Saturday, 19 July 2014

Romance Review: 'His Grace Regrets' by Kate Harper

His Grace Regrets

This is a Regency romance with an interesting premise: three years earlier, the heroine, Cressida, was about to marry Morgan, Duke Hot-but-Mysterious, except that he failed to turn up for the wedding. Then he vanished, and no explanation was forthcoming. Now, she’s engaged to Mr Robert Nice-but-Dull. And guess what? Oh - so you knew Duke Sexy-Pants was going to turn up again? Well, so did I, of course, but this could still be an intriguing story, if only…

But wait a minute. This is a Duke here, one of only a handful of the top people in the country. A man with vast estates to run, and hordes of minions to do his bidding, and known to absolutely everyone in society, and he just disappeared? How is that even possible? There are only a handful of Dukes, and they’re not just rich and (apparently) devilishly handsome, but they also help to run the country. If one vanishes, half the army would have been sent to find him.

And even if (let’s suppose) something terribly urgent and important came up, delaying the wedding, later, when he returns from the terribly urgent and important thing, why doesn’t he simply look up the bride and say: so sorry, old thing, but something terribly urgent and important came up, but I’m free now, so let’s get married? Or he could have, you know, written a nice, long letter, explaining precisely what was keeping him.

But no. So this fails one of my acid tests, where the whole plot would unravel if they just talked to each other right away. And yes, there is an explanation for why he doesn’t explain everything, and no, I didn’t find it terribly convincing.

Then there’s Mr Nice-and-Deeply-Worthy, who is obviously going to get ditched at the end because - well, true love, and irresistible lust and all that, but it would have been nice if the author had at least attempted to make him a player who acts in his own interests instead of nothing but a passive obstacle for true love to overcome, someone to be swept out of sight as soon as the two main characters have stopped huffing around long enough to listen to each other.

In other grumbles, I do wish that authors of Regency romances would at least attempt to bone up on correct forms of address. The daughter of an Earl is always, always Lady Rosalie, and never, ever Lady Wortham. Then there are the incorrect uses of words like ‘doff’ and ‘distaff’ and ‘spencer’ (a rather fetching short-waisted coat, here described as a warm undergarment). So a little research wouldn’t go amiss.

One final grumble: there are typos and even grammatical errors on almost every page. This is such a shame, because the writing style is rather well suited to the period, without being difficult to read (apart from some over-long sentences). I don’t normally comment on these kinds of mistakes, because every book has its share, but sometimes I wondered whether this book had had any proofreading at all.

And despite all of that, I rather enjoyed the book. The settings and events felt realistic, and if the weather was somewhat convenient to the plot, it didn’t bother me. The main characters were quite believable and behaved (mostly) sensibly, if not always quite in keeping with the morality of the Regency period (but that’s not a problem). The minor characters (with the exception of Mr Nice-Doormat) were also realistically helpful and supportive and generally behaved like nice, normal people. The heroine’s family were particularly nice, and I loved the youngest daughter, Daisy. This is my favourite scene, where she’s playing some mysterious game:

‘What are you doing?’
‘Pirates.’ That one word seemed to say it all as far as the youngest Miss Grenville was concerned.
‘You are being rescued by them?’
‘I am the Pirate Queen,’ Daisy returned, apparently offended by the very idea that she would require rescuing. ‘People need rescuing from me.’

Lovely (and I’d totally read a whole book about Daisy). There are quite a few moments like this, where something wonderful shines through. For those who can overlook the implausibilities, this is a fun read. However, I have to be honest and say that what dragged this book down for me was the sheer volume of typos which spoiled an otherwise very readable story. The other problems were relatively minor and easy to overlook, but the poor editing keeps it to two stars.

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