The Widowed Miss Mordaunt
This could have been a decent Regency read, but it suffered from more children than a day care center, and a heroine with very limited common sense. To top things off, there was also a transparent mystery to be solved.
Where is Baron Selwyn Mordaunt? His sister, Constance, who is in charge of his children, would very much like to know. His superior, Major Jack St. Aubryn, who sent Selwyn on a spying mission to France, would also like to know. If bringing light on Selwyn’s whereabouts also helps out a charming lady, even if he concludes her to be Selwyn’s wife, so much the better. Since someone is trying to harm the children, Jack convinces his cousin to provide a safe haven for them while he and Constance head to France to unearth the truth, which proves to be the lures of an attractive French widow. Having traveled together, Constance’s reputation is tarnished, giving Jack the excuse to propose to her (since he will not marry for less than love).
Constance is presented as smart, capable, and independent, which she puts to the test by insisting that it is obvious that she, in person, must travel to France. Jack had curbed his attraction so far, being an upstanding and noble military man, but folds neatly at the display of stubborn logic. This pattern is repeated over and over, including the danger to the children and whether or not Constance and Jack should be married. While Constance isn’t too stupid to live, she borders on being to stupid to be allowed out of the house. When she is paired with a nice, capable man, one who is good with the children but who is unable to stand up to her, the outcome is predictable.
As far as secondaries go, the relationship, past and present, between Ada and Lord Temperence is charming, and has all the sparkle and tenderness that Jack and Constance’s relationship lacks. Cousin Mary’s strained marriage, and her obsession with secrecy, also gave an extra dimension to The Widowed Miss Mordaunt, but these secondary characters are unable to re-carbonate a read gone flat due to the main couple.
The villain who is trying to harm the children, especially the boy Val, is perfectly visible from the beginning, just as is his motive. But, while Jack is suspicious, he does little about it. By leaving the mystery unsolved until they return from France, the read is padded by about 40 pages.
Now, if you think children are an excellent way to promote a sense of romance, you will like this book better than I did. If you also think a heroine is brave and able to stand up for herself, when she insists on having her way and heads into obvious danger, you will like this book even better. For me, it was an acceptable read, but I don’t much recommend it.