Monday, March 19, 2012

book review - The Improper Governess by Carola Dunn

The Improper Governess is the first book I've read by Carola Dunn.  It was originally published in 1998, but I just discovered it in ebook format; Carola Dunn in her blog notes that a number of her Regency romance novels, all published quite a number of years ago, are being re-released as ebooks; in the last decade she's gone away from Regency novels and has been writing"cozy" period mysteries.

The Improper Governess is more in the tradition of Georgette Heyer's Regency romances, relying on romantic tension rather than steamy romantic scenes, an initial attraction that's thwarted, with various obstacles and opportunities to move the plot along to the happy ending.  The heroine is pretty, sweet, virtuous, intelligent, and brave.  The hero appears at first to "just" be a handsome, dangerous rake, but shows that he can be sweet in a manly way, virtuous once he falls for the heroine, intelligent, and brave. They both gradually begin to esteem and like the other, in addition to finding that they're also falling in love.

Like Georgette Heyer, Dunn clearly has clearly done her research into Regency England.  I wonder if she had originally been inspired by Heyer.

Set in Regency London, Lissa Findlay, the heroine, has been forced by circumstances to work as an opera dancer, barely supporting her two little brothers and herself.  She catches the attention of Lord Robert Ashe, who is looking for a new paramour.  Much to his surprise and chagrin, Lissa spurns his advances.  He, though, finds himself intrigued by her unusual circumstances and her bravery.  He ends up taking her and her two brothers into his household, where she serves as governess to his sickly, spoiled nephew.  Lissa does wonders for the nephew, who befriends her two brothers, as well.  She also finds herself hopelessly falling for Lord Ashe.  It seems to be a mutual thing, unbeknownst to the other.  It becomes a question whether love can overcome disapproving relatives and seemingly insurmountable extenuating circumstances.  The answer isn't too hard to guess (well, that and I already gave it away, didn't I?).

This was a delightful, light read, with amusing characters and situations, as well as some gentle angst.  I recommend it to anyone who enjoys Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer's Regency novels.

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