As I was reading this one I kept turning back to the beginning. The book is supposed to be Restoration Era, but it read more like a Regency-set historical, and one that is using the setting as wallpaper at that. And that’s only part of the problem. The true problem is the bland niceness (or do I mean nice blandness?) of it all.
Royal’s latest, though the first in a new series, is related (literally) to her Jewel series. Having not read any of the earlier books, it seems that hero Ford Chase is the brother of a hero or heroine, or maybe both, from that earlier series. This fact only matters because Ford’s family is the catalyst that sets up the meeting with the heroine, Violet Ashcroft, not because they are interesting characters in and of themselves. Readers of the earlier books may be happy to see them show up en masse at one point in the story, but they succeeded only in annoying and boring me further (a nice feat, I’ll give you that).
Though Violet could be any one of a hundred Regency heroines written in any one of a hundred Regency Historicals (keeping in mind, of course that the Restoration was 150 years before the Regency), Ford, at least initially, seemed a little more out of the common way. As a second son Ford has little money and only one small property to his name. And unlike most romance heroes he has no real plans to make any money. Instead he wants to work on his watch design and any other experiment that strikes his fancy. His money worries are a concern, but until or unless they become dire he’d rather spend time in his workroom. After his long-time fiancée takes up with someone else, he decides to visit Lakefield, his neglected property. Along the way he stops off to see his brother, finds out the household is being besieged by measles, and agrees to take charge of his five-year-old niece, Jewel.
At Lakefield, Ford finds himself at a loss. The nurse who was supposed to take care of Jewel has come down with the measles and he is on his own with his small niece. Luckily for him, Violet Ashcroft has been “encouraged” by her matchmaking mother to bring her young brother over to play with Jewel. Ford is delighted to have others who will help to keep Jewel occupied while he pursues his inventions.
Violet is determined to never marry. She tells everyone she wants to pursue the study of philosophy, and that’s true to a certain extent, but she also thinks of herself as plain and unappealing next to her more attractive sisters (of course she’s not). Now let me think here, why does that sound so familiar? Hmm, could it be because of the umpteen other romances featuring the same heroine? You know I’d be fine with this particular type of heroine (for the umpteenth time) if she would follow through on those wishes. Okay, she’d probably still have to marry the guy, but does she have to end up like this?:
He grinned. “I can finance the publication of my brilliant wife’s book.”
She cracked a smile, a smile that stole his heart. “Do you suppose that could wait a while?” She asked. “I’m hoping to raise some children first, with your help.”
The problem isn’t just that Violet is the ubiquitous, nice, supposedly intelligent, bland heroine who inhabits too many books, it’s that she sucks Ford into her bland little world. He starts off as a somewhat selfish but somewhat interesting guy who wants to invent things and ends up a nice, bland guy who wants to win Violet’s trust, love and hand in marriage. Sure he’ll continue to work on his inventions but only when he isn’t sprucing up the estate, doting on Violet, or gazing sappily into her eyes while talking of making babies.
As Ford became less self-involved and focused on his work and more involved with Violet, he and the book became less interesting. Adding to my frustration by this point was the unbelievable way in which Violet’s mother throws them together in multiple one-on-one situations, the out of nowhere lack of trust Violet has in Ford (long after she’s slept with him) and a forced Gift of the Magi resolution to the lack of trust.
Fans of Royal’s earlier books may be familiar enough with Ford to want to pursue this one. For anyone else I’d recommend looking for a copy of My Darling Caroline by Adele Ashworth instead; it’s a similar, but much better story.