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The adventures of a fiesty Regency girl,
This review is from: The Reluctant Countess (Paperback)
A spirited young aristocratic lady, Eugenie Palmer, determines to take her future into her own well-manicured hands. Having lost her closest relatives, Eugenie has the choice of becoming the ward and the wife of a Count whom she has never met or assembling her inheritance and striking out on her own. Of course ladies in the early nineteenth century, unless you were George Sand or Jane Eyre would never have had the opportunity let alone courage, to take the reins of their lives into their own hands. Eugenie has to escape, to run away so that she will not be coerced into marriage with a man she doesn't even know. She ties together the scarves from several dresses and shinnies out the window. To her dismay, her rope is still some eight feet from the ground. Does she dare jump? But right close by (of course) a handsome gentleman has dismounted from his steed which had lost a shoe. A bit too convenient, but "Countess " is romance literature, so we don't mind. Lord Robert, as he introduces himself, grabs the dangling girl and helps her down. Of course he will turn out to be the Earl, her guardian.
Author Beauvoir evokes well the atmosphere of 1835 London- its excitement, its richness, its sounds, its smells, are woven together with skill. But not its poverty, the ugly side of the coin. Descriptions of homely objects such as beds, gowns, and food incorporate the reader into the scene. The dialects and conversations appear authentic enough, although the author sometimes slips up: I don't think an inn keeper's wife would use the words "per se" for instance, but that is a minor quibble. Author Beauvoir has done her research well, clothing her romance in the proper trappings of late Regency England.
In order to be a proper romance novel there must be a central love story which leads to an emotionally satisfying ending. The phenomenon of falling in love defines and characterizes the romantic novel. You will not find sexual deviates or blood and gore in romance literature. The reader in a sense is transported to a world which never existed and if romantic novels are a sugar coating around the real thing (our real world) the romantic novel aficionado is reading to get a vicarious pleasure based on the love between a man and a woman. He or she-and almost always a she- is escaping reality and the humdrum of every day. The heroine will always be beautiful, the hero will always be handsome. You are swept up and tucked into a cocoon where for a time at least, you are a beautiful princess. And that is the attraction of the romance novel: escape.
Given these remarks, the romantic novel as a distinct genre falls into a category that I for one am judging differently. The coincidences in "Countess" approach the ludicrous and yet the novel is satisfying as a romantic escape for the reader. There is reasonable suspense as the path of love in books as well as life is strewn with thorns. There are several interesting characters introduced, including peers and servants, as well as a blonde villain who is intent to kidnap Eugenie as he lusts not after her but her money.(Most romantic novel heroes are dark like Lord Byron, it's the ladies who are blonde).
Eugenie is presented to Queen Adelaide at court and the orchestration of such an event is well described in the book. Protocol rules and the gowns of those presented must be white and must have a train of exactly three feet. If they don't have a tiara to go on top of an elaborate hairdo they are not admitted .Debutantes must bow so low to royalty that their knee under the sumptuous gown almost strikes the floor and they have to scramble back up with grace. There are many descriptions of Eugenie's sartorial splendor, including a purple riding habit. Eugenie loves horses as do many young women around the world and several horses have found a place in the plot. Romance literature devotees won't be disappointed by "The Reluctant Countess."