Friday, August 28, 2020

107. Otherwise Engaged

Otherwise Engaged. Joanna Barker. 2020. 262 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Of the many things that could be depended upon to make a young lady swoon, a love letter certainly made the list. I perched on a low rock in the center of the quiet meadow, one knee tucked to my chest, the skirts of my riding habit spread about me.

Premise/plot: Rebecca Rowley has returned home engaged--secretly. Her fiancé, Edward Bainbridge, is the son of her father's former business partner. And that partnership didn't end well. Both families are extremely bitter and unforgiving towards the other. Each, of course, finding the other family at fault. It's been fifteen years--or so--since the partnership ended. But will another partnership--a romantic one--ever be allowed to take place? Not if those two mamas are ever given a say. So her engagement is a secret--for now.

When this Regency romance opens our un-traditional heroine is riding bareback. She loves, loves, loves the freedom of "flying" that running wild and free gives her. As she's riding, she happens to come to the rescue of a young girl, Olivia, who's drowning. She jumps in and saves moments Olivia's brother, a Lieutenant Nicholas Avery, has arrived on the scene. Their introduction is are most of their subsequent encounters.

My thoughts: Otherwise Engaged is giddy-making and swoon-worthy. The romance remains clean, for the most part. (Depending on your definition of clean, I suppose. It has a few steamy-steamy kisses. But nothing progressing beyond those kisses. True, at the time in 1822, getting caught in such a steamy kiss--or even an un-steamy kiss???--might have damaged one's reputation. So as I said, it depends on your definition of clean.) What I loved was the romantic build-up between the hero and heroine. And part of that build-up of course depends on the CHARACTERIZATION of both and the surrounding cast of characters. The very fact that the novel feels fully peopled--with well developed characters in abundance--makes it stand out above the rest in the genre. And a part also depends on the DIALOGUE between the hero and heroine. And lastly it depends on the narrative voice. This one remains solely with Rebecca Rowley. And it was a JOY to spend time with her and her thoughts.

I also loved the relationship between Rebecca and Olivia (Nicholas' younger sister). Olivia added so much to the story overall!!! She never really felt like a plot device--a weak, pitiful excuse for the meeting between Nicholas and Rebecca. She always felt like a real person.

As you might have gathered, I really LOVED and ADORED this one. It was a WONDERFUL read and one that I could see myself reading and rereading again and again and again.

If I didn't already love Regency romances this would make me a fan.

“All right, then. Let us play this game. What do I want in a wife? She must be intelligent, first of all.” “Naturally,” I agreed, suddenly not certain I wanted to play, judging by that gleam. “She must be kind and compassionate,” he went on. “Someone to help me care for Olivia.” “Yes, of course.” Nicholas moved closer, dropping his arms as his gaze fixed on mine. “Good humor is important as well.” I swallowed. “The value of laughter cannot be underestimated.” He took another step forward, only a pace away from me now. Why was he so close? “I would not complain terribly much if she were beautiful,” he said softly as his eyes followed every curve of my face.


© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Marg said...

I will keep an eye out for this one!

Lark said...

Ooh...this one does sound good. I'll have to look for it at my library. :)