This delightfully charming and saucy
Regency era romance, is first in the Governess series in which three best friends are employed as governesses for different families, and all find themselves wanting something they can’t have.
Elizabeth Porter is quite happy with her position as the governess for two sneaky-yet-sweet girls when she notices that they have a penchant for falling ill and needing the doctor. As the visits from the dashing and handsome Doctor Edward Fellows become more frequent, Elizabeth quickly sees through the lovesick girls’ ruse. Yet even Elizabeth can’t help but notice Edward’s bewitching bedside manner even as she tries to convince herself that someone of her station would not make a suitable wife for a doctor. But one little kiss won’t hurt…
I have issues with this cover, which looks like it’s from a late 1970s men’s magazine (I don’t want to see all that thigh, or that look on her face – and where’d her underthings go?). This book (despite the publisher calling it a Regency romance), is set in 1856, a couple of decades into the Victorian era. 1856 in fashion:
Julia Kelly has a really nice writing style. I raced through the first half of this book before some of the red flags I’d been noticing started flaring right up and destroying the story.
I did love the Victorian era setting (ignore the publisher’s claim this is a “delightful Regency romance” – there’s nothing Regency about it), and there were some great ideas here. I liked that the heroine had female friends she meets with regularly, and who are there for her when she needs them.
I love a lot of books where we dive in with hero and heroine already knowing each other and wanting each other. However, there has to be something that either prevents them being together or breaks them apart or else there’s no story. And in this story there are NO obstacles.
They could have got married on page one and gone off to America together. The hero had a job waiting for him there, and the heroine wanted nothing more than to visit New York. So why not get married and go? I have no idea.
Fake obstacles are thrown up, and they don’t make any sense. Even if there were problems, not one of them was something they couldn’t have faced together.
For me, in the place of romance, I think the book presented mental lusting from the outset, in a way that seemed more… porny than romantic. If the heroine spent any more time thinking about masturbation, or telling the hero about how she masturbates to thoughts of him… it wasn’t female empowerment; it was unnecessary and happened at inappropriate times.
When she discovers that the girls she cares for and claims to love have scarlet fever (a deathly illness back in the day), she thinks how excited she is because the doctor (the hero) is coming.
Why, you ask? Because she has been touching herself to fantasies of him giving her oral sex (she’s quite the sexpert for a well-bred, virginal Victorian governess!).
Then he arrives, and moments after confirming both girls might die, we get:
His thumb stroked her cheek, sending desire pooling between her legs.
The next time we see them together, the children are in their sickbeds, and doctor and governess take off to the other room to discuss masturbation, and then have that oral sex she’s been fantasising about – while the girls are busy dying in the other room.
While I understand it’s difficult to follow social rules and still get your historical characters in a room alone, this was not a heroine (or a hero) I could love; their self-absorption was staggering.
And then, in some serious and nonsensical plot manipulation, the two of them decide to go down to the library to have sex for the first time. Where the master of the house – a man who had fled some time earlier so the rest of the family wouldn’t catch scarlet fever – just happens to walk in and catch them. It made no sense; why was he suddenly back in the house?!
After that hero and heroine proceed to claim there’s nothing wrong with what they did, while I was thinking that even in 2016 a boss would fire employees he caught having sex in public spaces of his house!
It is never explained to us why the eldest of the girls kept pretending to be sick. It’s an unresolved plotline, and once the heroine leaves the house she never thinks about those girls she has been with all those years and claims to love – Ever Again. It’s another example of what a self-absorbed woman she was, and why I didn’t much care what happened to her in the end.
As you can see, this was not the book for me. I think with some careful editing it could have been a much better story. Remove the pornographic thoughts from the sickrooms, make the conflict a genuine one, and don’t have characters appear as convenient plot devices.
I am reading the rest of the series, and hope for something better.
Review copy provided by NetGalley.