This is my second selection in 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.
Notorious rakes can be interesting heroes. They bring out the “fix-it project” in any female. On the other hand, on-the-shelf spinsters can be totally perplexing to the female mind which is inclined to want to couple. Mix those two personalities together and you have the premise of A Change of Heart: A Regency Romance, the second novel in the Regency Rakes Trilogy by Candice Hern. What do you do with two complex characters who are happy with their life choices but forced to break down their barriers of hope and trust? We shall see.
Lady Mary Haviland is the twenty-nine-year-old daughter of the late Earl Assheton. As his sole heir, she inherited this estate affording her the freedom of independence so rare in a Regency lady—and she rather likes it that way—since she believes that as an ugly, insignificant and unmarried lady she can do as she chooses. She has many friends including is Emily Bradleigh, who we were first introduced to as the heroine in A Proper Companion, the first book in this trilogy. She also has a soft spot for rouges. “They are so much more honest in their approach to life that the usual paragons of propriety.” The rogue that has recently caught her eye is the notorious Black Jack Raeburn, the thirty-seven year old third son of a marquess, who because he was so far removed down the line of succession of his father’s estate never thought he need be anything more than the dissolute ne’er-do-well that he has spent the last twelve years perfecting. His life recently changed dramatically when his father, two elder brothers, and nephew all died in a boating accident a year ago. Now as the Marquess of Pemerton, he has inherited six heavily mortgaged estates and all the responsibility thereto. He must quickly find a bride to assure the succession and refresh the family fortune.
Lady Mary introduces herself at a party and proposes her assistance to “steer him through the rocky shoals of the Marriage Mart.” She claims she offers her services in the name of friendship and for her own amusement. She has no interest in him or marriage herself. Since Jack has never had a female friend before he is intrigued and accepts her invitation. He finds her not only quite clever, but her knowledge of sorting out the eligible misses is indispensable to him—but what is her real motive for her generosity? As they progress down her long list of possible young ladies, Lord Pemerton finds plausible reasons to eliminate many of them: too beautiful, too clumsy, too smart, too plump, too dull, etc. One candidate has remained: Miss Lillian Carstairs who seems to fill the bill, namely she is rich and not too offensive.
Word gets out around the ton that he is on the hunt for a wife, but only Jack knows the true reason why. Even his close friend Lord Sedgewick thinks he is as rich as Midas until Jack confides his dire financial mess that he inherited and need to marry an heiress.
“Fortune hunter?” Sedgewick gave a shudder that shook his entire frame. “Don’t blame you, old man. Ugly label, that. Not a pretty situation.” “Indeed,” Jack said. “And so although I have in fact publicly entered the Marriage Mart for the Season, I am only truly considering those young women who can help me out of this dreadful coil.”
Soon after, his other dear friend Lord Bradleigh reveals that Lady Mary is very wealthy, but has a sad past. Jack has a new plan. “It was all too deliciously easy. He felt like the goose had deposited a golden egg right in his lap. Mary was rich!” With no male relatives to dictate her fortune, he believes she will be easy pickings. But how will he make the switch from friendship to suitor? Of course, he uses all of his finely honed seduction skills which Mary finds outrageous and laughs off. Convinced that no man would ardently flirt with someone so ugly, she believes that being a rogue is so ingrained in him that he is seducing her out of instinct and not because he wishes to love her.
And therein lies the rub. We have been presented with two very different personalities who one assumes are wholly unsuitable for one another. A charming, handsome rogue who could have any woman he wanted and a self-sufficient unattractive spinster who is determined to remain so. How they come together, and, well this is a romance so you know they will, in the end, is a delightful discovery.
Hern has given us an amusing story with strong and unusual protagonists supported by excellent secondary characters. I loved Lady Mary’s companion, widow Olivia Bannister, whose unexpected romance with Jack’s uncle, Edward Maitland, also a bachelor rogue of the first order and his mentor in hedonism, almost rivals the main hero and heroine’s love affair. While I admired the strong, complex characters that Hern crafted and their troubling back story, Lady Mary was by far my favorite and Lord Pemerton not so much. He was a true rake easily slipping back into his dissipated ways when their romance was tested, and I never quite believed that he changed enough to become the man that Lady Mary deserved. Overall, it was an excellent and engaging romance full of funny, sharp dialogue, and beautiful Regency-era descriptions.
4.5 out of 5 Regency Stars
A Change of Heart: A Regency Romance, by Candice Hern
Trade paperback (276) pages
A Grand Giveaway
Author Candice Hern has generously offered one print copy or one digital copy of A Change of Heart 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, March 6, 2013. Winner to be announced on Thursday, March 7, 2013. Print book shipment to US addresses only. Digital copy delivery internationally. Good luck!
- Up Next on March 27 is An Affair of Honor
- Visit Candice Hern at her website
- Sign-up for the Regency Romance Reading Challenge 2013
© 2013 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose