Saturday, May 13, 2017

Review - The Viscount's Proposal

Original Title: The Viscount's Proposal
Series: The Regency Spies of London, #2
Author: Melanie Dickerson
Published: February 7th, 2017

Publisher: Waterfall Press


This is my third book by Melanie Dickerson, and though I’m willing to give her one more chance, reading Felicity’s story in the next installment of The Regency Spies of London, I think I won’t read anymore by this author. Perhaps it is me, but in two of the three books I read by her, the story was completely predictable (this one included), and although I’ve seen glowing, five star reviews, I can’t give it more than three. Let me explain myself.

In this book, we get to know more about Leorah Langdon, Nicholas’s sister from the first book. I was really eager to read more about her, as I loved her in A Spy’s Devotion, and I had great expectations on her love story, given that the man who would fall in love with her would have to be utterly special, as she wouldn’t accept any less than true passion, after witnessing her parents’ loveless marriage. She’s a strong-willed, spirited young woman. She knows when a rule is worth following, and when it is completely ridiculous or rooted in convention, and she enjoys being unconventional, which is a very modern-day way of thinking, considered out of place in a society like the Regency England one. On the other hand, we have our hero, Edward, lord Withingall, who is exactly the opposite of Leorah. He strictly follows conventions and obeys every rule, reads books about morals, and doesn’t allow himself to do anything that can distract him from his political dignity and career. He speaks his mind, and lives to overcome the scandal that has surrounded his family since his father was killed in a duel with his lover’s husband. He has the talent and the potential to become Prime Minister and doesn’t want anything to distract him from his goal. 

Their story is briefly insinuated in the previous book, when Leorah tells Julia some story to distract her about a man whose hat got ruined when she was riding in Hyde Park and didn’t see him coming; he called her “a reckless hoyden” then, and in this book, we get to know that man was actually Lord Withingall. Right from the start, their encounters are somewhat shocking for him, as she isn’t like any other girl he has ever met, always hearing her saying things that could be considered inappropriate, like calling him a pirate, or an undertaker, for always dressing in black clothes from head to toe, but that’s before they get both involved in the carriage accident in which both are discovered in a compromising position, and hence, gossip and scandal follows. 

There was a point in which I asked, “are they going to explain this any more times?”. I lost track of how many times the carriage accident was explained, over and over again, both by Leorah and Lord Witinghall. I understand that, to avoid a scandal, they kept clinging to their version of what happened, but I think that, after explaining it once, a simple sentence could sum up all the other hundred times they described it, like saying “so Leorah explained to him what had actually happened”, or something of the sort. But instead, we have to read, over and over again, how Leorah broke her wrist when her horse threw her from the saddle and Lord Withingall just happened to be passing by, how the carriage got overturned, how Pugh, the coachman, was killed, how Edward got his leg broken… And there’s a point in which enough is enough. The only moment I justify yet another explanation, because it is actually funny, is when Leorah uses it to provoke Miss Norbury, the woman Edward plans on marrying, because that’s how she is, she enjoys provoking people when they are so stuck to convention and rules, and seeing their reactions. But again, it is like the author tries to convince us, readers, that nothing actually happened in the accident, when in fact, we were there the whole time, and know exactly how things were.

Later on, Lord Withingall discovers that the accident was actually no accident. His carriage was sabotaged as an attempt to kill him. But again, the whole plot around it was absolutely predictable! There was no surprise, whatsoever. The culprits are exactly the suspected ones, and although I was expecting (I don’t know why) some sort of plot twist by the end to prove all of us wrong, there was no such a thing. Perhaps Pinegar’s motive was a surprise, but that it was him, the entire time? No. Villains do not hold any surprise on their identities, you know who they are, and although there is some sort of try into adding a little more suspense, it didn’t work. So, my question is, why trying to create intrigue, if the identities of the villains are revealed from the very first moment? Although they are not said right away, come one, people! It can be seen coming from miles away.

And please, although Rachel Becker wouldn’t say, it was more than obvious than her lover and father of her child was Felton Pinegar! If it would have been Hastings, that would have been a worthwhile plot twist, but no. Again, the author went down the obvious, predictable path.

Oh, and although the series is named The Regency Spies of London, this book has no spying at all, only politics. And there’s also some useless characters that come to the stage, but do absolutely nothing for the story, like Elizabeth Mayson, Felicity’s younger sister, and Miss Agnes Appleby, their aunt. They play no role in the story, they just come into some random scenes, but they don’t add anything new the plot (not in this book, at least, perhaps in the next one they will).

But leaving that aside, let’s go to the part I actually liked very much. Leorah and Edward’s love story is really beautiful, and I loved every minute of it. They are complete opposites, and what enchants Edward about Leorah is that she never feels intimidated by him, and every phrase that could scare away any other woman, for her is a motive of laughter. He sees that she wants her life to mean something, and wants to be loved and wanted utterly for herself. She won’t follow convention just because she has to, and she proved it when she refused his offer of marriage, out of duty. I loved her attitude:

I will not be frightened into making such an important decision simply because idle people have nothing better to do than gossip.” 

It is her unconventionality what makes Edward fall for her utterly and completely. She is unique in a world in which women are only allowed a number of things to do with their lives, being the most important one catching a wealthy husband, and behaving properly, being accomplished in only a few, useless things. But Leorah wants to make her life count, and she doesn’t fear spinsterhood. It’s love or nothing for her, and that’s why I like her. She’s bold and outspoken, and she defies lord Witinghall with her attitude. She’s everything he wouldn’t want in a wife, but discovers she’s worthy of being loved. 

Although short, I loved their brief visit to his castle, and how it was a metaphor of her:

And you don’t think I should change it—flatten those hills over there and make a formal garden?
Oh no. Certainly not. To change the natural landscape would be to take away the wild beauty of the place. Plant a few flowers if you like, but it would be a sin to change the wildness or the freedom of it.

Leorah is beautiful because she’s not formal, and her freedom and wildness are what there’s to love about her. Edward looks at her the entire time as they speak in the castle’s roof, knowing, once more, that he’s lost to her. She took him out of his strict world of rules and stern morals to give him a taste of freedom, and he learned to be a little more like her. His love changed him, and I like when that happens. Otherwise, it is pointless, or it isn’t love.

Their romance has a lot of Jane Austen on it, I recognized lots of things from her books. I never doubted if they would end up together, and there’s some things that bothered me, like his relationship with Miss Norbury. Clearly, he called on her to tell her that he wouldn’t be proposing, after all, but we don’t know for sure. And even by the end of the book, Leorah refused to believe Edward was in love with her, and kept telling to herself why she should care about him, because she actually didn’t… And it kept me rolling my eyes. It gets tiring, and, in my opinion, if there’s something a book shouldn’t be, is repetitive. 

So, in short, I liked this book, but not as much as I was hoping for, and although I will read the next book on the series, just to complete it, I don’t think I’ll read Melanie Dickerson again. If with more than one book, an author proves her stories predictable and somewhat repetitive, then it’s not for me. This one isn’t bad, but it could’ve been better.


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