Monday, November 27, 2017

Review: The Baronet's Wedding Engagement
Let's address the elephant in the room shall we?  2017 has been a crap year.  Every morning sees me slowly gaining consciousness, grabbing my phone, checking the news, and immediately regretting that decision while wondering how on Earth people can be 1) this stupid 2) this ignorant and 3) such deplorable human beings.  Needless to say, it has made reading for pleasure rather difficult.  At a time when I desperately want to fall into a story?  I can't.  I simply can't.  It takes me weeks to get through a category length novel.  At this point, audio books are the only thing keeping me afloat while I'm aimlessly floating adrift at sea.

Which makes the return of Jessica Hart to romance a welcome respite.  A couple years ago Hart put that pseudonym on the shelf to focus on her historical fiction novels written as Pamela Hartshorne.  And since Hart was my absolute FAVORITE author working in the Harlequin Romance line?  I'm not proud - I pouted.  But she's been temporarily lured back by Tule Publishing and is part of a new continuity series centering around a royal wedding in the fictional country of San Michele.  People, I fell into The Baronet's Wedding Engagement.  It was comfort food.  Like macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes had a baby.

Flora Deare left her tiny English village of Combe St. Philip to train as a chef.  She loves London, even had herself a steady boyfriend, and then her beloved grandmother died.  Her grandparents basically raised her, and with her grandfather slipping into dementia, she puts her London life on hold and comes home to take care of him.  Naturally her relationship goes kaput and with her grandfather recently passed, she's staying behind in Combe St. Philip to take care of his beloved cat, eventually sell the cottage, and she bakes amazing pastries for the local merchants to sell.  Then wonder of wonders?  Her best friend gets engaged to a Real. Life. Prince!  Hope wants a "small" wedding at the family estate and she wants Flora to cater it.  So she strikes a bargain with Hope's brother, Max Kennard.  She'll cater the wedding at a cut rate, cook meals when he has his children, and in exchange she can use his huge kitchen for her catering business.  Win, win.

Max Kennard is a man with a lot on his plate.  His family, the pride of Combe St. Philip, took a tumble when his father was sent to prison over financial shenanigans.  The family finances in ruins, it was up to Max to save the day, which meant selling everything not tied down in the hope of saving Hasebury Hall (which he did).  But now his sister is marrying into royalty, wants the wedding at her family home and the place is looking a little worn around the edges.  Never mind the fact that it's largely empty of furniture.  The family scandal had a detrimental effect on his marriage, although his ex and he get on fairly well for the sake of their two children.  He's a loner.  A borderline recluse.  He's a pinstripe suit to Flora's bright vibrancy.  And naturally they are perfect for each other.

What we have here ladies and gents is a quiet romance where the characters spend a lot of time talking to each other - which may sound boring, but isn't.  It's happy sigh wonderful.  Max and Flora are both attracted to each other but recognize they have "nothing in common."  Flora is the life of the party, a tall girl with a big personality so different from the willowy wisps that Max seems to favor.  Max is still struggling under the weight of the family scandal and Flora seems well-adjusted on the surface, but is largely marking time and delaying grief over the death of her grandparents.

Inevitably what happens is that for the sake of satisfying a protocol driven future mother-in-law, Max and Flora pretend to be a couple to smooth things over for Hope.  They're both going to be in San Michele anyway - so why not pretend to be a couple to get the Crown Princess off Hope's back about "seating arrangements."

There's nothing flashy here, it's simply a lovely story, lovingly written, about two nice people.  The royal wedding provides a suitably romantic backdrop with the author taking readers through the English countryside and a fictional Mediterranean country (seriously, how romantic can you get?).  The contrast in personalities play well off each other, and when Max finally admits his feelings to Flora it is One. Big. Happy. Romantic. Sigh.

The characters do consummate their relationship, but this is a lovely closed door romance with all the fairy-tale trappings a reader could want.  Although book two in a series, it stands alone fairly well and I sunk right into this story desperately wanting to do nothing else but spend my time reading.  A minor miracle given the dumpster fire of 2017.  Now I'm off to pick up the other three books in the series.

Final Grade = B+


azteclady said...

Such a lovely review!

I'm so glad this worked so well for you! I'm leery of continuities, but I'm in desperate need of something that will take me away from reality for a few hours.

Thank you, Miz Wendy!

Jill said...

I'm so glad you liked this! I'm not even kidding, this continuity is my 4 favorite Harlequin authors of all time.
I'm not a big fan of royalty romances and I've been trying really hard not to buy books but you may have just sold me.

Wendy said...

AL: There's something about Hart's voice and style - I sink right into it. Even the older stuff, written earlier in her career, where the heroes were a bit more Alphahole - I start one of her books and don't read it so much as inhale it. And this was a great way to escape reality. The English countryside, the warm Mediterranean fictional country - not a single whiff of current events anywhere to be found. Magical!

Jill: I'm not a big fan of royalty and fictional country books either. I tend to only read them when they're by authors who are known commodities to me. I will say that the "royal stuff" wasn't too overwhelming in this book. It doesn't really come into play until the second half and even then the focus is on the romance which is between two not-royal characters. The Sophie Weston book (the first in the series) is the story of Hope and the Prince. All the other books feature surrounding supporting players to either Hope or the royal household.