Friday, June 3, 2016

A Second Spring by Carola Dunn

My Experience: B
Synopsis:  Four Regency Novellas: Widows and spinsters find love at last.
[Originally published by Zebra in A Mother's Joy, Flowers for the Bride, A June Bride and Wonderful and Wicked]

Carola Dunn is one of my favorite authors.  My keeper file has 20 of her delightful romances.  Her writing is always well-paced and subtly humorous.  Her characters are real people, whether they have titles or not, and though she writes the standard tropes, they feel refreshed under her hand.  That she took time to consider the mature lovers makes my happy place very sunny indeed.

The Dower House
And could anything be more foolish than a middleaged widow in love?
Mother and daughter with twins, both widowed, retire to the Dower House when the baron is discovered after an extensive search and returns from Canada.  He brings along his nephew, both nabobs from their years abroad, and both are complete gentlemen.  Which is a good thing since tragedy strikes the Dower House and they all must share the manor.  Of course, it won't hurt mother's match making plans to have all her eggs in one basket.

Despite this being a novella, time was allowed for romance to develop.  How I adore stories that allow for interest to transform to romance!  Alas, because it is a novella, 88% of this happens off page.  Topping that, we find two romances in this story, so the romance is mostly focused on the younger folks.  There are circumstances, internal drama and a bit of eye-rolling trope nonsense but overall it is a well done novelette.  Totally a comfy read without stress or angst.  Well, except, there is a bit of math involved at the end, you might have a flash back to painful elementary school moments.

A Conformable Wife
"But above all, what I’m looking for is simply a conformable wife.”
I cannot live with a man who never laughs,”
A bride-to-be has second thoughts and dashes off the day before her wedding to what she fears is an emotionless man.  Her flight is interrupted by a highway man that steals her horses and leaves her on foot.  Fortunately, she brought along her trusty doggie and the two of them begin tracking the villain.  Meanwhile, feeling miffed and unlovable, the groom-to-be tracks her down and they continue on her quest.  There's nothing like traveling together to really get to know someone.

There was excellent background for the characters of this story.  Plenty of time for romance to begin, but they spent it apart with only 2 letters between them.  One day and night on the road and they were in love.  I enjoyed the Much Ado references and the dialog when they finally spent time together but it just wasn't enough, even in a novella, for the grand declaration.  The wedding scene was pricelessly perfect.  Not bad, just not enough.

The Aunt and the Ancient Mariner
You are not elderly!” Chloe blurted out, starting to her feet in her agitation. 
“And you are not Miss Bannister!” he retorted. 
His frowning face swam before her eyes. Her limbs turned to water. “I believe I am going to faint,” she faltered, and she did.

Dear Aunt Chloe, save me!  A letter from her niece sends Spinster surrogate mother to London and the Season.  It also sends her into the path of her belligerent brother and the charming ex-Captain.  A elderly man is not the romantic hopes of her niece but brother will hear none of his daughter's pleas.  So, auntie decides to approach the old man with hopes to persuade him that niece is not the right young woman for him.  A person of gentle temperament, auntie struggles to keep brother placated while trying to squeeze in attempts to dissuade the not-so-elderly suitor from her niece, even as she finds no fault with the man herself.

This is a favorite of mine.  I loved it the first time I read it and still do the hundredth time.  Poetry, music, and excellent dialog, plus a man that recognizes the value of a gentle spirit meeting a woman that is loving and finds joy in many little things is just about the most perfect recipe for romance.  This is one of the few novellas I don't end up feeling was too short.  It seemed just right to me.

Pirate Pendragon
You are quite sensible for a girl. I shan’t make you walk the plank if you don’t want to.” 
“You haven’t got one,” she reminded him, and he laughed.

Near the closing of her daughters season, a widow reflects on her first love while contemplating her life-to-be with an empty nest.

This is a nice flashback story of childhood friendship that blossomed to love but was thwarted, so it isn't really a mature lovers romance.  It's pleasantly told, makes you laugh and sigh, but the actual romance is all "Previously, on Pirate Pendragon."  I would've enjoyed it more if the story focused on the people they became rather than the children they were, but it's a novella, so there you go.  There's also a big secret that gets revealed and is left ... emotionally unexplored and that didn't set well with me.  It's an enjoyable read but I suspect after the Aunt and Ancient Mariner, no story would seem as well done.

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