REVIEW: Society’s Most Disreputable Gentleman by Julia JustissWednesday, February 23, 2011 1:00
Wendy the Super Librarian‘s review of Society’s Most Disreputable Gentleman (Wellingfords #6) by Julia Justiss
Historical romance published by Harlequin Historical 18 Jan 11
One of the reasons I spend entirely too much time online is that I like chatting with fellow romance readers. And when I chat with them? I manage to also get some listening done. Enough listening to know that there are more than a few readers out there tired of “21st century people inhabiting supposedly historical romances.” It was these readers I was thinking of even before I got done with the first chapter of Julia Justiss’ latest Harlequin Historical.
Warning: This review is going to contain spoilers for the previous book in this series, From Waif To Gentleman’s Wife. Not a whole lot I can do about that, so stop reading now if that’s going to be an issue.
Greville Anders is finally, blessedly, back in England. Thanks to the diligence of his sister, Joanna, it was discovered that he was “pressed” into naval service as a common sailor! However, his release could not be secured before a skirmish with pirates left him wounded. While his influential cousin Nicky (a Marquess) sees about getting him discharged, he’s arranged for Greville to recuperate at Ashton Grove, the country estate of Lord Bronning.
Miss Amanda Neville is Lord Bronning’s daughter and is now mistress of the house thanks to her mother’s untimely passing. She’s an ambitious girl, hoping to one day marry a man of prestige and political connections, and has aspirations of becoming a premiere society hostess. However, her come-out keeps getting delayed by tragedy. Although, finally, it appears the time has arrived. She’s about to have her debut, thanks to her mama’s influential BFF, and nobody is going to stand in her way. Certainly not the disreputable, unkempt, ::sniff:: common and coarse looking sailor that has just nearly collapsed in their entryway.
I’m hardly well-read in the particular subgenre, but I could not escape how much this story reminded me of a traditional Regency. First, there’s the conflict. While Justiss does bring in some small bits of external conflict to spur a few chapters along (Amanda’s brother out looking for kicks in the country, a notorious and dangerous smuggler operating in the area), the bulk of this story deals with society and the couples’ place in it. Amanda is not only a true beauty, but charming as well. She’s destined to make a huge splash once she debuts. Likewise, she acts like one would expect any young lady of her station and time would act. She’s, well, a little snobby. She’s very proper. However, she’s also a girl who has been asked to shoulder responsibilities before her time, and she’s also a girl who knows that her lot in life is directly tied to the man she’ll eventually marry. It’s in her best interests to marry well or else? She’s screwed….and not in a good way.
Greville was born a gentleman, but that’s really all he’s got going for him. An accident of birth made his cousin the Marquess. He was bitter about this for a long time, and used it as an excuse to be disreputable, rakish, and generally useless. However, his time in the Navy has forced him to grow up. He’s now ready to turn over a new leaf. So while the old Greville would have entertained the notion of dallying with Miss Neville, the new Greville isn’t about to go there. But that doesn’t mean our boy isn’t tempted.
Because of the nature of the conflict, the strong focus on class and society, and the lightness of the external conflict, I suspect some readers are going to find this story slow and…well…boring. It is slow. There’s no denying it. The author takes the time setting the stage, introducing the players, really showing us what makes them tick. And when she does that, something remarkable starts to happen…I get invested. I’m so invested that by the time the Big Dramatic Declarations Of Lurve occur in the final chapters, I’m damn near choked up.
However, the reader does have to be willing to invest the time in the story. This isn’t a book you can chuck after 20 pages. No, you have to keep reading to get to The Pay-Off. To get to those moments where the characters start to click. For that reason, I suspect readers who have become accustomed, and enjoy, historical romances where the Regency Miss is getting debauched on some back stairway by Chapter Three are probably going to be bored out of their skulls with this book. Hey, and there’s nothing wrong with that! I like those books too! But those readers who have grown a little weary of those types of shenanigans? Those readers who don’t want 21st century women masquerading as 19th century young ladies who toss aside their virginity without so much as a by-your-leave? Yeah, I’m thinking this will work well for them.
As for me? I was charmed. Plus, I’ll be honest, I’m happy Joanna’s brother finally got his act together. He’s going to be an uncle after all….
Wounded in action courageously fighting pirates, the notorious Greville Anders returns to society with neither the dress nor conduct considered proper for a gentleman.
Even more scandalous is that well-brought-up debutante Amanda Neville finds this rogue irresistibly tempting….
It was her mama’s last wish that her beautiful daughter have a glittering London Season, shine on society’s stage and marry a lord. But now Amanda’s greatest desire is just one more secret rendezvous—with the most disreputable man in town!
Other books in this series: