The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey
Many of us have known that broken, empty hearted feeling that comes with the realization that the one we love doesn’t love us back. In The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey Carolyn Miller does a good job of capturing that emotion and taking us on a roller coaster ride of heartache to romance as a jilted young woman finds compassion, kindness and love in the arms of an unlikely hero.
The majority of romance series are written as a group of interconnected stand-alone stories. This series – Regency Brides: A Legacy of Grace – is not. Readers may find themselves confused and frustrated by Miss DeLancey’s story if they do not read the first book in the series, The Elusive Miss Ellison. Unfortunately, I disliked that book so it’s a bit of a mixed bag choice for readers: read this tale without the first and be confused at times or read the first tale and suffer in order to more easily enjoy this one. I’ll leave that decision to the individual. Be warned, though, that because of the interconnectedness of the two novels, this book – and therefore this review – does have spoilers for Miss Ellison’s story.
The wedding had been all but planned. Clara DeLancey, only daughter of Viscount Winpoole, would marry Nicholas Stamford, the Earl of Hawkesbury. All the ton knew that it was her mama’s dearest wish and his mama’s dearest wish… but it was not Nicholas’ wish and he married impoverished vicar’s daughter Lavinia Ellison instead. Clara should have been able to weather the subsequent gossip but unfortunately her brother ensured that was impossible. His gambling debts were paid off with the bulk of her dowry and his misdeeds wound up giving the entire family, especially Clara, a tarnished reputation. Forced to retire to Brighton for several months to let the malicious chatter (hopefully) die down, Clara finds surprising consolation in making some new friends: the local reverend’s wife and her sister Tessa. While Clara’s mother seems to feel strongly that these ladies are far beneath her station, Clara finds their cheerful chatter and generous manners a balm to her very wounded heart. For while many looked at her brilliant match as just another society marriage, Clara had been in love with Nicholas and was truly shattered by the events surrounding the dissolution of their relationship.
Alas, this quiet interlude is not to last. Determined to marry her off, Clara’s mother drags her back to London. Fortunately, Tessa also winds up there and when the two meet again at a lending library, they are delighted to renew their acquaintance. It is quite a shock, however, for Clara to meet Tessa’s beloved brother Benjie. The affectionate nickname had always conjured images of a young, sweet scamp of a child, but instead she is faced with the handsome, fully grown Captain Benjamin – Ben – Kemsley. It’s not just his age that surprises her, however. The two met before on a dark and stormy night, when Clara had been wandering the cliffs of Brighton in despair and Captain Kemsley saved her from plunging to her death when she had fallen from a particularly perilous perch. She had fled the scene in some embarrassment, not even getting her rescuer’s name nor giving him hers. Their reunion is a fortuitous one; the two prove surprisingly compatible and it isn’t long before hope of a future blooms in both their hearts. But Clara’s bad reputation, Ben’s poverty and the significant difference in their stations provide formidable barriers to any romance between them.
The thing I love most about Carolyn Miller’s writing is how perfectly she captures the thoughts and feelings of a young woman. While her characters are never immature, they have that youthful exuberance that tends to leave us as we grow older. Clara, who is in her early twenties, behaves like someone in her early twenties. That isn’t to say that she has the manners and inclinations of a modern young adult, but she does display the responses and reactions that a person experiencing adult disappointments for the first time would have. Her emotional and spiritual growth show the natural progression people take as they leave the last vestiges of childhood behind and take their first firm steps into adulthood.
The faith journey here is beautifully depicted. It is a pet peeve of mine when Inspirational authors behave as though it is the most natural thing in the world for members of an elite group of extremely wealthy people who were known for their excess and hedonism to be evangelical Christians. Miller shows how that form of faith was rare among the ton and she also shows how even Evangelical Christians in that time and place were not flashy or ostentatious about their beliefs. A journey to God was quiet and private and fellowship was done far less for show and far more for the sake of encouraging each other in growth and good works.
The author also does a great job of capturing the somewhat stilted manners and much slower pace of the era. Both Benjamin and Clara behave in a style consistent with that time and place; there is a sweet, slow buildup to their relationship that perfectly matches who they are as well as when and where they are.
I liked the characters and their love story. While in the first novel, Clara had on occasion behaved poorly, I thought both Nicholas and Lavinia also acted churlishly. As a result, I was inclined to like Clara, so I easily empathized with her broken heart, her depression at her changed circumstances, her gradual healing and her desire to leave her teenage mistakes behind and be embraced for the more mature, kinder young lady she is now. I loved the way her character grew and evolved throughout the tale. Ben’s solid, steady, courageous nature made him the perfect hero for her. He is strong and stalwart without being egotistical or cocksure. I thought they suited each other very well.
Few books are perfect, however, and this one suffers from occasionally having too slow a pace. It also resorts to semi-unbelievable super villains – a trope which just doesn’t work for me – and a deus ex machina to get to the HEA. These flaws keep the book from DIK territory, but they don’t keep it from being a likable, entertaining read.
Ultimately, The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey is a well written book that I think Inspirational romance fans will thoroughly enjoy. I can heartily recommend it to those who read that genre.