Lessons in French
Grade : B-

Some authors just receive a lot of hype. Such is the case with Laura Kinsale. Often, I ignore the constant buzz, preferring to read lesser known works. However, as a lover of historical romance, I thought it long past time that I experienced Ms. Kinsale’s writing for myself. Sadly, Lessons in French did not give the kind of first impression I was hoping for.

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Lady Callista Talliafaire is twenty-seven, long past the age of marriage. She lives with her younger sister and their cousins, who inherited the earldom after Callie’s father died. Since Callie has been jilted three times already, it is decided that she will live with her sister when she is fortunate enough to marry. Callie has resigned herself to this fate and does her best not to think of the boy who stole her heart ten long years before.

Trevelyan d’Augustin returns home after a ten year absence. His mother’s health is failing, and he wants to bid her farewell. He doesn’t count on seeing Callie, sure she’s left her childhood home to pursue life with a husband. Both are shocked to meet at a musical event. Neither knows how to react, but Callie, a loyal friend to Trevelyan’s mother, agrees to be of help however she can during the Duchess’s last days. Trev and Callie both have fond memories of the adventures they had as teenagers. Trev is determined to give Callie one final adventure before walking away forever, but will it really be as simple as that? Will he really be able to walk away from the shy yet intelligent woman who has captivated him since he was a boy?

Let’s talk about hype again for just a bit. Narrator Nicholas Boulton lives up to every good thing I’ve ever heard about him. I’m usually a bit of a skeptic, but Mr. Boulton is a narrator of consummate skill. His voice is low and sexy. He has a wide range of accents to work with in order to make each character stand out from the rest. Perhaps the French accent he used when speaking for Trev’s mother isn’t the best I’ve ever heard, but it’s far from the worst.

Mr. Boulton employs a gruff yet sensuous manner of speaking when depicting Trevelyan. It fit the character to a tee. Trev has lived a rough life and gotten in trouble with the law, but he is fiercely loyal to those he considers his friends. It is that loyalty that caused him to flee England under threat of hanging. Mr. Boulton slowly reveals each facet of this complicated hero, allowing the listener to get the full effect of the whole man.

I was quite impressed with Mr. Boulton’s depiction of Callie as well. He raises his pitch and softens his tone just enough to suggest femininity, but not enough for it to sound over the top. I could always tell when Callie was speaking. Mr. Boulton seemed to really know the character Ms. Kinsale put on paper. Callie is shy, given to daydreams, and definitely unconventional. She hates being the center of attention. Like Trev, she’s steadfastly loyal, even when it means she has to do things she would rather have no part in.

I was able to differentiate the secondary characters without any trouble, no matter their age, gender, or nationality. Dialogue tags were present, but were not necessary.

The plot of Lessons In French isn’t bad. However, it took the author nearly half the book to set it up. I spent quite a while wondering just what Trev’s grand adventure was going to be, and, once I found out, I felt a little cheated. It was something silly and, in this listener’s opinion, quite implausible. There were some aspects of Callie’s character that rubbed me the wrong way. Ms. Kinsale wants her to be seen as practical, but we constantly see her in the midst of one daydream or another. There’s nothing wrong with having a good imagination, but it just didn’t fit with the image of a practical, down-to-earth spinster.

Trevelyan is easy to like, but not easy to trust. He has built his life on lie after lie after lie. I found it difficult to understand his motivation for all this lying, even though the author tried to lay the groundwork. It just didn’t work for me. I kept thinking there had to be another way to accomplish what needed to be done without so many deviations from the truth.

I understand that Trev and Callie are supposed to be childhood sweethearts. Maybe their love was more believable when they were teenagers. As adults, they’re definitely attracted to each other, but it was hard for me to really understand why. I saw no real connection between them, and so the romance ended up falling flat.

Many people tell me that Lessons in French is not Ms. Kinsale’s best work. I intend to try another of her books. The chance to hear Mr. Boulton narrate again will keep me from putting it off too long.

Breakdown of Grade – Narration: A- and Book Content: C-

Unabridged. Length – 12 hours 31 minutes

Reviewed by Shannon Dyer

Grade: B-

Book Type: Audiobook

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : November 3, 2014

Publication Date: 2014/07

Recent Comments …

  1. This author (Judith Ivory) used to appear frequently in “best of” lists for historical romance; and it seems that this…

Shannon Dyer

I'm Shannon from Michigan. I've been an avid reader all my life. I adore romance, psychological fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and the occasional memoir. I share my home with my life partner, two dogs, and a very feisty feline.
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