On finishing this book, I was terribly tempted to send it back to the author, pleading her to rewrite it and publish it as a historical instead. It’s not that I did not like the book she had written, it’s just that I couldn’t keep from seeing the gem of a story hiding behind the Regency format. But a Regency it is, and as a Regency it will be reviewed.
John Fortescue, Viscount Warrington, lives an idle life of gambling in London. Hung-over one morning, he wagers his disapproving father that he can survive for one month on 50 pounds, without disclosing his identity. But Warrington gets off to a bad start when his horse, money, and clothes are stolen on the road. Badly beaten, he is rescued by Antonia, governess at the Larchmont estate. When the lady of the house decides to throw out the penniless nobody, Warrington hires on as a groom under the name Jack Bradford, partly because he needs to make a living, and partly because he wants to stay close to Antonia. Jack and Antonia lose their positions and take up with a traveling circus, she as a singer and he as a trick rider. He proposes, but can their love survive the revelations to come?
Jack/Warrington has his faults, but he also proves to have the strength to resist temptation. Gambling, that is, not Antonia. She is, if not quiet, at least very careful about exposing her emotions. The passion is there, for the right man, but Antonia is not the woman to wear her heart on her sleeve for all to see. She is a refreshing contrast to all those head-over-heels, madcap heroines, and she reminds me somewhat of Eleanor in Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.
While I liked both hero and heroine, so much more could have been done with character development. I would liked to have known why Jack differed so much from the rest of his family, or what events molded Antonia’s restrained personality. Also, the author’s tendency to call Jack “the Viscount” or “Warrington” was a bit confusing – it felt as though she was striving for variation, but the effect was an uncertainty of how Jack felt about himself.
I liked this story, in part because of Antonia’s calm nature, but also because I love to see the proud grovel. It suffers a bit from the Regency format – the ending is a bit too pat, for example – but overall it was a nice little read.