The Valentine Charm
Regency Romances, as opposed to historical romances in general, are governed by strict conventions. They are short, sweet, must take place during a certain historical period, and almost always feature members of the upper or upper-middle class and their attempts to make suitable marriages. Some authors, working within these rigid conventions, can create perfect, sparkling little works of art. But sometimes a Regency reads exactly like so many other Regencies.
Amy Addington is an impoverished young lady who is forced to act as a companion for her beautiful cousin Helen Reed and Helen’s grasping mama. Although Helen also has no dowry, it is hoped that her loveliness will capture an earl, at the very least. Because the Reeds can’t afford a London Season, they plan to hunt down a nobleman in the less fashionable Bath.
Also in Bath is Sir Hartley Ross, a baronet who intends to catch the scoundrel who’s been stealing objets d’art from fashionable homes. (This he does by going to parties and lingering near the knick knacks, hoping that the theft will take place before his eyes.) He and his arrogant cousin, the earl of Ruskin, encounter Amy and Helen. Hart is taken with Amy, while Ruskin seems infatuated with Helen. This throws Helen and her mother into hopeful raptures, but Hart soon learns that Ruskin intends, not to marry Helen, but to make her his mistress, in defiance of social convention.
Hart tells Amy of Ruskin’s vile plans, but Amy can’t get either Helen or Helen’s mother to believe that a peer would behave in so base a manner. So Hart and Amy work together to save Helen from Ruskin’s clutches.
There’s nothing about Hart and Amy not to like – but there’s nothing terribly interesting about them, either. (When I began this review, I had to look at the back of the book to get the protagonists’ names, because I didn’t remember them. That’s not a good sign – I finished this book yesterday.) There isn’t any real conflict between them, either. It’s obvious from the beginning that Hart doesn’t care about Amy’s financial straits, and neither of the external plots (saving Helen from Ruskin and catching the thief) in any way keeps them apart. In this book, there’s no reason that the course of true love should not run smooth.
There are a few mild hijinks, like the improbable series of events that lands Amy in Hart’s arms, and the time when the thief, obligingly, does in fact steal something while one of our protagonists is watching.
Author Collum has a rather nice touch with Regency slang and this novel is peppered with it. She also makes a pretty good stab at a Heyer-esque narrative voice, and if you like these aspects of the Regency genre you might enjoy this book. Indeed, there’s nothing not to like about it, really – but nothing makes it stand out from the crowd, either.
If you read The Valentine Charm you may well enjoy it. It is a nice book and a pleasant read. Unfortunately, I believe that will vanish from my memory almost immediately.