A Gentleman by Any Other Name
So, you thought there was a dearth of Regency spies, smugglers, and rogues (only lovable ones, of course)? Well, Kasey Michaels has plenty of them to offer here. Her writing is, as always, very well done. However, even her accomplished style is not enough to rescue this tale from cliches and forgettability. This is not a bad read, but it’s not a stupendous one either.
Widower Chance Becket has employed Julia Carruthers as nanny to his daughter Alice. He plans to take Alice and Julia to his childhood home at Romney Marsh and leave them safely bundled away in the country while he returns to London to pursue his work for the War Office. Chance has never been much of a family man and, when he hires a nanny, he expects to find a mere employee – not a young woman who will intrigue him at every turn.
Julia recently lost her father and must make her own way in the world. When she meets Chance and his family, she is rather taken aback at the state of affairs in the Becket house and has no problem speaking her mind about it. Julia’s outspoken nature and innate curiosity about her surroundings lead to sparks with the more taciturn Chance. He has secrets to hide, and somehow Julia gets under his skin in a way that makes him uncomfortable. The two disagree frequently, and these disagreements start to lead to more passionate encounters.
The historical background of this tale is definitely to Michael’s credit. Though the story starts in London, most of the book is set along the English coast during the Napoleonic war and Michaels has obviously researched her setting and makes good use of it. The coast and the impoverished smugglers who made their living there are an integral part of the story rather than functioning as mere wallpaper. Too often books feature smugglers and spies with readers only told of their professions so that they may as well be vicars, merchants, or complete layabouts for all that it matters to their story. However, Michaels’ characters are who they are because of the time and place in which they live. Too few authors create these sorts of characters so the author deserves a lot of credit for having done so here.
Sadly, the main story does not stand out as well as its background since it is difficult to fathom the attraction between the two main characters. This book gets a “hot” rating not so much for the intensity of the love scenes but more for their frequency. The hero and heroine have frequent interludes, but it is hard for the reader to feel any emotional tie to this couple. They are likable enough, but a touch distant from the reader.
This distance is particularly noticeable with Chance. He obviously has secrets in his past since they are alluded to throughout the book, and that past forms a large part of his present conflict with Julia. However, this conflict never gets resolved in a manner that would be satisfactory for most readers. The reader simply needs to take the relationship and any internal resolutions in Chance on faith because we never get to actually see these things develop. Because of that plotting decision, I found that I liked the story well enough, but never felt as if I got inside either character’s head to my satisfaction.
The secondary characters in this book are also likable enough, but a little hackneyed. There are plenty of books out there full to the brim with smugglers, spies, and all manner of adorable, lovable rogues. While a couple of Chance’s siblings stand out, most of the cast here seem like stock characters. The romance and the story are a fun read, but just not a stand-out. I enjoyed the book while I read it, but had to write my review with the book propped open next to me because I just couldn’t remember much after having read it. While Michael’s writing style is as fun to read as usual, this kind of forgettability just does not make for a book I can enthusiastically recommend.
I enjoy spending as much time as I can between the covers of a book, traveling through time and around the world. When I'm not having adventures with fictional characters, I'm an attorney in Virginia and I love just hanging out with my husband, little man, and the cat who rules our house.
|Review Date:||February 14, 2006|
|Book Type:||European Historical Romance | Historical Romance|
|Review Tags:||The Beckets of Romney Marsh series|