July 18, 2016
Big Treasures in small packages.
What a nice read! In A Gentleman Never Tells, Eloisa James presents us with a charming short story. For those of you following along, this one is loosely connected to the Essex sisters, and I do mean loosely - so don't go wracking your brains trying to remember. Just sit back and enjoy.
I am always impressed with an author when they can come up with a good short story and Ms. James as given us a full, well-written tale with characters who seem to be fully developed. On top of that, the romance part of the book made me smile. This story was a delight.
We have Oliver Berwick, a bachelor who has inherited an outrageous niece. His brain-think while his niece is nattering on was pretty funny. I'm hoping we will see more of this funny teenager in the future. Anyway, Oliver and his niece have been "invited" to a house party. At the house party he becomes immediately interested in Lizzie, Lady Trout. Lizzie is a widow and she wants to stay that way. She has hidden herself away from people; her protection is her books. In her books she finds a place where she belongs and there isn't anyone there to humiliate or degrade her.
Lizzie has not had very good luck in the man department. Her husband died in his mistress' arms. Now while that's bad enough, from the very beginning of her marriage her husband made it very clear that he wanted nothing to do with her. He even blamed Lizzie for his deficiency in the Mr. Toad department. So, in this case we have a legitimate virgin widow. Needless to say, Lizzie viewed herself as a failure. Hurt and dejected, she returned to her father for support. Her father's reply was also rejection, telling her she had to return to her cheese-wad husband. So, Lizzie returned to live with her husband, who in turn lived with his mistress. Not only did he return to his mistress, he was very public about it. It is not at all surprising that Lizzie has become absorbed into the world which books can create. It is also this Lizzie who Oliver falls in love with and presides to help Lizzie see herself as she actually is.
I adored Oliver and Lizzie. They brought out the best in each other. There was plenty of humor throughout this short story. Oliver had a wonderful sense of humor, he was kind and any woman would easily fall in love with him. Lizzie had more angst in her life and was pretty down on herself in the beginning. But under Oliver's gentle hand, she blossoms. She turns into a woman who knows what she wants, knows she has more to offer people and decides on her own that Oliver is the right person for her. Ms. James as created a very memorable couple in just a few short pages. Best of all there's not enough space for a prolonged "I can't marry you because..."
The secondary characters are also fun. Lizzie's sister Cat had a very strong personality. I do admit there were times when Cat almost journeyed into overbearing territory. But I think Cat was desperately worried about her sister and was trying to help in the only way she knew how. Once again I think it helped that Cat's aggressive behavior was in a short story and not a full-length novel. If she had been given a longer time, she probably would have become an unlikable character. The most enjoyable secondary character in the book was Oliver's niece Hattie. Hattie has quite a personality. She's talkative, funny, witty but also wily. Hattie seems to have a underhanded way of getting what she wants and I hope we see more of her in future books.
Overall - I highly recommend this little gem. It was a fast read, nothing was overdone and the couple hit just the right chord with me.
Time/Place: England 1826