A Proper Companion: A Regency Romance, by Candice Hern – A Review

The Regency Romance Reading Challenge (2013)Today marks the official opening of the Regency Romance Reading Challenge 2013, our celebration of Regency romance author Candice Hern. We will be reading all of her traditional Regencies over the next nine months, discussing her characters, plots and Regency history. You can still join the reading challenge until July 1, 2013. Participants, please leave comments and or links to your reviews for this month in the comment section of this post.

My Review:

We know that we are in for a fun frolic when an author boldly begins the first chapter of a novel with a heroine climbing out a bedroom window to meet her lover during a runaway marriage. No sooner have we drawn another breath when we discover that Lady Gwendolyn Pentwick is not the heroine of A Proper Companion at all, but her mother, an earl’s daughter who has found herself in a family way and been pressured into a patched up marriage to a titled lord who lacks fortune and appeal. Phew. If this lively beginning is the forerunner of what is to follow, hold on to your bonnets and settle into a page-turner.

Flash forward twenty-seven years to 1812 and the Bath townhouse of the Dowager Countess Bradleigh, who while enjoying afternoon tea with her companion Emily Townsend, reads in the newspaper of the betrothal of Augusta Windhurst to her eldest grandson, Robert Cameron, ninth Earl of Bradleigh. Shocked and appalled by his choice of bride she is determined to intercede in this mésalliance. Moments later Robert surprises his grandmother by an unexpected visit to reveal his news only to find his grandmother in an uproar. Calmly he explains his logical reasons for choosing a wife after so many year of bachelorhood. He is feeling his age and wants an heir and Miss Windhurst is everything she desires in a wife: “elegant, cool, supremely aloof, does not giggle, chatter, whimper, swoon or cling.” She finds his attitude cold, calculating and unromantic asking him where the love is in the arrangement?

Lady Bradleigh actually thinks her companion Miss Townsend, an impoverished granddaughter of an earl, is an excellent choice for her grandson and against her former dictum decides to be the matchmaker for them. Standing in her way is Robert’s fiancée and her social climbing family who are thrilled for their daughter to marry an earl. Because no gentleman can break off an engagement, but a lady can, she must find a way for his betrothed to beg off—and convince Emily, a determined spinster, and her grandson, the consummate rogue, that they are a match made in heaven.

Even at the age of 78, no challenge is ever too difficult for the dowager and she sets her plan into action. Sharing Emily’s sad family story with her grandson, she convinces him to help this well-bred but impoverished young lady by introducing her to suitable prospects. The earl, whose reputation as womanizer is known by all, is attracted to his grandmother’s elegant and refined companion who the servants speculate is the daughter of royalty. She is flattered by his attentions, but determined to remain a spinster.

A Proper Companion, by Candice HernTo get herself into the thick of things the countess will go to London and throw an engagement ball there for Robert and his fiancée. Emily is excited to go to London for the first time, but the countess is not happy with her appearance and decides her companion needs a make-over. Emily is very resistant to accepting charity from her employer after her hard-fought independence over the last seven years, but her pride must not jeopardize her continued employment and she accepts the countess’s offer of an updated wardrobe. When Robert sees her in her new frock and softer hair style, he is very taken with her. Maybe the speculation of her parentage is true? Is she a royal by-blow?

They travel to London and stay at the earl’s Grosvenor Square townhouse where future parties bring the reunion of his sister Louisa, the Viscountess Lavenham and her husband, Robert’s betrothed, the reserved and cool nineteen year-old Augusta Windhurst and her social climbing mama, and his many male friends who find the beautiful and intelligent Miss Townsend more than irresistible. Also in Town for the season is a member of Emily’s estranged family, her uncle the Earl of Pentwick and his son the Viscount of Faversham. Emily soon finds the serious attention of a beaux and an enemy from her past among her new acquaintance. Robert soon finds that love should be on the list of requirements for a bride.

What a delight it was to be back in the Regency world of the ton in London and Bath that I have so enjoyed during many Georgette Heyer and Lauren Willig novels. While I adore Jane Austen, she does not use much description of her characters physical appearance nor the setting like they do. This is one aspect of why I enjoy Candice Hern’s novels so much. We are treated to sumptuous detail about the Regency world, especially the clothing:

“It was a dusky rose lustering, with a high waist and low bodice edged with Brussels lace. A dark rose stain ribbon tied around the high waist, just under the bosom, and the ends floated down almost to the hem. The dress emphasized Emily’s tall, slender figure. New pink slippers peeked out from the scalloped hem.” p. 61

Lovely…Another aspect of her writing that I find so diverting is her humor.

“Dog and man collided with a force that sent Lord Bradleigh tumbling on his backside. Charlemagne growled accusingly at him, then made his way to the cherished fauteuil. The earl, thoroughly stunned, looked up at the grinning ladies in confusion.

“You see, Emily,” the dowager drawled, “I told you that gentlemen would be failing at your feet. Behold: your first victim!”” p. 63

Finery and hi-jinks aside, Hern has an elegant, engaging, and energetic way with character, dialogue, and plot development that would make any author green with envy. Her hero Robert was so charming, especially when he was indignant, and her heroine Emily a true diamond of the first water. The story is quickly paced and even though there were a few spots of predictability, there was no reason to repine from this Austen lover who is looking forward to reading all of her traditional Regencies this year.

4.5 out of 5 Regency Stars

A Proper Companion: A Regency Romance, by Candice Hern
CreateSpace (2012)
Trade paperback (278) pages
ISBN: 978-1479105977

A Grand Giveaway

Author Candice Hern has generously offered one print copy or one digital copy of A Proper Companion to one lucky winner. Leave a comment stating what intrigues you about this novel, or if you have read it, who your favorite character is by midnight PT, Wednesday, January 30, 2013. Winner to be announced on Thursday, January 31, 2013. Print book shipment to US addresses only. Digital copy delivery internationally. Good luck!

© Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose 

50 thoughts on “A Proper Companion: A Regency Romance, by Candice Hern – A Review

  1. To decide on a favorite character in this book is very hard. I loved Lady Bradeigh. That is the kind of grandmother I want to be. Fun, pushy and loved dearly by her grandson. But Robert is one of those Regency Rakes that you have to fall in love with. Thanks again for this challenge…I am loving Candice Hern’s books already. I have my copy..so don’t put me in for the chance of the giveaway. On to the next.

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  2. Laurel Ann, you have a marvelous ability to capture and summarize a story…I enjoyed your review as it so well captured highlights of the novel. It is the first of Hern that I’ve read, and found her easier and even more delightful to read that most of Heyer, and I’ve read nearly all her romances! I loved the plot, the delightful characters… especially Emily, the clever and also very kind Dowager Countess Bradleigh (my favorite character), and Robert, who though he has a scandalous reputation, loves his Grandmother, and also has a good heart. The relationships and interactions among the three were delightful, and I also appreciated Hern’s complete picture she painted of each character. My one disappointment in the story was the scene in the library between Emily and Robert. To me, it was what I don’t like in novels, unnecessary, and not Austen-esque enough. I also would have enjoyed more at the end about each of the favorite characters’ lives. But I guess leaving us wanting more is one sign of an excellent novel, and look forward to the next book!

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  3. I bought a used copy of “A Proper Companion” and it was signed by the author with a personal note to the original owner. I love finding these little personal notes inside books. Looking forward to reading it, Candice Hern is a new author for me.

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  4. “A Proper Companion” is my first Candice Hern read, and I am delighted! Laurel Ann, your review is wonderful and your assessment of Emily’s and Robert’s characters
    is right on! However, my favorite character is without a doubt the Dowager Countess. She is what every grandmother should strive to be — smart, witty, determined and, above all, loving. I hope we see her again in the remaining books of the “Regency Rakes” trilogy!

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  5. I checked out A Proper Companion as a set of 3 books on my Kindle, and am already on the third book. I enjoyed the story of Emily and Robert, and agree that the grandmother is a fun character. I also liked the peek into the circle of friends that Robert kept at school, and had hoped we would meet them again. I was not disappointed!

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  6. I found this novel as delightful as you did, Laurel Ann. Emily was a fun heroine and so easy to like, as was Robert. I enjoyed getting to know these two characters and watching their relationship unfold. I am so happy that I decided to take part in this lovely challenge!!:)

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  7. I’ve never read this book but it sounds funny. I like comedy of manners sweet and traditional style Regencies over the bodice rippers that are so popular now. The plot sounds like something out of a screwball comedy from Depression era Hollywood, which is right up my alley. I’d love to win a print copy of this book. I;d rather smell and feel a book than stare at a screen.

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  8. Two additional things that I loved about this novel were the Dowager Countess Bradleigh and her pug dog Charlemagne. She was the perfect grandmother – caring but not too obtrusive. Not badgering Robert to marrying and produce grandchildren even by age 35? What a saint. And the dog? Who would not love a pug dog that only understood French? delightful!

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  9. I am looking forward to reading this novel and enjoying the humor. I am intrigued by the relationship between the Dowager Countess and her companion Emily Townsend. And how resistant to withdrawing from the engagement is Augusta? Is she really as cool as described? (I’m thinking of some very specific UK actresses as candidates for the Dowager — Dames of the British Empire, anyone?)

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  10. I’m always looking for a new Regency to read and I enjoyed Candace’s short stories in “It Happened One Night “and “It Happened One season.”

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  11. I like the idea of a Lady Bradleigh playing matchmaker for your younger companion. The concept reminds me of the Dowager Countess Grantham being involved in the goings on at Downton Abbey.

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  12. I was unfamiliar with this author. Thanks for sharing your exceptional review. I’m definitely going to read some of her works especially this one.

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  13. I have A Proper Companion loaded onto my Kindle and as soon as I read and review my assigned book, I will attack this one with relish. Any author who writes in the style of Georgette Heyer will be hard to resist. Your enticing review, Laurel Ann, cinched the deal for me.

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  14. I had a great time reading this book. The heroine had heaps of character. This novel was full of humorous twists. I loved the idea of the matchmaking grandmother. Lots of fun.

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  15. Reading your review, this is just the sort of regency I love – intelligent and interesting heroine, the hero looking to make a “suitable” match, but not with the heroine, and a dowager who is appealing and interfering. I am also unfamiliar with this author, but if she writes in the style of Georgette Heyer, I will be participating in this challenge.

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  16. I love this book. I downloaded when I first got my Kindle and it was my introduction to Candice Hern’s work. I have read some of her other books also. I’m looking forward to the books listed for this summer – titles I haven’t read yet.

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  17. I’ve read Austen and Heyer, and I’m dying to find some more truly excellent Regency romances! This one sounds like a great read — thanks for the giveaway!

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  18. I liked the book very much and am now reading the second book of the trilogy on my kindle. I appreciate the accurate details as to clothing and furnishings for the regency period. Look forward to reading more of the listed books.

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  19. Hadn’t heard of this author before, but it sounds like a good book. I looked at the book on Amazon and it said it goes from the Pump Rooms at Bath to London. It sounds like a good Regency story that I’d enoy reading.

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  20. This was great fun! The Dowager Countess was my favorite character but I have to admit the scenes with the 2 chefs were especially amusing. I also think Augusta’s mother would be a nightmare of a mother-in-law…and Mr Darcy thought Mrs Bennet was embarrassing!

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    • I enjoyed reading A Proper Companion very much. One of my favorite characters was the pug Charlemagne. His described mannerisms, human focus and expectation to be spoilt reminds me so much of our pugs.

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  21. Many thanks to Laurel Ann for the lovely review of A PROPR COMPANION, and to all the rest of you who have had so many kind words about it. I am delighted to have found so many new readers!

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  22. I have read the sample I received from Amazon.com.
    In the words of Dorothy, ‘Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Austenland anymore’
    It is written somewhat in the style of Jane Austen and the characters and plot are similar, but it is NOT Jane Austen. That is what intrigues me.
    I plan to get the book whether I win the prize or not!

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  23. Thanks for the review “A Proper Companion.” I’ll be adding this one to my lengthy list of “books to read in a nice hot bath.”

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  24. The premise of this book sounds so fun and interesting! It sounds like it contains all the best parts of regency fiction–drama, intrigue, romance, fashion. It doesn’t hurt that I keep picturing Lady Bradleigh as Dame Maggie Smith….

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  25. This was a fun easy read and I enjoyed it very much. The main characters were diverting especially the Dowager Lady Bradleigh. Her very proper companion Emily Townsend is a impovershed granddaughter of an earl. He disowned her family because her mother married someone they did’t like. So when her father died leaving her with nothing she decided to work as a governess and than as a companion for the Dowager. Like any true romance there is some obstacles in the way of true love and of course the evil bad guy trying to mess everything up. The journey was delightful and I loved the hero, who is the Dowager’s grandson Lord Bradleigh. SIGHH. He definitely would break your heart. He’s the perfect hero. Just loved him and the book. I bought the triogly on my kindle and I’m off to the 2nd story.

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  26. Count me in! I am very excited about this event as I love the regency period in literature and this is a new author to me. For that same reason I am very intrigued “A Proper Companion” and would love to win a copy to add to my library. Thanks so much for hosting this challenge for 2013 and for the lovely giveaway!

    Courtney
    Stiletto Storytime

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  27. Pingback: Giveaway Winner Announced for A Proper Companion « Austenprose – A Jane Austen Blog

  28. I’m late commenting. I had to order the book and it seemed to take forever, but I have now read it and loved it! I love Hern’s books and had not had the pleasure of reading her past novels. I can’t wait to read the next installment in this particular series. I love the beginning of the story and how the heroine’s background affected her outlook and of course the hero was to drool for. On to the next book!

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  29. I really enjoyed this story… Emily and Robert were very endearing. I loved the Dowager, but found the brief exchange between the two cooks to be enchanting. Just downloaded Black Jack’s story… Looking forward to the challenge!

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  30. This was my first Candice Hern read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. “A Proper Companion” is charming and witty and all things wonderful in a regency romance. I loved all of Emily’s strengths, especially her relationships with the dowager and the staff – most particulary, Monsieur Anatole. Robert is appropriately charming and we knew, of course, where he and Emily would end – but the getting there was such fun. Lastly, it must be my addiction to Downton Abbey that had me picture Maggie Smith as the Dowager Bradleigh. I want to be both of them when I grow up!

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  31. I am soooo enjoying Candice Hern’s books. I started with the February book..not thinking I would have enough time to finish A Proper Companion by the end of January…..as it was…I finished February AND March’s book and am now reading A proper companion. Love the writing. Love the stories. I am a new fan :)

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  32. This was a fun easy read and I enjoyed it very much. The main characters were diverting especially the Dowager Lady Bradleigh. Her very proper companion Emily Townsend is a impovershed granddaughter of an earl. He disowned her family because her mother married someone they did’t like. So when her father died leaving her with nothing she decided to work as a governess and than as a companion for the Dowager. Like any true romance there is some obstacles in the way of true love and of course the evil bad guy trying to mess everything up. The journey was delightful and I loved the hero, who is the Dowager’s grandson Lord Bradleigh. SIGHH. He definitely would break your heart. He’s the perfect hero. Just loved him and the book. I bought the triogly on my kindle and I’m off to the 2nd story. I know it’s not due till March but I have NO patience and cannot wait! :D

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  33. I finally was able to get this book — like Charlene, I gave up on finding it elsewhere and, while I prefer paper and ink, got the triple deal on my Kindle. So this (and a few others, to be honest) became my Saturday read. As I expected, I especially did enjoy the relationship between the Dowager and Emily. I can still see some of the wonderful UK actors in the Dowager role, as I had commented earlier.

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