Laura Kinsale is a legend among romance readers. Even the Smart Bitches gush like fangirls about her work in their book Beyond Heaving Bosoms. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that while I have most of her backlist TBR, until last week the only Kinsale book I’d read was Uncertain Magic. And, tbh, I wasn’t all that impressed by it: yes, the writing was pretty – but the characters and plot were kind of ~meh~.
But I’d read awesome things about Ms. Kinsale’s Lessons in French, published this month after a five year hiatus. So I downloaded a copy for Kindle. Overall, I was very pleased by my reading experience with Lessons in French, despite a technical glitch.
Lady Callista Taillefaire is firmly on the shelf, having been jilted by three suitors. Jilted seems like such a kinder word than dumped, doesn’t it? But the end result is the same – she’s unmarried and stuck in her childhood home with the new Earl (a cousin) and his wife, desperate to be away from them. Trevelyan d’Augustin, her sort-of youthful sweetheart returns to Shelford as the Duc de Monceaux. While everyone in the neighborhood believes he’s won back the lands to accompany the title, in reality he is a successful prize fight promoter who is in England under threat of hanging. He’s been pardoned for forging a note, but only inasmuch as he was spared the hangman’s noose and exiled instead. Why is he still in England? Because he’s come to see his mother in her last days. And thus begins the farce.
Things I enjoyed:
- the smart, quick dialogue between Trev and Callie
- Trev’s pursuit of Callie, and their adventures as children and adults
- the beautiful writing – cry havoc and unleash the hens of war!
- Hubert the bull and his obsession with Bath buns. I sympathize, because Bath buns are tasty! Despite the description given, I pictured Ferdinand whenever I read Hubert’s name in the text. 😀
Things I enjoyed a little less:
- the duchesse’s malaprops – the first couple were cute, but they become progressively less cute and more irritating.
- the epilogue – without giving too much away, I’ll just say that the thing revealed in the epilogue strained credibility and required more suspension of disbelief than I am capable of.
- the constraints that both Callie and Trev put upon themselves when it came to their relationship. Oh, no, I can’t tell her the truth because she’ll waste herself on me! Please, respect her ability to make her own choices. Oh, no, I can’t accept him, I’ll accept another suitor I don’t even like because I want to be miserable – if he doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve then I don’t want him. If they would just communicate rather than making “the best” decisions for each other, the store would’ve been shorter but the characters less irritating.
I’ve read someone describe this as a quiet romance, which boggles me. Quiet? There is a bar fight. And a near riot at the Hereford fair. And a bull let loose in a kitchen, then smuggled away in plain sight. At one point, Bow Street Runners appear and stake out likely locations to find Trev. How on earth is that a quiet romance?
As a reader, I had a similar feeling about the recent releases by Sherry Thomas, Meredith Duran and Courtney Milan, all books that have received rave reviews. Beautifully written, all of them, which I appreciated as I read the books…but they weren’t keepers for me, or books that I’ll go back and re-read. I’m sure it’s a commentary about my (low) tastes in reading, rather than a reflection of the books. Perhaps also it combines with unrealistic expectations of the book, based on the glowing, squeezing fangirl love found across Romanceland. I’m contrary like that, y’know.
Anyway, Lessons in French is a fun romp and a bit of a farce. Charming, very charming. B read for me.