Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Lord Grenville's Choice by G.G. Vandagriff

My Experience:  B
Synopsis:  Alexander Lambeth, 5th Earl of Grenville, only had eyes for the fair Lady Elizabeth during his first London Season. Unfortunately, Elizabeth’s father brokered her marriage to another. Fancying himself broken-hearted, Alex consented to a loveless union with Lady Felicity, daughter of wealthy Lord Morecombe. 
Five years into his marriage, his first love is widowed, and Alex’s wife seems to believe he will waste no time making Lady Elizabeth his mistress. As Felicity chooses to live apart from him, a surprisingly difficult choice is thrust upon Alex. Whom does he truly desire—the ethereal Elizabeth or the maddening Felicity?

As Bugs Bunny would say:  What a mar-oon Alexander Lambeth, Lord Grenville is.  I wanted to bop him on the head with something extremely heavy and sharp for most of the book.  Sure, he groveled, and did the pretty but even so, how a man could be such an idiot .... well, actually, that was the essence of the story. Man has a choice, will he chose to remain an idiot or grow up and get over himself.  G.G. Vandariff explores the emotions involved in a love triangle with a steady hand, using the tension of the subject to provide an interesting character study as well as a romance consistent with period values.

Married at twenty-one to Felicity and her large dowry, Grenville was still unhappy because the paragon of beauty he adored was married to another. He resented being denied his choice of marital partner, felt cheated and used and took it out on his bride by being a cool, barely present husband.  As the story opens, five years later, he is twenty six, hardly a mature man despite his responsibilities and expectations.  He thought nothing of dashing off with a friend or ignoring propriety to call on a woman; grew angry over being called to account for his behavior, blamed others for failing to see things his way, wanted his wife to always be there when needed - out of his way when he didn't want to be bothered. [I know some forty-six year olds that are exactly the same way, men and women]  

Except in regards to their son and in the bed chamber, he was a Respectable Peter Pan married to the Ideal Wendy.  In the bed chamber, they clicked very nicely indeed but that wasn't enough, not for him, or for her.  I have to say, I admired Ms. Vandagriff acknowledging what so few authors dare.  Good sex is not the same as making love, especially if the days between do not reflect the intimate connection.  Eventually there is the day in and day out to live, that is where the romance can be most enlivening and what she uses to advance the story.

"It was true she had surprised him by being an eager and  passionate lover. She still was. The only time he felt like he  was not disappointing her was in the bedroom. But she wanted  from him what he could not give—his whole heart. As Felicity  appeared to have guessed, Elizabeth still held a large piece  of it, and he supposed she always would."

What isn't really acknowledged, is the fact Felicity  was no older, not really more mature, and [ohgoodgod] in love with him from the very beginning.  At least she had enough sense not to moon about and pine.  Instead, she formed a life and made a home in quiet hopes for someday.  Until her rival's husband dies and her father has a stroke and the in-laws show up, then she confronted the illusion her hopes seemed to be.

"How long could she keep loving someone who loved someone else?  It was madness! She did not want to become a bitter woman. But  the fact was she had always loved Alex with her whole heart.  Now that Elizabeth was free, Felicity had to face the fact  that the chances of him returning her love were less and less."

As modern readers, we tend to focus on the glitter of the Regency, glamming it up with amorous adventures in period costumes.  The truth that men and women were exchanged for alliance and wealth by their own families; married with little more acquaintance than what amounts to days in total, and expected to behave with decorum in public, respect in private and discretion in matters of the heart isn't something we often face, unless it's a back story to overcome.  A woman giving her husband Five Years to wake up and smell the tea might seem like a long time to us but in reality, how much actual time did man and wife spend together?

I kept asking myself WHY she loved him, and spent some time debating whether to continue somewhere around chapter six.  Grenville was just ticking me off!  However, the writing was excellent, the whiny heroine stuff blessedly not present, and  there was enough historical accuracy to believe this story, to actually see these people struggling along.  There were moments when Grenville's character, sense of humor and desire to be more than an imbecile peeped through.  It was enough to keep Felicity [and me] hoping.

I wasn't sorry that I carried on.  Normally misunderstanding tropes make me nuts, but this one didn't.  Because the misunderstandings weren't between the couple, they were within the characters themselves.  This couple talked, sometimes it helped and sometimes it made things worse.  Often, the thoughts put in to words take longer to reach the mind than the ear, or the heart.  Lord Grenville was genuinely confused, aristocratically selfish, and very immature but, even when he was being what I would consider a mar-oon, he was not outside of the ordinary as far as men of his time.  Felicity was  reasoned in her limited expectations, determined in her hope, and foolish in her exhausted grief.  Family interference, friends trying to help that made things worse, and the old flame fanning the entire mess was entirely believable.  [except for the Dr. but even he was credible in a contrived sort of way].

The pacing of the story was well done, the conflicts focused and the development of the characters convincing.  I understood Grenville's baby steps and backsliding.  I sympathized with Felicity's roller coaster of hope, hormones and one-straw-too-many.  Dialog and secondary characters were engaging, descriptions and situations visually and emotionally convincing.  There was a Traditional Flavor that some might find slow but I prefer romance that takes the time to be romantic, even when the hero has to bash his knees, stub his toes and have a two by four smack him upside the head before he figures it out.  And yes, I confess, I like a heroine that is reflective of the way women were prepared for life in the period written.  Felicity was admirable, even when she ran instead of stopping to think things through, and completely aware that there were realities of the time she simply could not ignore.  Yes, the book has a sickly sweet epilogue but that is the Standard now, not the exception, so I live with it and move on, or I try to.

I recommend this book for a thoughtful read, when there's time to ponder the nuances of character and love as it develops over time and with effort instead of springing forth in a glittering rush of lust that no one can control.


  1. I can not stand a maroon hero ... The whole process of him being obtuse and her dealing with it makes my head hurt. It brings out the old lady in me, the one that wants to choke some sense into the main characters long before I hit page 50 lol

  2. Thank you so much for taking the time to write a thoughtful review! I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, if Lord G. Had caught on earlier their wouldn't have been much of a story. In the days of Facebook, I have watched two long-term marriages crumble as men found old fantasy flames and decided on the basis of a few emails to ditch their spouses AND kids. It's hard to believe, I know.

    1. I did enjoy Lord G & Felicity's story and thought about the "all too brief" to be a story issue :g: Truth is always stranger than fiction that is for sure and certain!

  3. Sorry, I just thought of something. Since you love history and would enjoy a more serious treatment of love, try my The Last Waltz:A Novel of Love and War. It's a bargain.