From the desk of Katie Jackson:
I unabashedly admit to gasping with delight when I first heard about a new Georgian-era book series being crafted by one of my all-time favorite historical romance authors, Sarah M. Eden. Then I discovered that the stories begin with none other than the elusive Lucas Jonquil, father of the delightful brothers in the Jonquil Family series. Commence a jubilant pirouette! Forget Me Not is the first book in the new series The Gents that will be centered around six, close-like-brothers friends, supporting each other through life’s varied challenges.
In 1777 Nottinghamshire, Lucas Jonquil has come “face-to-face with the extreme frailty of life.” (3) Grief-stricken, he is determined to leave his family home Lampton Park for untold escapades. His motto: “Don’t forget to live.” (3) Thinking of those he’s lost, he declares, “I mean to have enough adventures for two lifetimes. Maybe even three.” (11)
Julia Cummings, age 12, Lucas’s intrepid childhood playmate at neighboring estate Farland Meadows, relies on him as an older brother and best friend and feels abandoned and betrayed by his sudden departure. Heartbroken and lonely, she turns inward and seeks comfort in her forced isolation. “It didn’t do to set one’s heart on people when all people did was leave.” (8)
After eight years away, Lucas returns home from his travels to discover his sweet little Julia is all grown up. He is thoroughly confused by the unexpectedly cold welcome he receives from the dear friend he’s never forgotten, utterly oblivious to the part he played in it. And then, their well-intentioned parents deliver a shocking blow with a joyful announcement at Lucas’s homecoming ball: Lucas and Julia are betrothed and shall marry by special license within days.
Julia flees. “She had not survived all she had these past years to simply cower and accept the absurdity of other people’s moments of madness.” (36) Lucas attempts to negotiate with his parents, arguing the seeming incompatibility between him and his childhood friend now that they were grown. His father’s opinion on the matter seals Lucas’s future. “This is the match we have chosen for you, son. I know you don’t see it now, but it will be a good one. You will sort out your difficulties so long as you are willing to try.” (43) After Julia’s efforts to reason with her own father fail, she resigns herself to her fate: marriage to a man who does not care for her and will surely leave her again. “She was about to be married, and she had never felt more wretched.” (59)
With heavy hearts and minds laden with unspoken misunderstanding, the couple travels to their new home, Brier Hill, where they are soon joined by Lucas’s close friends, known as the Gents. “She could hear their cacophony of voices and laughter. To her dismay, she enjoyed the sound. A house filled with life and merriment would do her a world of good, filling her heart with all the joy it had known before death had emptied the rooms and corridors and grounds of her childhood home.” (150) On a mission to help Lucas, the gentlemen seek to reassure Julia of his constant affection. “If he has missed me at all,” she said, “he has done a remarkable job of hiding it.” (153) “Lady Jonquil,” he said, “you have married an idiot.” (153) In the Gents, Julia has discovered surprising new allies, but will she and Lucas ever regain the trust and friendship they once had?
Forget Me Not is a beautifully rendered story that had me in tears more than once. After so much sorrow, Julia suffers from severe anxiety and doubts her value. “She was very quickly forgotten because, she feared, she wasn’t terribly important to him.” (153) Her reluctance to ever trust Lucas again is perfectly understandable as she fears exposing her vulnerable heart to the pain of loss.
For fans of the original Jonquil Family series, this book is a treasure trove of Easter eggs and familiar sarcastic humor that had me giggling. There is no doubt about where those boys acquired their dunderheaded behavior as well as their wit. It was a joy to finally meet the beloved Jonquil patriarch, and although this is technically a prequel to the Jonquil Family books, it had a very natural feeling of finality to it. We’ve spent years getting to know the brothers, and now we know how it all began. It feels like happily-ever-after.
Unfortunately, I spent much of the book worrying that I would be dissatisfied with a new series that will move away from my favorite family to tell the stories of Lucas’s friends. O ye of little faith, never doubt the incredible storytelling skills of Sarah M. Eden. These Georgian Gents are fun and clever, of course, and this was a delightfully satisfying read. I eagerly anticipate the next books in this new series with excitement instead of wistfulness.
Although Forget Me Not has obvious connections to its popular Regency predecessors, it can absolutely be enjoyed as a stand-alone Georgian romance. The clever dialogue, the heartrending emotion…one cannot help being immersed in this sweet tale of timeless love and friendship.
5 out of 5 Stars
Forget Me Not: The Gents (Book 1), by Sarah M. Eden
Covenant Communications (September 7, 2020)
Trade paperback, eBook, & audiobook (256) pages
Cover image courtesy of Covenant Communications © 2020; text Katie Jackson © 2020, Austenprose.com