Monday, February 24, 2020

Review - A Proper Companion

Original Title: A Proper Companion
Series: Ladies in Waiting, #1
Author: Louise M. Gouge
Published: June 1st, 2012

Publisher: Love Inspired Historicals

This is the kind of book I call “brain candy”, where you don’t have to look beyond the cover to know how it will be, which, truth be told, is the case with every single romance book (both historical and contemporary) in the Love Inspired Series. Sometimes, this kind of read is just what you need. It’s fluffy, romantic, and not very complex, perfect for when you need a break, and it will keep you entertained for a while, even when it’s not that big of a deal.

In short, it is a sweet Regency romance, completely clean, and proper. Sometimes even too much. As I told you, the cover itself is everything you need to know how the story will be like. Except that Anna Newfield, the heroine, is never, ever, dressed in pink. Never. She is in mourning the entire time, always in black and gray, as the book opens with her father’s funeral. In general terms, I liked her, but I can’t say I loved her. She is sweet, and nice, and everyone who meets her, likes her. I get that she is the daughter of a minister, and grew up with every possible good quality taught to her since she was born, but no one is realistically that selfless, and good. She always thinks of others first, and that is pretty much what makes Edmond Grenville fall in love with her, but Anna… I mean, she was not as deep as I was expecting her to be. She was supposed to be this brokenhearted person over her father’s death, and his brother missing in action in America, and yet, when she becomes Lady Greystone’s companion, it randomly says:

Clearly she must not comment on anything unless asked. But, oh, how hard that would be when so many things sparked her interest, from the squirrels gathering acorns in the woods to the children playing outside the wood frame houses.

What are you, a Disney princess from the 30s? Oh, my God *face-palm*

This book was completely predictable, but I won’t complain a lot, because, from the moment I picked it up, I knew what I was getting into. But I would like to point a few things out. The fact that a book belongs to the Christian fiction genre does not mean that God has to be mentioned in every single page. It’s not like the reader has time to forget about the character’s faith and need to pray, anyway (which is not wrong), but sometimes the Christian content was too much for a romance novel. Obviously, the story is clean and wholesome. But to the point in which the characters tend to think and talk too much, instead of acting. Too much telling, and little showing for my taste. There’s a lot of building up in Anna and Edmond’s relationships, with them enjoying each other’s company and discovering how unique the other is, but not being able to talk about how they feel because of this or that roadblock. They barely act on their love. And they never, ever kiss. I get that they did not want to kiss in a church (by the end), but, I mean… they had a whole carriage ride to get there. I shouldn’t be the one to explain to them it is the right moment to share the kiss you’ve been thinking about for the whole book. Have half a brain, and you’ll get there.

As for Major Edmond Grenville, he was a perfect Regency gentleman, with both its advantages and disadvantages, as a third son, and I actually found him to be very human, with all the doubts and hesitations that a person like him would have, that is, not knowing what do with his life, torn between following his heart and his own decisions, and fulfilling his mother’s expectations and plans for him. His dilemma felt realistic, and I could understand the knot formed in his mind, because how is it that no one cares about him because he is the third son, but at the same time, they all want to make the decisions for him, choosing his path and saying “do this, or that”? I understand if he’s begging his relatives to please, make up their minds. And I liked that, in the end, he was able to stand up for himself, face his mother, and say “this is not what I want, nor what I think I should be doing”. Good for him. Making the decision of not fulfilling the expectations of others is not only a problem found in the Regency era, but in the history of humanity, and sometimes, it’s one of bravest things we can do in life.

In general, this book hinted many interesting things that would have been good to know about, had the book been longer. All it has are hints of things, but never any deepening on them. Like with Lady Greystone’s bitterness, which led her to become a robot, ruled exclusively by duty. In fiction, when someone is like this, it’s because of some tragedy or interesting fact in their pasts, but here, her attitude is never truly explained. There’s a tiny insinuation that she was never loved, nor by her father or her husband, and that she may have been in love with her husband’s brother in the past. But again, everything is very vague. We never get any details about her oh, so terrible past that led her to be this unfeeling automaton. And since she seemed to love her eldest son more than the other two, I thought that, perhaps, he may be this Uncle Grenville’s son. But again, nothing about it. The opportunities to make the story richer and more complex were wasted!

Actually, that happens a lot. Edmond, Lord Greystone, and their mother, the three of them hint a difficult past, or at least, one in which their conduct was reprehensible. But we never get to know what could have been so terrible. And the mother! One would think that Anna came to this family to change things, to transform that attitude with her sweetness, following God’s plan through (and in despite of) her pain. But the book ends with Lady Greystone being exactly the same person she was when it started, not moved at all by Anna, the supposed heroine. Again, they were both good opportunities to deepen the plot, but they ended up going down the drain!

One thing I thought would go as usual and I was surprised when it didn’t, was the elder brother’s sickness. Since Edmond was the forgotten third son, his inheritance was not a big deal and he had no women interested in marrying him. But when his brother fell ill, I thought the usual, cliched plot would follow: him dying, and Edmond becoming suddenly rich and a catch. But it didn’t happen, which was good! But… still, the whole sickness thing led nowhere, it didn’t really change the plot, or the character, whatsoever. Nothing comes from it. I mean, the man gets closer to God thanks to Anna’s intervention, but from then on, he is only background noise, just as the minister brother, and his wife, Mary.

And well, the surprisingly miraculous ending in which Anna discovers the story her mother never told her, that revealed a rich grandfather who left her money before he died. Miracle? Perhaps. But it doesn’t work for me. She has nothing, and no one, and suddenly, BOOM!! Fifty pounds a year, from a deceased relative she never knew and didn’t want to have anything to do with her family, and she’s not destitute anymore.

Bravo! *sarcastic applause*

Oh, and another thing. Apparently, Anna’s brother, the perfectly brave and Christian Peter Newfield, was dead in America after saving Major Grenville’s life. But they said it SO MANY TIMES, that he was obviously alive. I never doubted it for a second. And it turned out to be true. Great.

So, in short, this book is not as bad as I thought, but again, I did not have a lot of expectations on it. I will read the rest of the trilogy, as this are the kind of book I’m needing lately. Fluffy, romantic, books, that I can read with a weary brain that needs a break. Hope they are good!


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