September 14, 2015
Both sides of the mouth.
The Reluctant Governess by Maggie Robinson, is the third in the Ladies Unlaced series and takes place in Edwardian England. Here’s my take on the Edwardian time period. One
would think as time passes, morals would become more flexible and people would relax. However, I don’t think that’s the way things work. I’ve always believed that certain time periods are reactionary to the previous one. I’ve always felt that the Victorian era was a bigggg reaction to the Regency era. Though the Regency time period had lines that weren’t to be crossed, it always seemed to me that the Regency period was wilder than its successor the Victorian period. Of course, there was always Queen Victoria and her strict morals which came into play. So, when the Edwardian time period came into being, people were still struggling with the heavy duty strictures of the previous period. I think those Victorian morals had a really strong grip on the people who followed and even though we moved into the Industrial world with all the inventions and scientific advancements, the mentality and the morals were still pretty much restrictive.
Now why do I say that? I say that because our heroine Eliza is a working woman, a suffragette of sorts and her dream is to someday be a secretary. While her choice of a “career” may strike us as mundane we must remember that 90 years ago for a woman to be a secretary was truly shocking. Secretaries in Edwardian time were mostly men. Even though Eliza is presented as being progressive because of her career choices, to me she seemed to be a heroine who talked out of both sides of her mouth. On one hand, she is a vote-for-women, free-thinking, equal-rights kind of girl, but on the other hand she is an uptight prig of a woman who faints at the sight of nudes and condemns the man painting those nudes. I had a problem liking Eliza; I found her to be pretty much a hypocrite. The only bright spot in her personality was her fondness for the little girl in this story, Sunny.
Sunny and Eliza had great chemistry, however this was a romance surrounding Nicholas and Eliza. And, as much as I tried, I could find no chemistry between the two of them.
I did like Nicholas Raeburn, even though he is a younger son with money. A younger son in romance novels with his own money is rare. Because he’s a younger son with money, he has been able to indulge in a rather hedonist life style, become a painter of nude women, and father an illegitimate child – Sunny. At least he thinks Sunny is his. His mistress at the time had so many men she’s not sure who fathered her daughter, but when she was dying she sent out letters to allllll the men she’d sleep with who could have been the father. Nicholas is the one man who stepped forward to claim Sunny as his own. The relationship between Sunny and Nicholas is one of the bright spots in the book. He’ll do anything for her; he’s pretty much wrapped around her little finger. Because Nicholas is wrapped around that little finger, Sunny has grown accustomed to a lot of freedom and has free range to run wild throughout the house. While Nicholas is not too terribly disturbed by this, he does realize that he needs a proper governess, so he applies to the Evensong Agency for help.
They send him Eliza, temporarily (remember she wants to be a secretary). In the meantime, she accepts the position. When she arrives at his house she is greeted by chaos and nude women. Her reaction is not what one would expect from a “free” thinker.
This story had all the ear-markings of a “could have been” tale. It could have been so much better if Nicholas and Eliza were allowed to be more fully develop or if there had been more of their delightful banter or if villains were not used as a catalyst for the story.
This was a pleasant read, the humor was fun, and I feel there should have been more of it. However I found Eliza to be a hypocrite and her constant judgmental attitude irritating.
Time/Place: 1904 England
Sensuality:Sort of Hot