Rescuing Lord Inglewood: A Regency Romance, by Sally Britton—A Review

Rescuing Lord Inglewood, by Sally BrittonFrom the desk of Katie Patchell:

I have been doing something unconventional lately, and I don’t just mean tanning in my front yard because of COVID-19. I’ve paused my habit of reading book summaries and back covers to ‘know what I’m getting into.’ Instead, I start with page one, immersing myself in the story and characters without any prior knowledge or expectations. As someone who enjoys her ‘prior knowledge,’ this is a big deal. Happily, I can say it’s been a successful experiment. There’s nothing like being surprised as a reader along with a novel’s heroine or hero. Without realizing it, my new method of reading novels is a perfect tribute to Sally Britton’s Rescuing Lord Inglewood and its themes of shattered expectations and wonderful surprises.

When Esther Fox takes her heartbroken neighbor for a walk to distract her from her failed romance, Esther doesn’t expect romance to hit her – literally – with the force of a falling statue. After throwing herself on a distracted passerby to save him from being crushed to death, she soon discovers two truths. The first is that the man she saved is none other than her older brother’s mischievous childhood friend, Silas, now a responsible (some would say, overly responsible) titled member of Parliament. The second truth is that the rumor mill has already almost destroyed her reputation, and with her only blood relative away fighting Napoleon, her marriage to Silas is unavoidable.

After their wedding, a series of misunderstandings, fears, and troublesome memories threaten to destroy what’s already been built on shaky ground. With every new twist and turn, Esther and Silas must decide if their marriage will remain a solution to a problem, or will grow into a partnership built on mutual trust and love.

What I enjoyed most about Rescuing Lord Inglewood was its host of surprises. Some were as large as an earthquake, some as small as raindrops on a still pond; all changed the landscape of this novel. This isn’t a typical story of a debt made and reputation saved by a marriage of convenience: Silas and Esther’s shared history made their rapid transition to husband and wife unique. As childhood friends through her brother, but no longer friends from their teenage years on, they were known to each other but yet unknown. This childhood connection would appear to make a marriage of convenience easier, but as I’ve learned, it’s often harder to get to know someone as an adult that I once knew as a child versus someone first met as an adult. Reliving the passage between childhood and adulthood is not for the faint of heart.

Most Regency novels with marriages of convenience have zero discomfort, or if so, it’s worked through quickly, like eating ice cream on a hot summer’s day. Not so with Rescuing Lord Inglewood: Sally Britton writes it so that her heroine and hero battle with discomfort in realistic, practical circumstances, such as learning to converse and court after the wedding instead of before. Esther and Silas’ innate desire for connection, comfort, and love paralleled bittersweet memories and acquaintance-level small talk. This created a profound awkwardness for much of the novel, and one that, it sounds cruel to say, I immensely enjoyed reading. I think they – and the reader – are better for it. There’s something profound, even moving, about witnessing a romance that evolves from something damaged into something beautiful.

The only thing that marred my complete enjoyment of Rescuing Lord Inglewood was Esther’s ever-fluctuating emotions. She was first introduced as a confident, funny woman of action, but after her marriage, she spent many pages trapped in her fear that history would repeat itself and that she’d be ignored again. I often wanted to give her a friendly shake–anything to get her to stop doubting herself and Silas! However, flashes of her original passion and humor returned, and I gained more sympathy for her as the novel progressed.

I mentioned earlier that I purposefully avoided looking up the plot of Rescuing Lord Inglewood beforehand. So, it will not come as a complete surprise to hear that I missed some exciting news: Rescuing Lord Inglewood is the first in a five-book series. Fans of Sarah M. Eden’s Jonquil brothers’ books will find something similar here. Each of the next four novels highlights characters from this book who are beloved siblings, lifelong friends, and even one very intriguing enemy. Overall, I strongly recommend Rescuing Lord Inglewood for your next “happy ending” quarantine read — its tale of depth, resiliency, and love found in unexpected places is exactly what our bookshelves need right now.

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Rescuing Lord Inglewood: A Regency Romance, by Sally Britton
Blue Water Books (May 21, 2019)
Trade paperback, eBook, & audiobook (232) pages
ISBN: 978-1947005174

AMAZON | BOOK DEPOSITORY | INDIEBOUND | GOODREADS | BOOKBUB

Cover image courtesy of Blue Water Books © 2020; text Katie Patchell © 2020, Austenprose.com

Rakes and Roses: A Mayfield Family Romance (Book 3), by Josi S. Kilpack—A Review

Rakes and Roses by Josi S Kilpack 2020From the desk of Katie Patchell:

What do you think of when you hear the word “rake”? Do you think of a rogue, face and heart scarred, but with a devilishly attractive smile? Do you think angry thoughts, with words like “cad” and “bounder” (and maybe some unprintable ones) flashing through your mind? Or maybe you think of the gardening tool that sits in your shed? Regardless, rakes are tricky creatures, capable of evoking a passionate response. Josi S. Kilpack’s latest novel, Rakes and Roses, tells a story of the transforming power of mercy and love, one that’s reminiscent of the beloved legend of Beauty and her Beast.

Born the illegitimate daughter of a duke in a society where that detail matters greatly, Sabrina Carlisle has gotten used to turning a brave face to the world. When an older, titled man proposes, Sabrina accepts, happy to finally have peace and security. Her dreams are shattered soon after the wedding. Abusive physically and verbally, her husband makes her life a living hell. Unable to leave him permanently, she seeks reprieve one fateful night during a tense dinner party. While hiding in the bushes outside, Sabrina prays that no one notices her. Her prayer isn’t answered…but not in the way she fears.

Young, handsome, and reckless, Harry Stillman is already in training to be a rogue. When he takes a moonlight stroll in his host’s gardens with a beautiful woman on his arm, he doesn’t expect to see a face staring out at him with terror from the local flora. Steering his companion away from her is a small mercy — but returning to find out what the mysterious woman was afraid of is true kindness, a small act Sabrina never forgets.

Years pass; Sabrina and Harry find themselves in vastly different circumstances. Sabrina’s husband is dead and fear is no longer her constant companion. Harry, no longer carefree and wealthy, spends sleepless nights drinking and gambling. Consequences catch up to him in the form of thuggish moneylenders…but then the unexpected happens. An unknown person going only by the name “Lord Damion” offers him a chance at freedom. When Sabrina (through her pseudonym) finds the opportunity to save Harry from being killed by moneylenders or from drowning in his addiction, she jumps at the chance. The only question is—does he want to be rescued, as she did years ago? Continue reading

Lakeshire Park, by Megan Walker—A Review

Lakeshire Park by Megan Walker 2020From the desk of Katie Patchell: 

There: on the horizon stands elegant, grand Lakeshire Park. It is a prize for women seeking church bells and thrown rice…and of course, a large income. If you too choose to step over its threshold, you’ll find yourself facing scheming debutantes, protective older brothers, and one very determined woman trying to navigate through it all. Beyond its doors lies a world where wealth matters, an ill-timed kiss can ruin one’s future, and where “the course of true love never did run smooth” could be nailed to the wall as a warning and as a challenge to eager young lovers…and equally to you, Lakeshire Park’s future reader.

Enter Amelia, our “one very determined woman.” She has good reason to be so. Her beloved father’s death, her mother’s remarriage to a man who despises Amelia and her sister, Clara, and recently, her mother’s passing, has all made her resilient and cautious about loving again. After her cruel stepfather’s flat refusal to be connected to her and her sister anymore, Amelia searches for a means to save them both from destitution. Her good fortune is that she is not alone to face the world–Clara is her closest friend, and Amelia would do anything for her. This “anything” includes accepting an invitation to a house party hosted by none other than the man who Clara had a tendresse for in the previous Season. There’s only one problem: another woman seeks his attention, and she also has an older sibling who is fully devoted to her happiness. With time running out, what’s a woman to do? The answer is obvious: to make a deal with the devil – Amelia’s counterpart, Peter Wood, the stubborn, cunning man who from the very first moment of meeting has tried to ruin all her plans.

Unfortunately, Amelia’s plot to get him out of the way quickly unravels. His quick smile, sparkling eyes, and ready wit make her respond in kind. Rivalry and war turn to a mock battle for one-upmanship, and before Amelia knows it, her heart is involved. With her stepfather’s threats weighing on her mind and Peter’s sister’s devious plans against Clara, Amelia must make her most difficult choice yet: to choose her sister’s future happiness over her own. Continue reading

The House at the End of the Moor, by Michelle Griep—A Review

he House at the End of the Moor by Michelle Griep 2020From the desk of Katie Patchell: 

In Michelle Griep’s latest novel, readers are transported to 19th-century Devon, England to follow a hero and heroine accused of crimes they never committed. In pursuit of justice, the story flows from the gray depths of Dartmoor Prison and its forgotten inmates, to the heights of high society’s glittering concert halls. One word resounds, its echo landing on each page and in both heroes’ hearts: Justice.

Haunted by accusations of her past, Margaret lives out her self-imposed banishment at Morden Hall, surrounded by the shifting skies above an endless moor. Her only companions are her mute maid, grizzled manservant, and loyal dog. Far from the glamour and fame of her past, she is happy with her companions, books, and audience of none as she sings on the open moor.

Everything changes when a man who was there on the day she fell from society’s grace appears unconscious and bleeding outside her home. Margaret is torn: Should she help the man escape the brutish prison guard chasing him, risking her anonymity in the process? Or should she stay hidden, abandoning the “stranger” to his own fate? 

“Death prowled the cellblock like a dark animal seeking prey–especially the weakest. But Oliver Ward would be hanged if he’d let the beast devour the man in the cell besides him. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t right.” (Line 1, Chapter 1)

Continue reading

Promised: A Proper Romance Regency, by Leah Garriott—A Review

Promised by Leah Garriott 2020From 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? Continue reading

All the Ways We Said Goodbye, by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, & Karen White — A Review

All The Ways We Said Goodbye, by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White (2020)From the desk of Katie Patchell:  

Three Women. Three Decades. Two Wars. 

In All the Ways We Said Goodbye, Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, & Karen White take readers across two continents and through two World Wars to uncover spies and secrets. Each of the three heroines, Aurelie, Daisy, and Babs, fight to bring freedom of heart and country in this tale that spans fifty years. The drumbeat of war reaches to stately mansions and across war-ravaged fields, calling each of the unique heroines to right the wrong in their corners of the world. Despite their seemingly unconnected lives, the same glittering Ritz holds the answers to what they search for: Courage, love, and a final goodbye. So reader: welcome to Paris — welcome to the Ritz — welcome to All the Ways We Said Goodbye.

If there was one word to describe this novel, it would be “secrets.” Aurelie, Daisy, and Babs have many secrets that they hide from even those closest to them, and it’s the job of the reader to sniff them out. I cannot give a detailed description of the plot because of the twists and revelations that happen to start in the very first pages. What I can do without spoilers is to give a brief introduction to each of the heroines:

  • Aurelie – 1914. Aurelie lives in Paris and is the daughter of a French aristocrat and an American heiress. Her ancestors fought with Joan of Arc, and this hero inspires Aurelie to go off on her own daring quest to save lives as a second “Maid of Orleans.” Rebelling against the German soldiers comes naturally, as they’re the invaders of her country and home. But when she meets an old flame now dressed in the garb of a German officer, the clear lines between “Who is my enemy?” and “Who is my friend?” vanish.
  • Daisy – 1942. Another resident of Paris, Daisy struggles against life under Nazi occupation. Her grandmother, a wealthy American expatriate, encourages Daisy to join her spy ring. For Daisy, the cost is great–if caught, her two young children and beloved grandmother are put in terrible danger. With the aid of a mysterious English spy and his worn copy of The Scarlet Pimpernel, Daisy embarks on a path she never would have planned in order to protect her family and people.
  • Babs – 1964. Babs was always content in her role as wife, mother, and leader in her area of Devonshire, England. When her childhood sweetheart-turned-husband dies after World War II, she sinks under the loneliness of an empty home and heart. But when Babs finds out that her husband may have lied about everything — even his love for her — she starts out on a transformative journey to Paris that takes her through old letters and long-buried stories at the Hotel Ritz.

Continue reading

Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things, by Jacqueline Firkins — A Review

Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things, by Firkins (2019)From the desk of Katie Patchell 

For all its stylistic elegance and its iron-backboned heroine, Mansfield Park is the black sheep of the Jane Austen canon. It’s the book most likely to be placed at the bottom of “Which is your favorite Austen novel?” polls. Public opinion hovers somewhere between “That’s a book by Jane Austen?” and “Gross…cousins marrying.” For many readers, it’s the heroine that’s frustrating. Fanny Price is usually seen as duller than dishwater – her moral compass providing a guide for the plot, but no passion. Even though I’m a staunch fan of Mansfield Park and Fanny’s quiet strength, I can understand why not everyone enjoys it to the level I do. However, the novel’s understated beauty, full cast of characters who are neither fully good or fully bad and Jane Austen’s characteristic humor is all too good to miss. It is this magnetic, complex blend that I eagerly searched for in Jacqueline Firkins’ new Mansfield Park adaptation, Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things.

The book opens with Edie, the heroine (based off of Fanny Price), en route to live with her kind but absent uncle and his unkind and controlling wife (switched around a bit and based off of Mrs. Norris). Edie doesn’t fit in with her two very rich cousins, Maria and Julia, and not just in the financial category. They only care about fashion and kissing hot boys in the neighborhood, while Edie cares about writing music, reading classics, and avoiding romantic entanglements at all costs. Without her mom or best friend by her side, all she has left is her guitar without strings and memories of better times…including one blissful summer spent playing with the adventurous boy next door. Once she arrives at her new home, life becomes way more complicated than she imagined. For starters, that boy next door, Sebastian, is now a (secretly) aspiring author…and still magnetic to Edie. The only problem? He’s already dating someone way out of her league. Henry Crawford, the local handsome but slimy flirt, seems to think he can take turns trying out each of the Price cousins, including Edie. With college application deadlines looming and a mess of drama to contend with, what’s a level-headed, heartsore girl to do?

What I loved about this book is a long list! Chief among them is the writing. I felt connected to Edie every step of the way, more than I’ve felt for a heroine in a while. Her pain over her mom’s death, she struggles to fit in and yet not conform….these things were deftly and beautifully written. Readers expecting this adaptation to be written in the style of Jane Austen will be disappointed, although some characters do occasionally use long, 18th century words. In my opinion, however, because Firkins didn’t aim for replicating the style of Jane Austen’s original (a near-impossible task), she was able to consistently capture its heart. Twists and turns – some like the original, some uniquely different – weave a story that still centers around the main question: Can discovering and staying true to your values help you weather any storm and bring lasting happiness? Continue reading

The Making of Jane Austen, by Devoney Looser—A Review

The Making of Jane Austen by Devoney Looser (2017)From the desk of Katie Patchell:

I remember what I felt when I discovered that Jane Austen was not famous in her lifetime: Outright shock. I had been a self-proclaimed Janeite for years when I discovered this fact. I had read her books multiple times, collected movie adaptations, researched and written papers about her novels in college, etc. The enormous amount of 21st-century hype around Jane led me to believe that, like Charles Dickens, her fame began in her lifetime. How wrong I was; in fact, many of Austen’s early readers never even knew her name until after she died.

Discovering you are mistaken is always a jolting experience, and I felt like my own literary world had shifted on its axis. Somehow not knowing this fact earlier was very unsettling, and with hindsight, I think it was so unsettling because my ‘Jane Austen timeline’ was thrown off. The little fact about when Jane was famous shouldn’t be a footnote in her history because how and when she became THE Jane Austen is of cultural and historical importance. Not only for what we know about the author, but what we know about ourselves, her fandom. Timelines really do matter. Devoney Looser’s The Making of Jane Austen is a gem of a book because, in it, she answers the integral questions of “how” and “when” that has rarely been asked. How did the early illustrations in Sense and Sensibility affect people’s views of the novel? When did the idea of a brooding Heathcliff-esque hero replace Jane Austen’s original reserved Mr. Darcy? These questions and answers are only a few of the many addressed in The Making of Jane Austen.

Mansfield Park illustration from Groombridge 1875 edition

Image from chapter two, of an illustration by A. F. Lydon from Mansfield Park, Groombridge & Sons’ (London) 1875. Fanny Price gazing over the verdant park to the manor house.

As advertised on the cover flap, the key question of this book is “How is a literary icon made, transformed, and handed down through the generations?” Each of its four parts contains anecdotes and research that generally follows a chronological journey from the 1800s to present. In the first – “Jane Austen, Illustrated” – Looser gives an in-depth analysis of the artistic interpretations of Austen’s novels. She includes some pictures which are fascinating to view, although I wish there had been more. A highlight for me was learning that Victorian illustrators updated the clothing styles from the Regency to be more “modern” in their images – although these clothing choices are severely outdated now! Continue reading

Polite Society: A Novel, by Mahesh Rao–A Review

Image of the cover of Polite Society, by Mahesh Rao (2019)From the desk of Katie Patchell:

I have loved Jane Austen’s Emma for as long as I can remember. Yes—I mean that literally. When I was six, my first introduction to the Regency and the magnificent world of Jane Austen began with a battered VHS copy (Gwyneth Paltrow/Jeremy Northam version) and, well, has never ended.

In fact, my first classic ever read was a neon yellow copy of Emma gifted for Christmas at the age of ten. It is now battered and torn, but will forever hold a place on my shelves. To me, the heroine Emma has always gone beyond the place of a lovable but mistaken fictional friend; she’s been in some ways, a mirror of myself. Perhaps this quality is why people love to hate her – she reflects how we all would be if given enough time, money, and influence. And that is: Sure that our way is the best way. Mahesh Rao’s Polite Society shows a world and cast of characters where this idea is everything.

Retellings can always be tricky – there’s a whole host of questions we ask ourselves. Will the modern setting give or detract something from the original? How much do morals connect to ethics, and ethics to society’s rules, and society’s rules to good behavior? Etc. etc. etc. We as readers can forgive much, including creative license with the original, as long as we find some kind of spark. Of wit, or romance, or searing visions of who we are (when we didn’t even realize it)…any or all of these can grab us and not let go. Polite Society attempts all of this, and its success depends on the reader.

Self-styled by Rao, a lifelong fan of Jane Austen, as a book that “mines a much darker seam” than Crazy Rich Asians (a book it’s already being compared to), Polite Society definitely accomplishes this vision. Ania Khurana, the 21st-century version of Emma Woodhouse, and the elite in Delhi are terrible. Oh, I can make all kinds of beautifully polite parallels between the glittering sparkle of diamonds and Ania’s society, but at the core, their world is shallow and rotting. Rao has the eye and the heart of an anthropologist. He writes the elite with all their poison, all their attempts at climbing higher and higher on their social ladder, with a just pen. In the middle of the well-written nastiness, there are surprising moments of kindness (Dev/Mr. Knightley), true interest in others (Renu Khurana/Mrs. Weston), and self-realization (Colonel Rathore/Mr. Weston). Continue reading