Friday, May 27, 2016

Regency Road Trip, a Novella, by Joyce Harmon

My Experience: B-
Synopsis: After a long absence and a premature declaration of death, Colonel Lord Salford returns from the dead to find his estate in ruins, thanks to his cousin and presumptive heir, a gambler and a scoundrel. In order to protect his estate from future ruin by his corrupt cousin (and avoid a marriage of convenience), the Earl enlists the aid of his friend, retired governess Eliza Merryhew, in a quest to locate a missing heir. 
Miss Merryhew’s former pupil set her up for life, and never has she been more comfortable....or more bored. Years of travel, while often precarious and even dangerous, gave her a taste for adventure, and now she is restless with the sedate gentility of her daily routine. So she is eager to join Lord Salford on his mission. 
To keep their search from public notice, they travel incognito -- Miss Merryhew as a Baron’s widow, and the Earl as her devoted manservant Gervase. 
Together these two will prove you’re never too old for adventure, or for romance.

Part of The Feather to Fly With Series  You don't need to read it first - but you'll want to read it after.

I’m sure I must have mentioned this before, so perhaps it’s slipped your mind that I did not intentionally get shot in the head.” - The Earl of Salford

No spoilers, you're safe to click

This is just the sort of adventure I like. There’s no danger involved, and we needn’t fear the authorities because we’re not breaking any laws. I had a lovely conversation with that nice young constable in Heathfield without a single qualm. Traveling is delightful, I’ve been away from England for so long, and how comfortable this coach is! And our accommodations have been excellent as well.” She chuckled.

While the earl is away on his secret mission, the sister will make a match for him so there will be an heir instead of a cousin to inherit.  Unfortunately, the match sister-dearest is arranging is no more to the liking of the young woman than it is to the earl.  So, she bolts from the family home to seek out her aunt's support and along the way has carriage trouble.  Wasn't it wonderful that Merry and Salford just happen to find her and offer assistance?

He couldn’t help resenting Miss Twilling’s presence, and had to remind himself that the situation was not her fault. No, he thought darkly, it’s Amelia’s fault! He’d certainly have something to say to her when this expedition came to an end. What the deuce did she mean by noising his private affairs all about the provincial districts, to such effect that she put a harmless young woman into precipitate flight?

This was actually the book that set me off on my Olde Biddy Quest.  Reading about a delightful woman of intelligence in her late 50s actually having a romance with a man that has lived on both sides of rigid class system, not to mention served his country, family, and assisted his friends in their hour of need was something I couldn't wait to do.

Ms. Harmon still wows me with her writing.  The crisp tones and the atmosphere is perfectly in tune.  She has respect for the historical accuracy and I greatly admire her bold plotting that she conceals with the lace of a rapid developing twist here, turn there, and humor everywhere.  Her characters are fun, painted with broad strokes and behave just as you expect - until they don't and then, of course, you knew they would grow that way all along.  

That said, I avoid novellas.  They never satisfy me and leave me feeling out of sorts.  For this reason I very seldom review them unless it is an accidental purchase, which is something that happens now and then.  In those cases, I try to be as gracious as my mother would expect me to be if someone served me half of a piece of pie left over from day before Thursday.  I knew this was a novella when I bought it ... but ... it was Joyce Harmon and a chance to enjoy Merry and the General again, so I snatched it up.  I've re-read it three or four times but it doesn't make me any happier, just resolved to never purchase another novella again, no matter who the author is.

Unfortunately,  actual romance between Merry and the General happens off page and must be read between the lines of ensuring comfort, planning strategy, or amusing commentary.  You read about them talking, conversing while playing chess, sharing memories while riding companionably in the carriage on their quest, but you don't have the privilege of reading any of it.  His proposal is sweet, her acceptance is sweet, but there was no kiss or even a hug, just clasped hands.  Perhaps I expected too much.  Yes, these are restrained people, not given to excess anything but come on ... they couldn't have one kiss?  Would it risk squicking out the youngsters so it got chopped in the edit?  ::sigh::

And though I enjoyed the characters of Letitia and Dr. Marrow ... I hated them the instant I realized they would steal the thunder of my favorite couple.  I usually enjoy multiple romances in one book.  I'm not stingy - I want everyone to be happily-ever-after'd.  But since this is a novella and only 83% of the book, the rest being a sample chapter for the next, I really wanted to focus on the Road Trip and the Romance of Merry and the General.  Instead, I felt cheated for both stories and used when I realized 17% of the book was a sample for a book I'd already bought.  

It's the way things are now.  You pay to be enticed to your next purchase.  In this case I paid that  $2.99 price because I respect the author's work and well ... I admit, I have yet to read the next book though it is on my reader because I just can't wipe the bitterness from my heart, yet.  

So, my dears, it is a sweet story, with excellent writing and two exceedingly lite-romances packed snugly in one.  Don't expect more than that and you should be fine.  And I thank Ms. Harmon for setting me off on a quest that might not end any time soon....

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