|Lord Fenton's Folly|
I discovered Shadow Mountain Publishing and their Proper Romance collection in the fall of last year. What a find! Wholesome romances, great stories. And look at that cover!
Let’s begin with the summary:
Lord Fenton is a gambler and a dandy, and he will be stripped of his wealth and position unless he rises to his responsibility—one of which is to marry. Far from being a giddy groom, Fenton chooses the unobjectionable Alice Stanbridge simply because he had known her as a young girl and his mother feels Alice would make a good wife.
Alice, however, has harbored feelings for Fenton since their first meeting years ago, and his proposal is a dream come true. Not only would a match with the most-eligible bachelor in London secure her future, but it will also give her a place of distinction and admiration. Had anyone admired Alice for anything before now?
When Alice learns that she is not only an unwanted wife, but a demanded one, however, she closes her heart. Only when Lord Fenton faces the greatest trial of his life does he begin to find love beyond the folly. Could a great love come from a beginning such as this?
And now, my review:
As I mentioned, I enjoy these Proper Romances. When I read the summary for this story, I had certain expectations. The summary implies a pining heroine, and we had a taste of that, but Alice (our “heroine”) didn’t pine away the entire story. This showed her strength, which I liked. Yet both main characters, in their hateful bickering, chose a base response.
As this story moved into the second act, the heroine made a heart choice to interact with the hero in a certain way. At this point, I almost gave up on her. There had to be a way for her to show strength and not be a doormat for the hero, but in a noble way. Either way, at that point in the story neither main character is acting nobly or heroically. Readers will see the characters’ motives and weaknesses but it’s challenging to root for either one, to respect or admire either one because neither took the high road.
Lord Fenton has a drinking problem, which element carried on far into the story. The title warns us this character acts foolishly and believes lies, but there was a lot of focus on this alcoholic aspect, which made this unheroic character even more so. Fenton took a lot longer to transform, which wore on me as I read.
Now for some positive elements: I liked how the hero and heroine brought out the best in each other, eventually. I enjoyed the regency time period, the prose, the settings, the evident research of the author. The story was multi-layered, and I could imagine the novel playing out as a movie as I read. Well done.
Fenton was a character! He’s a dandy—a clown, a macaroni—following through on ridiculous bets and living a lifestyle that shames his father. Fenton’s highly entertaining as the early London scenes play out. At first, I liked his clowning around. It’s well-written and unusual in novels that I’ve read. But as in all books in the romance genre, I longed for his heroic side to appear in his adult years.
His mother, in her warm, loving way, makes a match for him. She is admirable, dignified and respectable. The story would have lacked redemptive qualities without her, for most of the story (until the hero and heroine turned).
Fenton struggles to be an adult, to face the tough elements of life, to be decisive. For a while he blames this on his need to shame his father, but all that tactic has done is deny him the process of growing up. He has sabotaged himself. I enjoyed his relationship with his mother—again a redemptive element in the story. He trusts Mom to advise him. And his mother’s love helps him commit to change. This relationship demonstrated Fenton’s human side, which was key in showing elements of him that we could cheer.
Overall, despite my long critique, I enjoyed this story. The novel was highly entertaining, even if outside the traditional genre box with all its accompanying expectations. If readers aren’t expecting heroism, they may not mind the delay toward both MC’s (main characters) acting heroically. And the read is fun while we get there, which is the point of a keeping readers hooked.
Watching for more Proper Romances from Shadow Mountain.