Simple Pleasures Book Review:
A Tale of Two Lovers by Maya Rodale
It has been far too long since I was able to sink my teeth into a good old-fashioned Regency romance, so when I saw this title featured on NetGalley (a resource for booksellers and reviewers that provides digital copies of new and upcoming releases provided by the publishers) I had to put it in my TBR ( To Be Read) list. I was not disappointed, to say the least.
When I first started reading romance novels many years ago, Regency-era romances were far and away my favorite. They were sweeping and grand, full of society intrigue and dashing romantic men and daring, beautiful women. The basic formula was usually pretty standard, but the details made each one a new romantic adventure. So when I began reading A Tale of Two Lovers I was ready for the same basic formula. I was pleasantly surprised to the contrary.
Yes, Rodale’s latest installment in her ” Writing Girls” series does have all the standard elements of a Regency-era romance ; the handsome, commitment-phobic lord/earl/duke whose playboy/wandering ways are a trial to his long-suffering family. It also has a beautiful heroine who must struggle with her need for independence and a self-directed life against the societal restrictions of being a “lady” in those times. But then, it goes in a new and interesting direction.
Standard form for these type of romances require that the heroine get herself into some sort of trouble and the reluctant hero to come along and save the day. During this process there are complications and misunderstandings to gum up the path to true love, but you just know it will all work out in the end. Rodale takes this formula and spins it just enough to make A Tale of Two Lovers fresh and new and not in the least formulaic.
As a “Writing Girl” for The London Weekly, Lady Julianna Somerset chronicles the high-society gossip of the Ton under the non-de-plume ‘A Lady of Distinction’ in her column ” Fashionable Intelligence”. Hiding her public persona beneath her position as a society widow grants her an ideal position to be privy to the secrets and scandals she reports. Her only competition in the gossip game is ” The Man About Town” from the rival paper , The Times. Lady Somerset is determined she will either best “The Man About Town” in the gossip game, or reveal his true identity. In her pursuit to best her rival, Lady Somerset writes a column about one of the more frequently covered members of the Ton, Lord Roxbury. But this is no ordinary report of his scandalous dalliances with society wives and actresses- this one insinuates Roxbury has ran through all the women in London and has now moved onto the men! Delicious gossip to be sure, but earth-shattering to Roxbury, this dedicated lover of women. The situation is further inflamed when Roxbury’s father informs him in no uncertain terms that he has become tired of his son’s playboy ways and he has one month to marry a suitable girl or be cut off.
When Roxbury demands satisfaction ( in the form of a duel and a retraction-the former from the publisher, the latter from the “Lady of Distinction”) that is when the true fun really begins. Although she doesn’t confirm it, Roxbury knows Lady Somerset is the poison -pen that has ruined his life, and the two set about playing a sometimes comedic, always banter-filled game of cat and mouse. The truly engaging part in all of this is that you are never quite sure who is the cat and who is the mouse.
The strength and chemistry of the two central characters is the true gem in this romance. As I was reading, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the sterling banter and society intrigue of classic authors like Oscar Wilde, who made his career on exposing and satirizing the contradictions and folly of high society. Rodale brings that same kind of bite and comedic tone to A Tale of Two Lovers. I now find I simply must read the other ” Writing Girls” novels and recommend you do the same.
Review by Brenda Seward
A Tale of Two Lovers by Maya Rodale released by Harper-Collins is now available for sale at your local independent bookseller and other retail outlets