Reclaimed by her Rebel Knight by Jenni Fletcher – an enthralling historical romance

 

This is a novel that manages to combine big historical questions of politics and royal personalities with the intimate beginnings of  a marriage actually contracted years before the novel begins. It shows a world of inheritance, arranged marriages and secrets in castles. Romance is a slow built thing, just as a more normal relationship may begin, even though it technically began with a wedding ceremony five years before. Constance is a straightforward young woman, who was married at fourteen when she suddenly inherited a sizable estate and her relatives worried that one of her many suitors would force her into an unsuitable match. Even worse, as King John had a history of taking into wardship rich underage heirs, she may have disappeared completely. The husband selected was thought to be strong enough to guard her, but he disappeared immediately after the ceremony. Matthew Wintour had returned to the battlefield for reasons unspecified, and Constance has been waiting to meet her husband for five years. This is a historical romance in which Constance must find out about her husband who she has barely met, yet he has so many secrets.  His family, his motive for fighting, his loyalty or otherwise to the king. With a frank attitude to the attraction Matthew feels for his wife, whether they truly fall in love as they discover each other remains the question. This intense novel written with a sure eye for detail of rooms, clothes and human feelings is an involving read, and I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book.

 

The book begins in 1214 with Constance and her cousins trying to pick out her newly returned husband from a group of young men gathered in the hall below. It is obvious that there is some great secret between them, and this is the first stirrings of a plot that will come to importance later in the novel. Even when the self conscious Constance is formally reunited with her husband, it is obvious that he has many secrets. Though on one level he is frank and friendly, they are both aware of the slight absurdity of their situation. Constance’s desire is to return to her childhood home of Lacelby, and it is travelling there that they discover many secrets about themselves and the family which Matthew seemingly abandoned. A building which of itself holds secrets proves to be an even more powerful obsession for Sir Ralph Wintour, and Constance soon discovers that her affection for her own house is small in comparison. As passion, long held grief and other emotions develop, even luxurious accommodation cannot compensate for the challenges Constance and Matthew must face.

 

As an absorbing historical novel, this is an enjoyable read with enough excitement and passion to maintain the reader’s interest throughout. As a keen reader of historical fiction, I know there is a lot of research which goes into a novel where politics is not the main story, as even the clothes, rooms and food must be correct not to jar. I was convinced that the author definitely “knew her stuff” and I was kept enthralled not only by a story of two people exploring their relationship, but also how Constance as a woman asserted herself as more than her appearance and legal role would suggest. A confidently written novel, this book offers a lot of enjoyment.  

The Earl’s Runaway Governess by Catherine Tinley – a wonderful historical romance

A romantic historical novel can be exciting and challenging, as well as comforting and enjoyable. Tinley’s novel is a great example of intelligent historical romanticism, where the characters are distinct, their motives as complex as they would be in life, and the plot is satisfactorily engaging. This novel not only draws the reader in, but maintains interest and has an ending that means the last part of the book is compelling. As a long term admirer of Georgette Heyer, I am reasonably well read in this type of book, and really enjoyed this beautifully written novel. I was therefore very happy to be asked to read and review this novel by an experienced and confident writer.

Marianne Grant must leave her home where she has been carefully brought up to expect a continued, comfortable life and an advantageous marriage. However, on the death of her  loving parents a few months before, she has fallen under the guardianship of her stepbrother Harry whose feckless and spendthrift ways and drunken house parties have changed her life. This sad situation culminates in an attempt on her virtue by Harry, only foiled by the devotion of the housekeeper Mrs. Bailey. She departs in great secrecy taking minimal money and her mother’s jewels, and travels, for the first time alone, to London hoping to get employment. To her relief she is sent to a country house as governess to Lady Cecily, the twelve year old daughter of the impractical newly widowed Lady Kingwood. As Marianne has adopted the alias of Anne Bolton, when she meets the new Earl of Kingswood, Ash, he is at first uninterested in a plainly dressed employee. He is trying to come to terms with his new status as an Earl at the death of his cousin John, and the sad state of the house and estate, while seeking to forget his youthful attraction to “Fanny”, now Dowager Lady Kingswood. It soon becomes obvious that Anne is the only one who can manage and organise the household, and she becomes happily involved. She is living a new life, but she cannot escape her past completely. She also worries about her relationship with Ash; while she is undoubtedly attracted to him, and they have good humoured conversations, neither of them is certain of the other. While Anne finds many positives in her new identity, she still doubts how long it can last for. Ash is more than a fixed hero figure, as he still makes assumptions that bring their own problems.

This is a lovely romance, but there is a hard level underneath as one character reveals many undesirable elements and there seems to be no escape. The research into the carriages and types of business relating to travel is impeccable. The clothes are beautifully described and well suited to the state of the characters as they develop throughout the book. In short, this book has all the ingredients for an excellent historical romance and I can thoroughly recommend it as a brilliant read of its type, with just the correct amount of tension for a relaxing read.

 

I think that this is often where novel reading can be a great help when life is difficult. I have been known to read Jane Austen in times of great stress, but when you run out of those, Georgette Heyer and her modern followers can be a big help. However good a literary novel can be in all its modern challenging ideas and convention breaking themes, there will always be a place for genuinely wonderful historical fiction like this, so well done Catherine and I shall certainly be looking for more of your books!