Emily’s Beau starts at the beginning of the Season in 1818, when Jacob Winters, the Earl of Hawthorne, is notified that he has a ward. A young woman, the daughter of one of the officers who had served with the Earl’s father in India, was left in his care after the death of her mother. Harriet Nichols is arriving from India – and she’s of the age to to enter society and find a husband.
Jacob turns to his friend, Richard Hughes, and to Richard’s family for help. Richard’s sister, Emily, is also making her come out. Emily is a little older than the norm. Due to illness in her family, she is having her first Season at age 24 rather than the more common eighteen. Both men hope Emily will serve as an example to Harriet and help the younger woman polish her manners and improve her wardrobe.
Emily has some expectations of her own. Jacob used to spend vacations with Richard and his family, and during one of these – when Emily was fourteen – they shared a kiss. He immediately left and has felt guilty for kissing such a young girl ever since. Unfortunately, Emily interpreted the incident quite differently and has waited for her season ever since, expecting that Jacob would propose when she was ready.
This is where I started having problems with the book. Emily is now 24 and has had no direct contact with Jacob since the kiss. It was just not believable to me that she would believe for ten years that she had an understanding with the Earl. This rather large assumption was the start of many misunderstandings in the book. Harriet turns out to be more than a handful, with no intention of taking the advice of Emily and her family and no notion on how to behave in polite society. Instead of going to the Earl right away, Emily decides to tough out the treatment she is receiving from Harriet because she is convinced for the first half of the book that the Earl expects his future wife to be able to guide his ward.
The book features several incidents involving assumptions and misunderstandings that one sensible question to the right person could have resolved. As a reader, I understand the conflict must come from somewhere and that misunderstandings between people happen frequently, but in this book they occurred at such a regular and monotonous rate that they were just not credible. In addition, as the book moved along, more of the characters were pulled into various types of misunderstandings. Bouncing from character to character and their misunderstandings, assumptions and attempts to mislead each other was neither gripping nor comedic – it was frustrating.
Allison Lane has a knack for creating very sympathetic characters and this kept me interested in discovering how everything eventually got sorted out, but frankly, by the end of the book I was convinced that most of the characters were a bit dim. Often at the end of a novel I feel a sense of triumph for the couple. In this case it was more like taking care of an annoying itch. I was pleased that the loose ends were tied up – but my relief was due to the alleviation of my irritation, not because I was feeling the satisfaction of a romantic ending. And although I actually found several of the characters likable, it was not enough to make the constant leaping to conclusions any more palatable.
The unbelievable assumption that forms the book’s premise, as well as a multitude of other assumptions and misunderstandings, do not show the author in her best light. If you have been thinking of trying Allison Lane’s novels, or have enjoyed her work in the past, I would suggest one of her other books, such as The Purloined Papers or A Bird in Hand.