A Country Courtship
My reaction to Donna Simpson’s A Country Courtship was startling. It is rare to find a book that manages to be both boring and teeth-grittingly annoying. I procrastinated on this review because I like traditional Regency Romances and was hoping I would find something to like in this book. The fact that I’ve enjoyed Simpson in the past made my reaction all the worse.
The basic setup of the novel is as follows: Jane Dresden’s mother and aunt have managed to arrange a marriage for her to Lord Geraint Haven. Unfortunately, Jane does not want to be married to the viscount. Jane does not want a title and she hates cities. She has dreams of moving to a little cottage
“…on a hillside somewhere, by a pretty silver stream in the country. The Cotswolds, mayhap. No neighbors at all. She would keep a grey tabby cat who would sit on the hearth and wink at her while she read a cookery book or kept her simple accounts.”
Jane’s fantasy goes on to include a garden where she would grow “vegetables among the roses and herbs among the daisies.” Oddly enough, although she herself hates cities and has never met the viscount, Jane decides that one of the points against him is that he did not go to London to participate in the Marriage Mart.
Now, being a fairly well-off Regency miss, one can probably assume that Jane has been trained to run a household, so even if she has never done any of the work herself (and, later in the book it is pointed out that she has not, Jane does not even cook) Jane should have some idea of the work that goes into running a house, growing and preparing food, keeping the hearth lit, and keeping the linens and clothing clean. This was hard work during the Regency and I had a hard time with the idea of an intelligent woman of the time deciding that she wanted to spend six hours a day on food preparation, boiling her own clothes, emptying her own chamber pot, hauling her own water, etc. Yet when Jane realizes, on the way to meet the viscount, that her relatives have no intention of letting her out of the betrothal, she runs away dressed as a servant. My consistent reaction to Jane was “What a twit!”
Frankly, this viscount is no paragon of English manhood. He is afflicted with being male, rich, and titled, and he has the freedom to decide that since farming his estates is his passion, that is what he will devote his life to doing. Somehow, despite his rank and economic standing, he has allowed his female relatives to arrange a marriage for him that he does not want. Like Jane, he makes a lot of assumptions about his bride-to-be, none of which are near the truth.
Our hero is truly creepy upon first meeting. Haven has made it a habit of going to dinner at the croft of the widow of one of his tenant farmers. There he pretends that Mary is his wife, the child is his child and he is just a simple tenant farmer. In the midst of this little fantasy, he pulls Mary into his lap and kisses her. Mary immediately stops him, and he does stop, but “He knew from past experience all comfort would be gone now.” What a pity this story is set in the Regency – what Mary needs is a good sexual harassment lawyer. What the viscount needs is enough of a spine to quit feeling sorry for himself over his incredibly luxurious lot in life and to let his relatives know that he will marry who and when he wants. Again, I went through the book thinking “What a twit!”
The book did not grow on me, mainly because the characters never got any smarter. Yes, our heroine and her hero did discover they were compatible, but in this case that is hardly grounds for celebration. Frankly, if this was not a novel, I would be worried about the intelligence of the children.
If you are looking for a regency romance novel with interesting characters, good dialog and a compelling story I strongly suggest that you skip A Country Courtship and instead look up a book by Georgette Heyer, Joan Wolf, Carla Kelly, Edith Layton, or Mary Balogh. As for Simpson, all of her other books are all better than this one, but if you can find Lord St. Claire’s Angel, I encourage you to read it while passing this one by.