Lord Nightingale's Love Song
I got Judith Lansdowne’s name from AAR’s If You Like page in reference to Georgette Heyer and started this book with great expectations. But let me clear up the misconception straight away: a long lost Heyer it ain’t. Lord Nightingale’s Love Song isn’t a witty, ironic comedy of manners á la Georgette and it doesn’t have any of the Austenesque atmosphere and the authentic Regency feeling I adore.
No, Lord Nightingale’s Love Song is more like a syrupy episode of The Love Boat which just happens to be set in the Regency England. Just imagine the ship passengers cast ashore in a dandified rig and don’t forget cute kids. It’s endearing and it’s humorous – or supposed to be – and any conflicts are easily solved in between the commercial breaks. But memorable it’s not – or can you quote lots of classic Love Boat episodes?
This just goes to show: I read the book last thing yesterday and now I can’t remember the couple’s names. Oh, right, she’s Eugenia and he’s the Marquess of Bradford. The opening scene introduces the heroine as despairing because her first Season isn’t a success: she’s crippled and has already lost all hope of ever finding a husband. On top of that, the hero calls her a peagoose. What else is there for her to do than to go to the country to become a temporary child-minder? Not to mention a dog-minder, a cat-minder and a parrot-minder.
Eugenia’s charges include a delightful eight-year old girl named Delight, a blithe wild puppy called Stanley Blithe, the sweetest kitten called Sweetpea, and a noisy parrot named Lord Nightingale. I felt that the author underestimated my intelligence a bit when naming her characters. It’s really not necessary to name a cute kid character Cutiepie to make the point. Here are a couple of cute excerpts from Delight’s speech:
“Lord Nightingale willn’t bite his ears, Genia. He is falled down into love with Lord Bradford. He would not never bite his ears.”…
“Lord Bradford, you are the verimost dreadful mess I have ever seen since Nicky foughted our fire”…
“Your hair is flying ever which way an’ your neckcloth is comed undone an’ your coat is lopsidedy an’ you has lost your hat.”
Does this grammatical creativity sound like an eight-year old speaking to you, or like an eight-year-old only as found in romance novels?
Bradford is a grumpy fellow from a dysfunctional family looking for his long-lost mother and brother, albeit ineffectively. He has walled up his heart and only feels affection for his old horse Nod, but Eugenia and her pack of wild animals and cute children melt his reserve pretty quickly. Happily Eugenia’s crippled foot does not appear to be much of an impediment for their courtship after all. They meet coincidentally because Bradford has rented a house near her and Delight falls in love with his horse. Coincidentally, Bradford finds traces of his missing brother in the village, and (also coincidentally), he finds out about another family secret he wasn’t aware of. I’m not quite sure what is at the root of his problems, but I expect it’s revealed in another of the books in this series. Probably this book would work better if you’ve read the whole series; read independently, a lot of questions are left hanging.
Other characters take space from the relationship of the main couple – far too much considering the length of the book. Besides cute kids and animals they include the tradesman’s son Mr. Arnsworth, who aspires to become part of the ton, Eugenia’s relative Neil who wants to marry her off to Arnsworth because of a wager, Lady Vermont and Miss Daily and the Butterworth sisters, one of whom is in love with Bradford’s brother.
Lord Nightingale’s Love Song is an enjoyable but ultimately empty read. It could have been so much more if only Eugenia and Bradford’s relationship had had more depth and the saccharine sweetness had been downgraded a bit. I might look up other Lansdowne books if I’m in the mood for something light and harmless (I like Love Boat reruns in a nostalgic way), but when I want to read something Heyerish I won’t be scouring the bookshops for the later adventures of Lord Nightingale. It would be much safer, and far more fun, just to pick up The Cotillion again.