Lord Langdon's Tutor
Lord Langdon’s Tutor by first-time Regency Romance author Laura Paquet stars a hero who really needs to be told where to get off, and a heroine who doesn’t hesitate to tell him.
Lady Clarissa Denham is resolved to marry only a man she loves, in spite of her father’s attempts to make an eligible match for her. She even has a contingency plan: rather than being forced to marry a man who doesn’t suit her, she will pawn her grandmother’s ring and become a governess, no matter what society might say. Her father tells her that he has given Lord Langdon permission to court her, and threatens to kick her out of the house if she doesn’t accept him. Clarissa has misgivings, but reluctantly agrees to give Lord Langdon a chance.
Matthew Carstairs, Lord Langdon, blows his chance. Obviously in haste to get it over with, he asks for her hand within moments of meeting her. Clarissa refuses him. In the angry exchange that follows, Matthew is contemptuous and arrogant and Clarissa comes within inches of slapping him. Later, Matthew complains of her to his friends, who assure him that he might have had a chance if he weren’t so socially inept. Matthew has never learned the social niceties of interacting with respectable women, mostly because he views them as being beneath his notice. His friends tell him that if he ever hopes to get a bride, he needs someone to teach him how to act.
So Matthew and Clarissa make a deal. He will pretend to court her, and in the process she will correct his courting manners. Clarissa agrees to the charade to stave off her tyrannical father’s wrath.
I truly enjoyed the character of Clarissa, a very strong heroine. A young woman with no great beauty and no dowry, she is entirely subject to the power of men – but she has made plans to escape their power if she ever has to. When Matthew is rude to her – and he is frequently and insufferably rude – she sets him straight. In one scene where he condescendingly asks her what he did to provoke her anger, I wanted to cheer when she cries out:
“By constantly dismissing me and my opinions and my interests as beneath your notice! How do you think it feels to be told in front of an entire table of people that my intelligence is lacking? The gall! You do not know the first thing about me.”
The character of Matthew is less well-rounded and makes less sense. I found the explanation that he is ignorant of the ways of young ladies to be unconvincing. His dislike of women seemed inconsistent and unmannerly. The man wasn’t raised in a barn, after all, and he manages to be polite to his friend’s mother. In a couple awkwardly-placed episodes, the author shows us that Matthew is a good man, one who loves his ailing uncle and is kind to the poor. So why all the sneers about young ladies? He obviously needs someone to show him that a woman can be his equal partner, and Clarissa fulfills that role admirably.
By the nature of their relationship, every time either one of them says or does something nice, the other thinks it’s only part of the charade. Meanwhile, they both look elsewhere to find their perfect mates. This part of the book goes on a little too long; I would have liked to see them become friends. Those looking for the hero to realize his love for the heroine earlier than just prior to a book’s end may be disappointed. It would have been more convincing if the two of them had reached some kind of understanding sooner.
In spite of my reservations about this novel, I enjoyed it very much. That is due to the strength of the character of Clarissa. In one scene she discusses the character of Elizabeth in Austen’s Pride and Prejudice – I believe this is the author’s way of telling us that Lord Langdon’s Tutor is a deliberate homage to that book. Like Lizzie, Clarissa defies her family in her determination not to settle for second-best. Like Lizzie, in her anger at a suitor’s arrogant façade, she very nearly misses the loving man he truly is.
One of the best things about reviewing for AAR is that I get to learn about new, talented authors. Laura Paquet is new to the romance scene, but this regency is solidly written, intelligent and enjoyable. The next time I find myself looking for an interesting Regency to read, I’ll remember Laura Paquet’s name.