Orphans find love and social acceptance without hardly trying in 1800 England.
The template for the entire Regency Romance genre is Pride and Prejudice. But absent Jane Austen’s unsentimental eye for hypocrisy, such a homage is foredoomed. Alexis, the Lizzie Bennet character, is the oldest and loveliest of five Patterson sisters, daughters of a baronet killed in a rockslide, along with their mother and brother, while digging for treasure near the Dorset cliffs. The elderly Earl of Longmore desultorily takes in the sisters. Upon his death, Kynan Trent, the Darcy character, a wealthy London entrepreneur from the disgraced Welsh line, inherits the title. The penniless Pattersons, long leery of “damned welsh heirs,” fear eviction from Longmore Hall, and tomboy sister Blythe greets Kynan with a pistol. After disarming her, and all other females in sight, Lord Trent rehires the Hall staff, installs the Patterson orphans in a nearby dower house and imports his mother’s cousin to act as their chaperone/governess. Kynan and Alexis are instantly smitten, but, as convention dictates, they hide it—he in a show of arrogance far more loutish than Darcy’s, and she behind a very un-Austenesque veneer of prissiness. Dramatic conflict is ducked at every turn. Aside from his tendency to relish his own supremacy, Kynan is too nice to the girls, and so is virtually everyone except Julia, Kynan’s presumptive fiancée. Kynan returns the Pattersons’ income (diverted by his predecessor) and champions the orphans’ acceptance by local society and his upper crust London houseguests. Although Kynan takes ample advantage of Julia’s loose morals, she’s the butt of authorial contempt for her promiscuity and infertility. Perhaps to render such contempt politically correct, Julia is also a bully—she brutally beats her maid.
A tepid tribute to Jane Austen. Without genuine obstacles to true love, nothing separates Alexis and Kynan except 250 pages of padding.