From the desk of Katie Jackson:
Historical romance readers, rejoice! Sarah M. Eden has graciously reunited us with those best friends who are like brothers in Book 2 of her Georgian-era The Gents series, Lily of the Valley.
“The Gents were something of a miracle in his life. They’d saved him from a lifetime of loneliness and seen him through times of sorrow. They were like brothers to him. And yet, he often wished them to Hades.” (Loc 204)
Studious Kester Barrington—teasingly dubbed Grumpy Uncle—is the voice of reason, the proactive, useful friend of the group, but he harbors a fear that if he’s not present, he will fail them. Suffering from deep regret over the past, he grieves the losses he has endured. His desperation to remain amongst them compels him to agree to every invitation, even when his participation means that he denies his own need for solitude, seriously straining his equanimity. He desires, above all else, to matter to people who matter to him.
A Ray of Sunshine
“She had a knack for cheerfulness and encouragement even when those things didn’t come easily.” (Loc 142)
Violet Ridley has overcome trials in her life by strictly adhering to a positive outlook, always expressing hope and cheer in every situation. Thanks to her father’s wise investments, her family’s merchant-class status has recently been elevated to that of landed gentry. Her dearest wish is to be accepted and befriended by some of the neighbors of her new country home, but she fears that her tightly held secret, combined with her family’s earned instead of inherited wealth, will be more than local society might be willing to overlook. Yet she suffers alone because, “when a person never expressed worries or struggles, one never received reassurances. Sometimes being sunny was quite a lonely role to fill.” (Loc 609)
A Gents House Party
“One thing was absolutely certain: anarchy was about to descend on Livingsley Hall.” (Loc 105)
When the Gents, now also including Lucas Jonquil’s wife Julia, invade Kester’s home for their annual gathering, he braces himself for weeks of amusement at the expense of his greatly needed peace. An alarming event at the neighboring estate brings the Ridley family as unexpected guests to his home, where they are warmly welcomed by all.
To Violet’s delight, she develops a fast friendship with Julia, and she discovers a kinship with her intriguing and stoic neighbor, Mr. Barrington. “I intend to out-cheer his grumpiness.” (Loc 489)
To Kester’s confusion, he is inexplicably overpowered by the presence of his smart and sunny new acquaintance. His heart “pounded and raced and generally demanded precedence over his much more logical mind. Was there to be no end to the sources of disquiet in his life?” (Loc 548)
Violet and Kester are both accustomed to protecting their secret fears and wishes. If they allow themselves to be honestly vulnerable, will they finally find the comfort they seek?
Joy and Regret
Sarah M. Eden is a masterful sweet romance storyteller. Her characters are authentically relatable and are people I wish to know. In the Regency-era Jonquil series, we see Julia Jonquil—who took center-stage as the reluctant new wife in Book 1 of The Gents series—as “just” her sons’ beloved Mater. One of my favorite aspects of this Georgian-era series is that we get to see the fully formed person behind the matriarch we know and love—and she’s brilliant. Getting to know Kester and Violet and the other Gents more fully simply adds to the feeling of wishing I knew these vivid characters in real life.
I become incredibly immersed in the environments this author creates. It is remarkable that she has spun her magic yet again in this new series, delighting readers with all of the elements we adored about the Jonquil brothers, when it’s almost as rare as lightning striking twice. This book made me laugh and cry with its wit and tender sentiments. Not just a romance, it’s about the joy of having friends who are family, beautifully poignant moments, and the overwhelming power of regret.
While these books can be read as stand-alone stories, the pleasure of familiarity with the future Jonquil family that was greatly influenced by these unique and entertaining Gents is not to be missed.
Lily of the Valley will delight and inspire historical romance readers with its wit and wisdom.
5 out of 5 Stars
- Lily of the Valley: The Gents (Book 2), by Sarah M. Eden
- Covenant Communications (April 10, 2022)
- Trade paperback, eBook, & audiobook (256) pages
- ISBN: 978-1524421250
- Genre: Historical Romance, Georgian 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 Covenant Communications © 2022; text Katie Jackson © 2022, austenprose.com.
Hello Dear Readers,
Have you read any of the novels in The Gents series or by Sarah M. Eden?
If you enjoy clean historical romance with witty dialogue, engaging plots, and endearing characters, Austenprose highly recommends them.
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Laurel Ann Nattress, editor