From the desk of Katie Patchell:
Promises are tricky things, are they not? As quick as a word, as light as a breath, yet as unyielding as an adamant stone. In Promised, Leah Garriott’s 2020 debut, we see promises kept and promises broken; vows to engage and vows to escape engagements; promises for true romance and promises to create nothing except idle mischief.
Mischief is something our heroine decidedly does not enjoy, yet she is without the benefit of a Kindle or cozy reading nook. I put it to readers to ask yourself this question: In this season of Cupid, don’t we all want a little bit of true romance and idle mischief in our lives?
Promised opens to a matchmaker’s paradise: one lavish house-party; countless single, handpicked, and moderately wealthy guests; and one agenda meant solely to pair off couples by party’s end. While other single women attend for love or acquiring more money, Margaret Brinton has only one purpose – that of entering into a marriage of convenience. Once long ago she had searched for love and thought she’d found it, but then she discovered her fiancé had chosen her solely for her dowry. Heartbroken, she promised herself that whatever she did, she would never, ever fall in love.
A husband, on the other hand, is a different story. Hoping to find a means to pave the way for her younger siblings to marry and for the malicious whispers to silence, Margaret selects the rakish Mr. Northam to be her future husband. Handsome? Yes. Rich? Decently. Able to attach her heart? Blessedly no.
The only hitch to her plan is Mr. Northam’s infuriatingly resolute, seemingly honorable (but decidedly arrogant) cousin, Lord Williams. The insufferable man insists that his cousin is a rake and not worth her attention. Even worse, Lord Williams simply does not know when to give up. His stubbornness to block her marriage to Mr. Northam by engaging himself to her by means of her father’s dictate—all without her consent—turns their already oil-and-water relationship to a blazing inferno. As the weeks go by, angry confrontations and comical mishaps transform into surprising honesty and mutual respect. Yet is this enough to base a future on? Is this enough to enter into—or break—iron-clad vows?
There’s a very long list of things I loved about Promised with an almost nonexistent list of what I didn’t like. First up: The descriptions. With a light touch, Leah Garriott describes details like a breeze-stirred lake or hair curling just above the ears. Nothing is overbearing or overly dramatic, but everything paints a vivid picture. Thematically, this novel is a gem. From the first line to last, the themes of trust, promises, and freedom remain strong. I particularly like all the scenes involving the lake of Margaret’s childhood. It symbolizes happiness and peace for her. As she changes, her view of the pond and what it symbolizes also alters. This depth was beautifully written.
The two leads, Lord Gregory Williams and Margaret, had a relationship of true equals. For them, it wasn’t love at first sight. More likely, love at first fight! As much as it sounds like a version of My Fair Lady’s quarrels or The Taming of the Shrew’s mercurial leads, Gregory and Margaret’s relationship didn’t fit into any established tropes. She sought a convenient marriage on her terms; he wanted to prevent it for his own murky reasons. They are very human leads because they are so unpredictable, so multi-faceted. Seeing what they would do and say made me read this in one midnight-reaching sitting.
What I didn’t like—out of the entire novel, mind—was the initial premise. A house-party created solely to pair off couples within such a short time frame seemed gauche yet was apparently respected by the novel’s upper-class society. It just felt like a contrived plot point (although in the real Regency Era, there was Almack’s, aka ‘The Marriage Mart’). If you feel the same about this as I did when reading the opening chapter, I urge you to keep reading! This is the sole plot device that feels predictable, and it only lasts for a few chapters.
When I finished Promised, I wanted to put off writing my review. Not because I hated this novel or dislike writing—far from it—but because this is a book to savor. I started by rushing through the pages to see how it would play out, but by the end, all I wanted to do was read line by line, again and again. I highly recommend this debut Regency as a present to a Janeite…or gift to yourself!
5 out of 5 Stars
- Promised: A Proper Romance Regency, by Leah Garriott
- Shadow Mountain Publishing (February 18, 2020)
- Trade paperback, eBook, & audiobook (368) pages
- ISBN: 978-1629726144
- Genre: Regency Romance, Inspirational Fiction
We received a review copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Austenprose is an Amazon affiliate. Cover image courtesy of Shadow Mountain Publishing © 2020; text Katie Patchell © 2020, austenprose.com.