Sunday, 31 August 2008

Miss Winthorpe's Elopement by Christine Merrill.

Harlequin Historical.

Marry in haste...repent in leisure. Might be the moral of this story. However as we all know, sometimes it pays to take a risk. And rich printer's daughter Penelope Winthorpe certainly takes a risk when she marries basically a drunk who her carriage nearly runs over one night. Happily the drunk turns out to be a peer of the realm who is desperate enough to consider topping himself as a way out of his money troubles. He's handsome, she's bookish. Unfortunately he is also somewhat of an unmitigated snob once he sobers up. In fact. The marriage seems to be going nowhere for quite some time. With Penny being the one who has to make all the adjustments to being the wife of a Lord and having to fit into his social circle.

On one level the hero, Adam, seems as frivolous as his many friends. On the other hand. He is a thoroughly decent guy, probably somewhat too aware of his responsibilities to his tenants and other people who depend on him. Consider. He feels guilty about the loss of life when a ship he has invested in is lost at sea. That's like saying you or I feel guilt about where the interest in our bank accounts comes from. Seeing how the ship had a cargo full of tobacco, if Adam wanted to feel guilty then he could have thought about the living conditions of the slaves that worked the tobacco plantation. But that never happens in series romances.

In actual fact. This is a fantastic read. With a true villianess, the mega-bitch Clarissa. For large parts of the story I was in total suspense wandering what wickedness she would get up to in order to destroy the happiness of the main couple. And boy. She gives it her best shot. The husband, Tim, is also not very nice, but in a completely different sort of way. With friends like Tim, who needs enemies.

What makes the story special is the characters of Penny and Adam. And of course there are a couple of great scenes featuring the servant, Jem. Both the hero and heroine are multi-dimensional people. Adam is full of regrets about his former life-style. Penny is surprisingly emotionally mature considering she is a romance heroine. Towards the end she does revert to type. The ending is a bit pat too. What what else can a reader expect from a series romance? A couple of scenes of strategically placed hotness only.

Also. The novel is primarily about the relationship between Penny and Adam. But really. I'd like to have known more of how Adam came to be as broke as he obviously was. I mean. One hundred and fifty thousand pounds in Regency times. That's like about 10 million in modern times. Who's to say he wouldn't lose that much again?! Now that's a thought for Penny to ponder.

But basically. It's a little gem. For what it is.

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