Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Mad Harringtons by Jane Myers Perrine

Note: I received a NetGalley copy of this book in exchange for an honest review
My Experience:  A
Synopsis:  Aphrodite Herrington has always been the prim and sensible member of an otherwise outrageous family—her parents frequently display an unseemly amount of public affection, while her siblings must forever be rescued from their own compromising situations. And as much as she loves them, she’s grown weary of being their keeper and wishes only to find a steady man with whom she can have a calm and quiet marriage. Thankfully, the very staid and predictable Frederick Horne has made just such a proposal to her.
Thomas, Viscount Warwick, is everything Frederick is not. As one of society’s most scandalous rakes, Warwick has a reputation for openly moving from one flirt to another without a care for their well-being. With a bemused smirk he’s vowed never to fall in love himself, but happily joins his cousin Frederick at their family estate to celebrate the forthcoming announcement of Frederick’s betrothal to Aphrodite.
But Warwick and Aphrodite share a secret from their past, a chaste yet meaningful kiss that broke her heart and left him wanting more. As Aphrodite’s family descends on the estate in their usual chaotic fashion and all the partygoers strike up new and surprising liaisons, a suddenly love-struck Warwick and passionately awakened Aphrodite must decide whether to throw caution and common sense to the wind to embrace the promise of a true love they’ve found in each other.

There are many tropes in historical romantic fiction.  One I generally find amusing is:  Woman desires matrimony.  So, of course, She chooses the most Unsuitable Suitor for herself while longing - consciously or not - for someone that everyone else in the story would open a vein for, if only he'd look their way.  Intelligent, beautiful, of sound emotional and mental health; She can't see the forest for the grass framing the path to damnation.  Keeping the reader from despising her for being too stupid to find love even when she trips over it is difficult.  When you add a large family, society and Mommy-Dearest-In-Law, it's a Great Challenge.  Enjoying the bewilderment of all as the conflict escalates to inanity is what makes a Romp worth reading.

Ms. Perrine was up to the Great Challenge. The Mad Harringtons was a completely charming romp.

The family motto of:  "I’m having great fun. Don’t  interrupt an adventure" doesn't sound mad, at least not to me, just a bit irresponsible.  They're wealthy and powerful enough to be so; however, it gives poor sober Aphrodite great distress.  At the rate she's going, hands gnarled from clenching them so tight are sure to be her next plight!

To begin with, after a brief acquaintance, Ditie decides she and Mr. Horne (AKA Unsuitable Suitor) will be comfortable. She gives Mr. Horne encouragement to speak with her father.  Unsuitable Horne meets with her father, everyone is in agreement with one minor point.  Mommy Dearest must approve.  He tells her, "I’d like you to visit our estate, Windwillow, to meet my mother. I’m arranging a small house party for next month and hope that you and your parents and any other members of your family will be able to stay with us for a fortnight. The guests will include only family and a few close friends.”

But there's a snag.  Mother and Father cannot attend the party.  “Mama! Papa! Again?”

"Now, not only would she have to use the time to become better acquainted with her nearly betrothed and meet and impress his mother, she would have to make sure Terpsi didn’t do anything outrageous and that Athena didn’t find a handsome young footman to kiss. “And we can plan your wedding for about nine months from now,” her mother promised. The Herringtons measured time differently from the rest of society, Aphrodite mused. In her family, a year was calculated on a calendar nine months in length."

Upon arrival at Winwillow, she discovers Let's Party is not quite the atmosphere of the gathering.  Mommy Dearest is not at all as Unsuitable Suitor described.  Her brother is in disguise as an Italian Count because he's in hiding from the university, their father, and the magistrate plus his daughter whose dog he dug up for anatomical study.  Did I mention Warwick, the man any women would open veins for is Unsuitable Suitor's cousin?  That's why He's there, representing his father, and ruminating on why He's bothering with Her.  It couldn't have a thing to do with those two weeks, several years ago, when He courted Her, culminating in a kiss and ending with Her avoiding Him.

Of course it couldn't.... Sill, he can't help but admit: "Midnight assignations, mysterious foreigners, the Mad Herringtons. Lord, this was going to be fun!"

Into this fun rides Mr. Callum McReynolds.  He and Terpsichore have issues, volatile issues.  She thinks the way to win love is to parade around half dressed and flirt with other men.  He thinks she's, well, mad. To add to the tension, they decide to put on A Midsummer's Night Dream, a play "for anyone who believes in magic and a love that lives eternally.”

Ditie doesn't believe in magic.  And Warwick knows now, he was a fool then.  Sisters have woes, brother has troubles, and Ditie is sick of fixing everything.  “Look, this is what helping and worrying about you has gotten me. I have wrinkles. I’m only twenty, and I have wrinkles!”  It's a hard knock life for an older sister, trust me....  "She shared a bench with her fiance, but when she turned to speak to him, she recognized that he was a little dull. In that same instant, she realized that he was paying a great deal of attention to her little sister." [insert music in a minor key - not ominous music, it's not that dire, yet]

Running from those woes, she settles in the summerhouse to ponder on problems that she has no idea how to repair.  Warwick appears with an explanation for one of those.  “A few years ago, yes, I felt an attraction for you, but it came to naught.” She moved away from him.   “Yes, it came to naught. Neither of us was ready for that. You were too young, and I was too wild, unable to recognize love. But I never forgot that kiss. I was not ready at that time to care for just one woman. That does not mean that nothing happened." No-o-ow he is ready, but she's engaged, almost.  How thoughtless of her not to wait for him to grow up!  [no one else thinks of that but me - so don't fret dearies, there are many twists, turns and tantrums to come!]

Ms. Perinne's writing is precise and energetic, her dialog sparkles and she stays in her chosen time period.  She does not fall into the dreaded: if only someone said something trap, at least not for the duration of the story.  Such a coil was what brought them all to this pass, true, but she waves her mighty quill pen and Fixes Everything.  I bet she didn't mind in the least.  Her characters were as fun as the family motto and when Unsuitable Suitor stands up to Mommy Dearest you can't help but applaud.  The play is a hoot, the parents delightful and Aphrodite's only real problem is her ridiculous belief that SHE must take care of everyone.  Some people come that way, wired for caretaking.  Learning that others will undoubtedly muddle their way through Just Fine is the hardest thing to accept for folks like Ditie [not that I have any experience with this, nope, not me].  Warwick with his new maturity and willingness to commit is more than able to assist her in this valuable life lesson.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Mad Harringtons.  No goofy epilogue, no hint of a sequel, just a wonderful afternoon's romp with many groans and giggles.  It is already on my keeper list.

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