The Ramshackle Suitor
I’ve head some positive things about Nancy Butler’s Regencies, but The Ramshackle Suitor is the first that I’ve read. I was pleased to find much to like in this book – especially the unusual hero and heroine.
Lucy Parnell is a thirty-one year old governess who is mostly content with her lot in life. When her mother dies, however, she begins to have strange dreams about a child crying. She believes that the child may belong to her deceased sister, so she takes some time off and travels to the Isle of Man, her sister’s last known whereabouts.
One of the first people she meets is Roddy Kempthorne. When she finds him, he is covered in mud, lying in a ditch, and wearing clothing straight out of the Restoration. She ends up helping him out of the ditch, but then they are chased into a tree by an aggressive herd of sheep. Needless to say, this type of set-up is a real attention grabber! The two enjoy their time together, but figure they will never see each other again. But when Lucy’s overbearing step-brother tries to interfere in her search for the missing child, Roddy is on hand to come to her rescue. When said step-brother steals all of Lucy’s luggage and funds, Roddy invites her to his friend’s home, where he is attending a house party.
Roddy and Lucy are drawn to each other, but they seem like an unlikely couple. For one thing, Roddy is five years younger then Lucy, and his childhood nickname, “Ramshackle,” is pretty accurate. But Roddy has a very caring heart, and he is determined to aid Lucy in her quest. He’s not exactly shy about showing his affection for Lucy either, and soon the difference in their ages seems much less important. Still, Lucy can’t help wondering if he can really be serious about her, and there are other issues in the way of their romance as well – particularly the matter of Lucy’s sister’s child.
What really makes this book stand out, especially for a Regency, is the unusual characters. There may be other Regencies out there with heroines in their thirties, but I’ve never read one before. The age difference between Roddy and Lucy makes for an interesting conflict throughout the book. Roddy’s character is pleasing in other respects as well. He reminded me somewhat of the hero in Danelle Harmon’s The Wild One, because he seems immature but is heroic in all the ways that count. If you’ve read one too many books with jaded, world-weary heroes in their thirties falling for sweet twenty-something heroines, you’ll appreciate these characters all the more.
The full cast of secondary characters is equally likable. Roddy’s friends are all interesting in their own right, and it looks like Butler is setting up at least one of them for a book of his own. If so, I definitely intend to read it.
I obviously enjoyed this book very much, but I still found it flawed, which is the reason for the B- grade. The problem is with the plot involving Lucy’s sister and her child. The solution to Lucy’s quest is completely obvious all along, and there is virtually no way the reader could avoid guessing every big “secret.” This doesn’t ruin the book by any means, but I still thought a little more subtlety was in order. It’s nice to be able to wonder about the outcome of such a plot – at least a little.
If a lot of mystery and suspense are important to you, you may find The Ramshackle Suitor too obvious for your taste. Otherwise, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to any Regency fan. The unusual hero and heroine really make this a worthwhile read.