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Book CoverStevie‘s review of The Governess Club: Claire (The Governess Club, Book 1) by Ellie Macdonald
Historical Romance published by Avon Impulse 03 Sep 13

What is it with North American authors and the conferring of fictional Earldoms (courtesy or inherited from a distant relative) on second sons? That’s not how things work, and Debrett has lots of useful guides and FAQs online to explain the situation. Before I hit that sticking point, this story was jogging along rather cutely, if implausibly, with its tale of Claire, a governess trying to carve out a better situation in life for herself and her friends, and Jacob, an aristocrat in hiding (from creditors rather than anything more exiting) who is passing himself off as a tutor to young gentlemen.

Our story opens with four governesses meeting up on their afternoons off and forming a plan to save up enough money over the next five years to set up an establishment together — possibly in Claire’s former family home, which is currently the subject of some kind of legal dispute. Now, while I’m not convinced that their plan would work without Claire establishing her right to the house (I don’t have my sources to hand regarding house prices and governesses’ rates of pay for the period, and I don’t think we ever get properly told how Claire intends to retrieve the house from her father’s creditors), it’s a cute way of bringing the heroines of the series together and giving them a joint motivation. However, we later find out that their meetings happen regularly, and I do wonder why none of their employers have commented that they are all without a governess on the same afternoon every month.

However… some indeterminate time later, Claire is sitting in the garden when a maid appears with a message that she must go straight to the house. Leaving the maid to watch over the children, and anticipating news of her ancestral home, she does so only to be confronted with Jacob. He is to be tutor to the two seven-year-old boys of the family, although Claire notes that his demeanour isn’t quite right for his role. After Claire has shown Jacob to his room (on the same floor as the nursery and next to hers – which just wouldn’t happen), meeting the same maid we encountered earlier in the process (has she dumped the children in the lake and then run very fast, or has she teleported up there with them?), we learn that Jacob is really the Earl of Rimmel, a courtesy title he holds until such time as his older brother produces a son (as I said, that’s not how it works). As Jacob develops his tutoring skills, Claire overcomes her initial distrust of him to offer her help instructing him how to behave as part of the house’s staff, rather than as an equal to the family.

The two grow closer and Claire tells Jacob of her plans, although he fails to reveal his true identity. They attend a servants’ assembly, and then Claire throws all caution to the wind by inviting Jacob to visit her in her room that night (which as we previously mentioned is next to his on the nursery floor, but more on that later). They have sex, apparently without being noticed, and Jacob proposes – still without revealing his true identity. Claire accepts but wants to tell her governess friends before anyone else.

Then the family return, and in a whirl of house parties, Jacob’s true identity is revealed and shortly after that, so is his improper relationship with Claire (their assignations having been noticed by the children). Both leave the household: he to clear his debts and his name; she to parts unknown, but with a decent reference. All Claire wants now is to somehow get back her family home and carry out the plans of the governess club. But, of course, this is a romance and… (highlight for spoiler:) it turns out that Jacob has not only managed to clear his debts, but has also bought the house all in the space of a fortnight. No longer Earl of Rimmel (not that I can see how he ever could have been), he has also decided to drop the correct courtesy title for the second son of a duke and wants to be plain ‘Mr’ rather than ‘Lord’. He proposes to Claire once again, she accepts, and then we jump forwards three months for the happy ending and a lead-in to the next story in the series.

As I said at the start, this series has a cute premise, although I’m not sure how the governesses can carry out their plans if they all end up married (just how big is the house they want to live in, and how much are the parents of their prospective pupils going to be charged to pay for it all?) but the first book has rather jarred me with its blithe ignoring of how things would have been done. No matter, it’s by no means as bad as some I’ve read over the past month, and I have hopes that the next in the series might redeem matters somewhat. However, I do think the Avon editors need to update their guides to the history of word useage too: ‘toastie’ doesn’t seem to have been recorded before 1976 (and in a Glaswegian publication then), while ‘brilliant’ as an exclamation dates from around the same point in time (and my English teacher was still warning us against that useage in the late eighties).

Stevies CatGrade: C


For fans of Christina Dodd and Elizabeth Boyle.

Claire Bannister just wants to be a good teacher so that she and the other ladies of the Governess Club can make enough money to leave their jobs and start their own school in the country. But when the new sinfully handsome and utterly distracting tutor arrives, Claire finds herself caught up in a whirlwind romance that could change the course of her future.

Jacob Knightly has a secret. He is actually the notorious Earl of Rimmel. He’s just posing as a tutor to escape his reputation in the city. He never expected to fall in love with the kind and beautiful governess. She is the first person to love him for himself and not his title.

But when Jacob’s true identity is revealed, Claire realizes she has risked her reputation and her heart on a man she doesn’t truly know. Will Jacob be able to convince her that the Wild Earl has been tamed and that she is the true countess of his heart?

Read an excerpt.

Other books in this series:
Book Cover