From the desk of Katie Patchell:
What must it be like to be the forgotten sibling? The one, like Mary Bennet from Pride and Prejudice, who is forever being ignored in favor of older and more flawless siblings? Until recently with the focus on Mary Bennet in novels like The Pursuit of Mary Bennet, The Forgotten Sister, and the Return to Longbourn, authors have been ignoring this type of character, the one who at first glance has nothing to offer the reader. But sometimes it is the quiet character watching from the sidelines that has the most difficult problems to overcome, and the most potential to grow. Sarah M. Eden has created a hero who is used to being hidden in the background in her most recent novel, As You Are, the third in Sarah M. Eden’s series, The Jonquil Brothers. Without any prior knowledge of this series (or indeed, Sarah M. Eden’s novels) this reviewer has ventured into a Regency world unlike any other, one that is managed by the seven Jonquil brothers. While the other two novels in this series told the tales of the eldest two brothers, Philip and Layton, As You Are tells the story of the forgotten middle brother, Corbin. Like Mary Bennet, he has his own unique struggles to overcome.
At twenty-six, Corbin Jonquil is more interested in buying and training horses than in searching for a wife. His shyness makes him awkward and taciturn in company and prevents him from getting close to people outside of his family. But his quiet life is turned upside down when a young widow with two children moves into the neighborhood. Mrs. Bentford’s green eyes entrance him, and her situation and bravery break him out of his self-imposed silence.
In an attempt to protect herself and her young children from their dangerous past, Clara Bentford escapes to the small town of Grompton. She holds all men at a distance, knowing that they are only capable of causing pain. That is until she meets Mr. Corbin Jonquil. Clara dislikes him for his reserved nature and disdainful silences but is baffled by his kindness to her and her children. Corbin quickly becomes a favorite with both Edmund and Alice, overcoming Clara’s defenses with his friendship, help, and gentleness. When the past comes knocking on her door, Clara must decide whether to fight or run. Can she rely on Corbin, her friend and the one person she trusts–the man she fears she is falling in love with? And can Corbin protect his new adopted family of three against old and new enemies?
One of my favorite things about As You Are is the unique cast of characters. Unlike the typical Regency buck or rake, Corbin Jonquil doesn’t like society and is awkward when forced into a conversation. When nervous (which is in almost all social settings) he gets tongue-tied and cannot speak. He dresses plainly—in nothing too flamboyant or too shabby. But rather than detracting from his allure, these traits make him seem more down-to-earth and understandable than the usual Regency hero. Clara too is different than most Regency heroines. She is a curious but refreshingly realistic mix of independence, bravery, fear, wit, kindness, securities, and insecurities. Because of both characters’ pasts, strengths, and weaknesses, their relationship is both realistic and beautiful. Sarah Eden did a masterful job creating a hero who is gentle and kind but who can fight, and a heroine who is independent but who also has priorities other than herself—such as protecting her children and her friends.
While the hero and heroine are unique, As You Are also has eight other entertaining and equally well-loved additions to the cast of characters: Corbin’s six brothers and Clara’s two children. The interactions between Corbin, Clara, Edmund, Alice, and the close-knit Jonquil family are so loving and humorous, that they make As You Are stand out from among the ranks of Regency romances. This novel didn’t just focus on the love between the two main characters, but also love as seen between siblings, a parent and children, and friends. As this is a novel that mentions characters from the past two books in the series, it is a bit confusing at first when jumping into the lives and stories of each of the seven Jonquil brothers (not to mention their wives and children). But just as Clara was new to the family, so was this reader, who quickly got accustomed to and enjoyed all the hustle and bustle of the large Jonquil family.
As You Are is a story that has action, humor, mystery, and romance—but it’s also a story about moving on from the past, letting go of fears, and taking steps into the unknown to create hope and love-filled future. Sarah M. Eden’s characters were so beautifully human and her plot so refreshingly unique, that I was left desiring more after closing the final pages. I look forward to reading the other books in The Jonquil Brothers series, as well as all the rest of her works!
5 out of 5 Regency Stars
As You Are: A Regency Romance, by Sarah M. Eden
Covenant Communications Inc. (2014)
Trade paperback (208) pages
Cover image courtesy of Covenant Communications Inc. © 2014; text Katie Patchell © 2014, Austenprose.com