Monday, May 19, 2014

The Scotsman and the Spinster by Joan Overfield/ Carolyn Madison

My Experience:  A
Note:  This is an E-book edition of 2000 release under the name Carolyn Madison.  
Synopsis:  A Reluctant Gallant … Ross Maccailan, a lifelong Army man, never wanted his newly-inherited title. And as a proud and rugged Scot, he never dreamed that he would become a member of effete English society. But his stern sense of duty brought him home from the front, to campaign for war funds in the House of Lords. His first priority was learning the ways of the ton – and the lady assigned to tutor him, Miss Adalaide Terrington, was as exacting as a drill sergeant! 
A Mistress of Manners … Adalaide, “the Terror of the Terringtons,” had transformed many an awkward relative into an elegant gentleman. But this headstrong soldier was her most challenging pupil yet! As Ross made him bow to society beside her, they were about to find the maneuvers of the heart were as intricate as etiquette and as dangerous as any battle.

This version of My Fair Lady with genders reversed and thankfully, no high pitched wailing over taking a bath, is absolutely wonderful.  I did not want this book to end.  Is there a more eloquent praise, if so, it eludes me.

His uncle had no grounds for breaking the entailment so Sgt. Maccailan IS Viscount St. Jerome, whether he wants to be or not.  Ross is definitely a man that understands strategy and holding ground taken with dearest blood.  When it comes to accepting his lot as a gentleman, it feels like more of a sacrifice than anyone has a right to ask.  But when Wellington himself says:  "One man can make all the difference in the world, provided he is the right man," Sgt. Maccailan marches on, perhaps grudgingly, but he knows his duty.  Sure, he's rough around the edges but in a man, that's acceptable. Just a bit of polish, a few dancing lessons and he should be all that is required to confront troublemakers.  Or so he thought, until he met A. Terrington, and her aunt, and the young Earl Hixworth, the stoic Lord Falconer, his valet, the [ye gadzooks] French Tailor, and was told about chits swooning at his feet.... Suddenly storming a citadel sounded easier, certainly less dignity threatening.

Addie, aka: "Terror Terrington," is a finishing governess for gentlemen.  Having polished her brothers and cousins so they managed acceptable matches, she continues to assist other young men to shine in their best light.  And if she perhaps dabbles in a bit of matchmaking, well, no one has complained yet, have they?  I thought not.  She feels this is her mission, not to mention a convenient means to enjoy the few freedoms allowed to women once they put on their caps.  As she says:  "One snares rabbits, not husbands."  Though she is only twenty-five, keeping in mind the life expectancy of women, I chose to grant plausibility to the Spinster label.  Since she has an aunt, Lady Fareham, ever at her side; willing and able to redress all affronts to propriety, I was fully sold on the gentleman's finishing governess idea.

Ms. Overfield declares in her author's note that she manipulates historical accuracy for this story with regards to the timing of an attempt to recall Wellington from the Peninsula.  The facts she manipulates do not in any way imply she plays fast and loose with the other facts of life.  I appreciate an author that *knows* which historical details can be manipulated and which cannot.

Ross and Addie were endearing and charming - apart or together.  They each had complete lives, enough miles under their belt to know their own worth and a like minded generosity regarding assisting others that was not outrageous do gooding.  They both did what they could to make life better for others; hoping the ripple effect would wash outward.  Ross was a hero I could adore.  Addie was a heroine I admired.  Their future will never be dull and I'm sure they will laugh at themselves as often as they laugh at society.

This is what I call a gentle romance, no sex but a frisson of tension that is just right.  The plot was well played and precisely paced, not once did I find myself impatient or tempted to skim.  I did find myself nodding at the respectful way the gender reversal was handled and the acknowledgement of the unique difficulties of "advising" a man in the Regency era.  Addie may be considered a Terror but frankly, despite others complaining about her sharp tongue, I thought she was a Diplomat of the First Water!

Ms. Overfield's writing is lovely, correct for the times without making the reader struggle.  Dialog flowed well, advanced the tale and kept me in the story.  I was only jarred once and that was when the stupid cat tipped over my coffee mug!  Humor was generously applied to the situation without once diminishing the importance of the mission or characters.  Speaking of characters, they were very well drawn, developed with the story and will linger in your heart like the tune of your favorite song.  Secondary characters nudged the spotlight without snatching it too long - except for the aunt and she deserved every second devoted to her, by golly!  The villain was transparent and quite annoying enough to earn his title.  He got just what he deserved and [o dear, I blush to confess this] I jumped in my seat with an undignified squeal of delight when Ross calmly replied to Addie's query:

"Oh, thee you are Ross," she greeted him with a smile.  "You got my note I gather?"
"Yes, annsachd, I did."  [mwaa haaa haaa - he didn't lie!]

My old biddy eyes are very, very, oh so very grateful for authors willing to embrace the Digital Age with their backlists! I am already squeezing the budget for other books by this author, once you read this one, I bet you'll be doing the same!

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