RogerBW's Blog

A Bachelor Establishment, Isabella Barclay 13 July 2019

2015 Regency romance. Elinor Bascombe, a widow who's been bringing her late wastrel husband's estate back to something like prosperity, meets the wicked Lord Ryde, exiled from the country for decades, and here to raise money from his own neighbouring estate before leaving for good.

Isabella Barclay is a pen-name of Jodi Taylor, who also writes the St Mary's time travel series. But this has no other connection with that: it's a straight romance story. And, like a few other romances I've read recently, it's very much a story about grown-ups: not here the tedious romance trope of a mis-hearing or a misunderstanding that turns a couple from true lovers to daggers drawn. Rather, Mrs Bascombe and Lord Ryde meet in poor circumstances, immediately put each other's backs up further, and then gradually build – all right, over the space of only a few days, but it feels gradual – to a friendship and to love.

"His lordship and I parted on such terms as to preclude any possible future contact. And even if it were not so, how could I possibly pursue any acquaintanceship with the son of the man my husband's brother is accused of murdering?"

It's a very short book by modern standards, and sometimes feels a bit cramped, but it's written well and the story is compelling even if the secondary characters come over as somewhat simplified. In a longer version, the secondary romance could have been given a bit more time.

There's action too, with mysterious shootings and an all-in fight against a party of housebreakers. In all it's by no means perfect, but it's fun, which makes up for a lot.

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