(US cover versus Australian cover)
Humphrey Westcott, Earl of Riverdale, has died, leaving behind a fortune that will forever alter the lives of everyone in his family—including the daughter no one knew he had…
Anna Snow grew up in an orphanage in Bath knowing nothing of the family she came from. Now she discovers that the late Earl of Riverdale was her father and that she has inherited his fortune. She is also overjoyed to learn she has siblings. However, they want nothing to do with her or her attempts to share her new wealth. But the new earl’s guardian is interested in Anna…
Avery Archer, Duke of Netherby, keeps others at a distance. Yet something prompts him to aid Anna in her transition from orphan to lady. As London society and her newfound relatives threaten to overwhelm Anna, Avery steps in to rescue her and finds himself vulnerable to feelings and desires he has hidden so well and for so long.
I’d heard all about this book before the Australian publisher – as usual – finally got their review copies out AFTER the release date (something about *Advance* Reader Copy doesn’t ever compute for them, apparently).
Why? Because a review on a certain website caused DRAMA.
But more about that at the end.
Mary Balogh is one of those prolific authors I hadn’t got around to reading until now, but I’d heard so much good about her. And when I started this book I came to an immediate realisation: she actually writes historical romance.
Most of what I’ve been reading in this genre lately has seemed a lot more like a ridiculous Hollywood romp than anything set in England of the past, some books with not a single aspect of Regency manners, attitudes, language or behaviour in their pages.
Balogh gives a sense of the strength and power the aristocrats wielded back in the day. By creating a heroine who enters this world later than she should have we get to see exactly how ordered society was, and how extremely different these people were to the average, everyday English people.
There are few authors who dare to do that anymore. Lynne Connolly is one. Madeline Hunter…
Our heroine has been dumped in an orphanage and hidden away until the age of twenty-five, and it is assumed she is the bastard daughter of an earl. However, it turns out she is the ONLY legitimate child of the earl, as the man married her mother before he married his aristocrat.
When this is discovered, overnight she is elevated to one of the richest and most powerful women in England, and the earl’s other family are immediately banished from society.
Our hero is one of the most unique I have ever read, and in every way he is the Regency duke as he would have been – not a Fabio. He has a thousand affectations, wields his power sometimes unforgivingly, and has the looks that would’ve been considered desirable back in the day.
Seeing him go from dismissing the heroine and trying to force her to use the servants’ entrance to his house, to realising he is in love with her, was so well-written.
And the best part was that it was a romance, and one that followed social rules of the day. No random pre-marital sex romps in ballrooms, and no gallivanting about London unescorted. This was an aristocratic marriage that actually FELT like an aristocratic marriage – something else that has been sorely missing from my historical romance reading for a while.
Now. The reason this book caused DRAMA.
Because the hero was bullied as a child away at school, he followed all sorts of physical pursuits to make him capable of defending himself. And this included martial arts (a note: I usually don’t like it when Regency characters randomly learnt martial arts, because it feels so out of place, but that worked for me in this book).
The reason everyone got so upset was because he learnt it from “a Chinese gentleman”. This man was never given a name, and people took issue with the lack of respect for a minority character.
Having followed this drama, I’d expected that this man was actually going to be a character in the book. He’s not. He is, however, mentioned near the start and near the end.
It was badly done. I don’t ever think of people I know as the Indian gentleman or the Ukrainian gentleman. A name could have gone a long way to fixing this and stopping a lot of people being upset.
I don’t know… If only people in the romance community took their pitchforks after all those Western historicals (and their authors) where there are actually Chinese characters ON THE PAGE who are stereotyped badly – and often – the way they have with Balogh. Or maybe it’s a different crowd reading historical romances set in America’s Wild West, and I’m one of the few reading both and so one of few who notices…
There were a couple of other issues I had, but that is more because I’m used to reading “modern” historical romances, and this one is in a more traditional style. For example, there were a lot of characters who were often referred to by different names and titles, and near the start I was confused (especially as three of the main characters are called Anna, Avery and Alex!).
However, what I took away from this one is that I need to be reading more Mary Balogh books. This is what I want to read when I pick up historical romance. Not those modern and anachronistic romps.
Review copy provided by NetGalley.