Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Review - A Lady of Quality

Original Title: A Lady of Quality
Series: Ladies in Waiting, #3
Author: Louise M. Gouge
Published: July 1st, 2013

Publisher: Love Inspired Historicals

I wanted to like this book. I really did. But, as expected, it just was more brain candy, dashed with a little mystery, and a plot that, sadly, fell short. It definitely had potential to be better, but I felt like the author could have done so much more, and in the end, she just didn’t, going down the obvious road, instead of the original one. But, again, it’s not like my hopes were crushed. Just like with the other books in the trilogy, I knew where I was getting into.

For starters, Catherine du Coeur, the heroine herself, was a full promise. The very first chapter shows her being brave enough to pose as a man and enter a fencing academy, ready to do anything to avenge her father’s fall from grace. She is presented as courageous, and independent, right from the get go, but that soon evolves into a damsel in distress, prone to get herself into trouble, from which she has to be rescued by the hero. And… what can I say? I definitely expected more from a heroine who seemed so resourceful, so smart and creative, good at fencing, unlike most women at her time –and to the point of saving the hero during the highwaymen scene– and clever enough to manage to escape after being kidnapped and locked up. Don’t tell me this had no potential, that it couldn’t have been better. That we could have been spared the damsel in distress in favor of a woman who seemed perfectly capable of solving her problems herself.

The hero, Lord Winston –who, by the end, changes his name to Lord Hartley– was not everything I was expecting him to be, but he didn’t fail in being the dashing hero who comes to the rescue of the troubled lady. Just as it happened in the other two books in the trilogy, the idea of marriage comes before you can even grasp what the story is going to be about. It’s chapter two, and Winston is already thinking of Catherine as wife material. I mean, even he himself thinks it is too soon for that. But, by the end of the book, they actually say that he and Catherine have only known each other for seven weeks. And that is definitely too soon, even for the Regency period, to say you love someone and want to spend the rest of your life with her/him, when not two minutes earlier you were ready to kill him (speaking for Catherine).

Plus, at one point, Winston is thinking he needs a wife, but none of the girls he meets attract his attention. And it says:

Perhaps if she were plain, she would not be inclined to silliness. He would leave the silly girls to their soldiers.

And my first thought was WHAT?? Beauty equals IQ level now? I get that a plain girl may be less used to being praised and everything, but that is honestly not fair. Being beautiful does not mean you are stupid, the same way being ugly doesn’t make you smarter. Catherine Hart is not a stupid girl, and yet, she’s beautiful. That statement, from Winston’s side, is so ridiculous, that I want to punch him in the face!

Plus, Winston had moments in which he was unbelievably dumb! At one point he thinks Catherine reminds him of the boy in the fencing academy, who did not want to reveal his face, and even after she literally grabs a sword and saves him from the highwaymen, fighting with unusual skill, HE STILL DOES NOT CONNECT THE DOTS. *face-palm* The villain has to tell him about it, and only then, he realizes it! Oh my God, how stupid can you be? What has to happen for you to actually understand it?

Another thing that bothered me in this book was the constant repetition. It seemed that author was unable to think of anything original, so she kept using the same elements, over and over again. For example, every single time Winston and Catherine planned to go outside, something happened to them: Catherine getting attacked, the carriage crash, and the highwaymen. That is honestly a lot for a romance novel. And although they say that, in the second accident’s case, it was clearly something planned, that someone meant to harm Winston, it never gets clear. Which leads me to talk about the villain, Mr. Radcliff. Did he plan those incidents? But, aside from that, it’s completely obvious that is him. All the time. The mystery is not good, because there is no room to doubt anything, and honestly, the guy’s reason? COME ON!! Making all that mess, only because Catherine’s father married this Miss Beecham, whom he wanted to wed? Moreover, that woman does not appear in the entire book, we only have her name, and hence, we don’t know anything about her, nor about her story with Radcliff, as to think, perhaps, that they had an especial bond, but she was forced to marry du Coeur, and was unhappy for the rest of her life, when she actually loved Radcliff. I mean, there’s NOTHING there that justifies Edgar’s actions. No insight, no delving into the past, not a single word to tell us that there was a real damage because that marriage could never be. And to care about something like that, I honestly need to know more.

As for the story behind Winston’s parents bad relationship… *face-palm* It was not serious enough as to justify that his father –a cold, cruel man– banished his mother to the country, never allowing her to go to the city, only because she told him –and I quote– that “He had enjoyed his youth and was cheating me out of mine.”. Seriously? That’s it? Oh my God! One would think she had murdered someone! And again, we find ourselves with wasted potential. Because, actually, Winston not being his father’s son (as I thought it would be revealed) may have been a somewhat worthwhile plot twist, putting the character in real danger: no longer an heir, with no money or title, marriage prospects in tatters, to the point that the only woman who would have him wouldn’t care about it, truly loving him for himself… You know, real consequences to real difficulties, and two people fighting for their love in a society in which marriage is just another day in the market.

I think I said this in another review, of another book, but I think that, if there’s something a book shouldn’t be, is repetitive. And A Lady of Quality may be one of the most repetitive books I’ve ever read. I lost track of how many times Catherine said that Winston had ruined her father and she had to make him pay for it, constantly reminding herself that she should not have feelings for him. At one point, it says:

She struggled to subdue her giddy emotions, for she must not forget that this man was her enemy.

Ok, are you saying it any more times? Because, for the love of God, I get it!!

However, I liked one or two things about this book. They don’t make up for the shortcomings in the whole story, but I want to mention them either way.

Just like in other Christian books I’ve read, God uses an accident to make people stop for a minute and spend time with Him. We often complain God doesn’t give us what we want, but as the same time, we do not spend time alone with Him to actually understand why not, to LISTEN to what He wants to tell us. Plus, this book, focused mostly on revenge, is a reminder of what God says in the Bible:

Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19).

At certain point, Catherine drops her desire for vengeance, getting to know the truth, which is not the case with Radcliff, who ends up in jail. But with his death due to the fevers that, by the time period, ravaged prisons and slums, the heroes end up not carrying the guilt for the villain’s death. Letting God take up the problem with His wisdom, they spared Radcliff’s blood on their hands, which, in general, is a good message. One the Blakemores helped to deliver, as they were my favourite characters in the entire book, not only because of their protection and care over Catherine –knowing the truth the whole time and not letting her do anything stupid–, but because they were a happy couple, and they loved and cared for each other during the whole story.

And finally, a few things that that felt out of place, or lacking.

The first one, what are these characters doing, dancing a waltz? It’s so anachronistic that I have to mention it. As romantic as waltzes are in historical romances, in Regency England, it was considered improper, and the upper classes did not dance it. Already in the previous book, Greystone sees his mother dancing the waltz with his uncle, and that is wrong! Especially for a woman like Lady Greystone (but that is another story). They should not be dancing something that, actually, was frowned upon.

The second one, Greystone’s cameo by the end, coming to help Winston look for Catherine, who had been kidnapped by the villain. He does nothing. I could have cut him out of the scene, without making any difference in the plot.

The third one, I was expecting to know something about Anna and Major Grenville, from the first book, or at least, a little about Beatrice and Lord Greystone, since they had their own stories, and it would have been nice to know a tiny bit of what happened after their happy ending.

So, long story short, I had enough brain candy for now. I was hoping I would be surprised by this book, and that it would be deeper than what the cover suggested (you know, don’t judge a book by its cover), but it’s not that I’m crushed because it wasn’t. My expectations weren’t that high, after all. But I’ll repeat: it could have been so much better! I recommend it if you like Regencies, it’s entertaining enough as to keep you busy for a while, and take your mind off reality when you need a break. But, sadly, not much more

Thank you so much for reading!
See you soon!


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