A Tale of Two Lovers
Initially, I thought A Tale of Two Lovers would be nothing new – probably because many European historicals I read seem vaguely like five, ten, or twenty of those that I’ve read before. But while I wouldn’t call this one groundbreaking, it’s a solidly enjoyable book with two characters I really liked. Rake heroes may be a dime a dozen, and we’ve certainly seen a gossip-columnist heroine or two as well. Nonetheless, this well-drawn pair had me turning the pages to see what would happen next.
Juliana, Lady Somerset, writes a gossip column for a variety of reasons. The first is that her bounder husband left more of his fortune to his mistresses and by-blows than he did to his wife – so she needs the money. But she also truly enjoys the thrill of being the first to spread the latest on dits. One night at the theater she spots something she knows will cause a huge stir: The infamous Lord Roxbury entwined in an embrace with a mysterious figure. And both of them are wearing boots and breeches. Juliana writes about her discovery in her column, Fashionable Intelligence, with little thought to the effect on Roxbury’s reputation>
Roxbury isn’t gay; his fellow dally-er was an actress wearing breeches. But he soon finds his reputation in question. People stop acknowledging him and his invitations dwindle. And it couldn’t come at a worse time. His father has just demanded that he marry – within a month – or risk losing his inheritance. He feels pressured to find a bride at a time when no decent woman will have him. Roxbury marches down to the paper’s office to confront the publisher, and meets Juliana there. He attempts to bribe her into a an apology and ends up dueling with the publisher. Juliana meets Roxbury again at a ball that night, where they dance – and begin a very unconventional courtship.
Now, it doesn’t look like a courtship exactly. Most of the time, they don’t even appear to like each other. Both are headstrong, and neither has any actual desire to get married. Juliana was badly burned by her first marriage to a man she loved deeply – until he completely humiliated her with his very public infidelities. Roxbury likes women. In fact, he loves women. But who would want to marry just one woman when you can enjoy them all? So the two spar and try to one-up each other, and both of them search for a rival gossip columnist called the “Man About Town.”
I’d hate to give away more than that, because one of the delights of this book is seeing two very different, headstrong people fall in love with each other. When you initially meet them both, all you can think is, “How will that work out?” It works out beautifully, and it’s a lot of fun watching it happen. The dialogue is well-written, and the happily ever after is believable. Both main characters are more than they initially seem, and they become better, more selfless people because they fall in love.
This isn’t a perfect read. It seems a little modern at times, and there’s a separation toward the end which is just a little silly. I also wondered just how much a gossip columnist would really have made at the time (my guess is not much).
Nonetheless, I really enjoyed A Tale of Two Lovers. It’s part of a series, but don’t let that prevent you from trying it; I hadn’t read any of the other books, and I didn’t find it to be a hindrance. It’s a fun read, and I’ll think you’ll find it’s worth a look.