Terrific heroine in an Edwardian romantic comedy
Reading Level: Adult Romance
Release Date: January 15, 2014
Pages: 212 pages
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry
Lo and behold, this book is an actual romance novel rather than a murder mystery masquerading as a romance novel! I’ve read at least 35 of Marion Chesney’s historical novels and, disappointingly to me as a romance fan, the vast majority of them are actually murder mysteries with a subplot of romance, rather than a romance novel with a subplot of a murder mystery. In happy contrast to that trend, this MC Edwardian novel has as its main plot a romantic comedy with a slam-bang start and, I am delighted to report, there is no melodramatic murder plot diluting the humor.
Sally is a wonderful, assertive heroine, especially for a woman who is only 18 years old in an era when women had few rights. Orphaned a year before, when her British army colonel father and her mother both died of a contagious fever in India, Sally has been living with her much older sister ever since. Unfortunately, her sister and brother-in-law have relegated her to the position of an unpaid nanny who is forbidden to ever scold or spank her nieces and nephews, and Sally has come to loathe the very sight of her sister’s utterly undisciplined, raucous children. To the point that her disgust with her situation has become far greater than her fear of the unknown, and she bravely sets off for London, determined to get a job as a journalist.
As luck would have it, she arrives on the very day that an elderly lovelorn columnist for a small publication geared toward women drops dead in front of her at the very moment Sally is optimistically applying for a job. It’s a golden opportunity too good to miss, and Sally leaps at the chance to break into journalism by becoming the voice of “Aunt Mabel.”
Her advice proves to be so amusing and on point that, in short order, Sally single-handedly launches the small newspaper to bestseller status with a huge circulation. As a direct result, she is imperiously summoned to the home of a duchess to offer sage advice to her 35-year-old son, Paul, who is a Marquess. The duchess fears he is about to make a marriage she does not approve of, and she wants wise Aunt Mabel to talk him out of it.
The trouble is, no one must know that Aunt Mabel is not a little old lady, but is actually a young, virginal woman with no direct experience of romantic relationships herself. Refusing to be daunted by this huge obstacle to her career, the ever resourceful Sally dons a disguise of a little old lady by the strategic use of stage makeup. She does such a successful job of it, in fact, no one sees through her disguise, including gorgeous, sexy Paul, on whom Sally instantly develops an enormous crush from the moment she meets him.
This story is dynamite, all the way to the end, until the Dark Period, at which point MC has Paul take an action that we diehard fans of romance find to be a huge turnoff. At least there is a mitigating factor for that romantic plotting error in that it happens offstage, and MC doesn’t force the reader to wallow in Paul’s Big Mistake.
In contrast, MC allows Sally to remain a wonderful, assertive, quirky, lovable heroine from beginning to end of the story. She is one of my all-time favorite MC heroines.
As is very common with MC’s romance plots, resolution of the romance in order to arrive at the crucial HEA is very abrupt.
Overall, in spite of the problem with the hero and the abrupt resolution, because of Sally, in my opinion, this is one of the best historical romances in MC’s huge collection of books marketed as romance novels.
I rate this book as follows:
Hero Up Until the End of the Book: 5
Hero at the End of the Book: 1
Romance Plot Up Until the End of the Book: 5
Romance Plot at the End of the Book: 2
Edwardian Era Setting: 4