RogerBW's Blog

The Game and the Governess, Kate Noble 30 November 2018

2014 American Regency romance, first of a linked series. "Lucky Ned", the Earl of Ashby, refuses to believe his friend and secretary John Turner when Turner tells him that people love his position and wealth more than his person. So Ned proposes that they swap roles while on a business trip, and bets Turner that he can make a woman fall for him even without the trappings of his status. Meanwhile, the governess Phoebe Baker has a particular reason to hate the Earl, whom she has never met…

I say "American Regency romance" because when Americans write this stuff they almost always get wrong small details which to a British writer seem to come naturally (though I'm guessing the American readers who are the primary audience for this sort of thing mostly won't notice). There's a manor house here called "Puffington Arms", a Leicestershire town called Midville, and infelicitous phrases like "Now it's time to get dressed, else we shall be late", all of which just ring false to a fluent speaker of British English with some knowledge of the country.

And that's a great pity, because these are details which could easily have been changed by a competent first-draft reader or copy-editor, and if one fights past them one may find that the book is really rather good. From the introduction I gave above, you can probably predict several key plot moments; but they don't come out quite as one might expect. While obviously confined by the expectations of a standard category-romance structure, Noble has managed to produce something effectively original.

The focus is much more on Ned than on Phoebe, also unusual in a category romance, and he has a lot of changing to do; Noble managed the trick of getting me at least slightly in sympathy with him from the start, but I think that if this hadn't worked I'd have found the book a chore. There's perhaps a bit too much of Idiotic Ned at the start, and this is unbalanced by a conclusion that's far too fast, and doesn't properly resolve one of the plot points (the reason for Phoebe's hatred) at all; at some point the poor woman should have had an apology and an explanation, which are given to the reader but never to her.

This is the first of a series, but could certainly be read alone. The next deals with Turner, and the gold-digging widow whom he near-terminally embarrasses.

And it was her wits that leveraged her one season into marriage to Count Churzy, an Austrian with a crumbling castle, an unfortunate predilection for horse races, and a family history of heart seizures.

Followed by The Lie and the Lady.

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