I decided it had been too long since I read a real romance novel. By that I mean an actual, old-fashioned love story, not some thinly disguised pr0n (nttawwt). So I grabbed some Kindle Unlimited Regency freebies, figuring I’d have to start and discard a bunch of books before I found a good one, but lo and behold the first one I downloaded was wonderful.
This Regency romance novel is Mischief, Mayhem, and Marriage, written by Rebecca Connolly. I became intrigued immediately because the usual brooding duke trope was flipped on its head. I can’t tell you how tired I am of moody, mean men, with personalities defined by sneers and sarcasm, who need to be saved by a beautiful woman who is always smiling and helpful no matter what horrible thing he does. Omg barf! But that’s not what we have in MMM. Here we have the hero Taft, an earl, who is a cheerful gentleman, besotted with Alexandrina, a widow, who is depressed and often unpleasant, with good reasons as we discover. Her marriage was a disaster and now her 5 year old child has been taken from her.
Taft comes to A’s rescue when a drunk man in a garden tries to take advantage of her as she disentangles her dress from a pesky rosebush. At this point, Taft isn’t interested in her romantically, as she has never been nice to him. Yet he jumps in to help regardless! Per the convoluted social rules of the day, A’s reputation would be ruined if a man didn’t save her from another man by offering marriage. Unlike most women of the time, however, A is not interested in remarriage; her chief concern is getting her son back from the clutches of her former mother-in-law. Taft is instantly sympathetic and draws upon his vast network to help, without expecting anything in return.
That was refreshing and not a one-off either. Throughout the novel, Taft behaves in a genuinely caring manner, to A and to everyone else. He’s simply a nice guy, a kind man, not all full of himself because he has a title, but repeatedly saying that it’s more important to be a good person. Hello! Eventually, A thaws toward him, noticing good things about his character she’d previously overlooked. After she is reunited with her son, she allows herself to feel happy and optimistic again. But it doesn’t happen overnight, since these fictional protags act more like real people who have experienced heartbreak and other emotional pain. When you’ve been guarded and scared for so long, it takes more than an hour to fall in love and be open to possibility. I really enjoyed how this dynamic played out.
And don’t get the idea that Taft is some boring milquetoast. Far from it! He’s witty and playful, and the bantering dialog between him and his friends was a joy to read. He doesn’t let A walk all over him either. Wish these kind of men existed in real life… Sigh. Yes, I know it’s all fantasy and not only that, but it can be difficult to lose yourself in a fairy tale like this when there is so much wrong with the world and people are suffering and dying every minute of the day. But you know? Maybe that’s why we still need fairy tales and fantasies, to escape from the horror for a little while and regain our sanity so we can once again read the news (shudder).
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