Thursday, October 9, 2014

Miss Fellingham's Rebellion by Lynn Messina

My Experience:  A
Synopsis:  Twenty-four-year-old Catherine Fellingham keeps a low profile—in society and in her family. A practical young woman, she leaves the spotlight to her beautiful younger sister and prefers quiet pursuits such as reading. But all that changes the moment she learns of her mother’s very excellent scheme to keep the family out of debtors’ prison. The scatter-brained Lady Fellingham has been selling commissions in the king’s army, and Catherine must shake off her indifference in order to save her family from a potentially ruinous scandal. Lady Arabella, her mother’s partner-in-crime, readily agrees to abandon the plan but only because she finds a more absorbing project: nabbing a husband for Catherine. 

Catherine pays no head to her ladyship’s lavish claim that she’ll have her engaged by the end of the season, but that’s before she overhears Arabella instructing the handsome nonpareil, the Marquess of Deverill, to flirt outrageously with her and bring her into fashion. Mortified, Catherine resolves not to be taken in by the charming marquess's cruel game—and even implements a very excellent scheme of her own. This sensible young lady seems to have everything well in hand. Or is she about to learn that her heart is a great deal less practical than her head?

I *love* late bloomer romances.  Add in a family that excels at unremarkable thoughtlessness, understandable irritability with foibles and I am a happy reader.  Miss Fellingham's Rebellion fit my craving for a fun, sensitive read quite nicely.  The first paragraph of the sample snagged me and I didn't bother to read more just hit "purchase with 1 click."  I was not disappointed.

Catherine Fellingham is content with her life, or rather her avoidance of scenes, society and her family.  Her first season was an exercise in suffering and disappointment. Shy and awkwardly tall, she emotionally buckled under the glitter and expectations. Six years later, a crisis forces her to come out of her comfort zone and shell, the results are cozily predictable but delightful to read.

After confronting the crisis and a bewildering conversation with her mother’s partner in crime, Catherine is still unsettled and steals away with her younger sister to snatch a bit of perspective.  They have a wonderful time at The British Museum and an encounter with a handsome gentleman.  Julian was everything Catherine might have once imagined as a young girl.  Of course, she is a sensible woman....

"She’d had to remind herself that this had been an interlude, merely another unexpected moment in a day that had turned out to be full of unexpected moments. Tomorrow, life would return to normal .... But, oh, it was nice to have today."

Later, doing the usual social rounds, Catherine comes face to face with him - after over hearing a conversation between him and her mother's bosom friend describing her in horribly unflattering terms.

Good God,” he said, sounding properly appalled. “You want me to bring into fashion a woman who has been out for six years? I might be a leader of the ton, but I am not a magician. Even I cannot make gold out of dross.”

“She knew she should tread carefully, but she couldn’t help wondering if this time it could be different. She was older and, as her mother liked to remind her, more mature. Surely she could handle herself better and not be so overwhelmed and bewildered by the social whirl. Lady Courtland believed Deverill’s attentions alone would make her fashionable. What if it was true?”

Of course, knowing she was a project meant her heart would be protected, therefore, she would go along with events, do her best to step out of her shell and “hate him later.” Her family is stunned.  Julian is surprised. Catherine is experiencing life with a more mature perspective.  Discovering her maxim: “I have just found that it is far easier to want nothing than to pine for everything” isn’t quite the truth she believed.

Time moves along, their not-really-a-courtship exposes them to glimpses of each other as well as others, including themselves. Catherine is captivated; Julian is not faking his interest and a confrontation regarding what she knows insures everyone is hurt. But a rotten Mr. Snakey-guy blackmails one of her sisters and frankly, "There were other things in the world more important than love—such as family and loyalty and her sister’s happiness and thwarting evil."

[I think this was one of the best heroine lines written, ev-ah]

This romance is told exclusively from Catherine’s perspective but not [thank the author] in first person droning.  We are granted impressions of the other character’s thoughts and feelings but they are all filtered through Catherine’s perspective.  Strangely enough this totally works in this book.  I didn’t feel cheated since we occasionally have the omniscient narrator dispensing bits of important facts in a totally hilarious manner. There are no two dimensional characters, even the butlers have a personality and the villain is so very typical of society gentlemen at the time you can’t really hate him, only be grateful heroes of romances are above such pedantic conformity.

I loved her mother, caught between husband, children, servants and her own expectations of what life should have been while determinedly doing what she can with what she has to work with.  Catherine may be convinced her mother is a weak shrew living in fantasy-land building romance where it doesn’t exist but uh, Mother *was* right in the end!  In other words, the secondary characters are fleshed out despite the limit of perspective because Ms. Messina shows, not just tells, the story.  I thoroughly enjoyed watching everyone’s eyes open, seeing each other as individuals related but not limited to labels of sibling or child or parent - especially our dear heroine.  Everyone but poor ole father [he’s sadly an older reflection of Mr. Snakey-guy] grew, matured, and embraced the clearer vision of each other.  What a nifty family.

Julian was endearing despite his crime of being so perfect [Ms. Messina has issues with perfect men but they work for me so I’m not complaining]. You can see a future for Catherine and him without effort, and enjoy his sense of humor.  When the chips are down, he’s there.  When he’s in the right, he’s not shy about it and conversely, when he’s wrong, he admits it without herculean pressures required to do so.  He’s not above pushing when he feels slighted and not so perfect he doesn’t snarl and say stupid things when hurt.  All in all, he really was the perfect gentleman for dear Catherine and their happily ever after made me smile beyond closing the book.

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