Friday, August 4, 2017

The Captivating Lady Charlotte by Carolyn Miller, 2017

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Lady Charlotte Featherington is destined for great things on the marriage market. After all, as the beautiful daughter of a marquess, she should have her pick of the eligible nobility hen she debuts. She, however, has love at the top of her list of marriageable attributes. And her romantic heart falls hard for one particularly dashing, attentive suitor. Sadly for Charlotte, her noble father intends her betrothed to be someone far more dull.

William Hartwell may be a duke, but he knows he was Charlotte's father's pick, not the young lady's own choice. And the captivating Lady Charlotte does not strike him as a woman who will be wooed by his wealth or title. While she has captured his heart, he has no idea how to win hers in return--and the betrayal and scandal his first wife put him through makes it difficult for him to believe that love can ever be trusted. His only hope is that Charlotte's sense of responsibility will win out over her romantic notions.

Can a widowed duke and a romantically inclined lady negotiate a future and discover love beyond duty? Will they be able to find healing and hope from the legacy of grace? Poignant and charming, this is another beautifully written, clean and wholesome Regency romance from Carolyn Miller.

(310 pages)

First, a word of warning: The Captivating Lady Charlotte is the second book in the Regency Brides: A Legacy of Grace series so there may be some accidental spoilers for its prequel, The Elusive Miss Ellison (my review). There's a fairly strong connection between the two, since Charlotte is the younger cousin of Lavinia Ellison from the first book. Lavinia and her–ahem–personal life actually wind up taking a pretty big role in the story, but I'll try to steer around the biggest spoilers.

I went back to read my review of Miss Ellison after reading Lady Charlotte, and I was reminded of the strengths and weaknesses of the former. It's funny, because I think this second book is directly opposite its prequel–better where Miss Ellison was weak, and weak in areas it was strong. What do I mean? Well, the religion in Miss Ellison was so cheesy and pushy (perhaps because Lavinia's father was a pastor) that I found it almost hard to read; discussions of faith and religious duty in Lady Charlotte, on the other hand, are sparse and focused mainly on a duty to help those who fall through society's cracks (as well as a few mentions among fellow believers of the importance of prayer during hard times). On the other hand, I actually really loved the romance in Miss Ellison–it was entertaining and realistic, if unrealistically enabled by the plot at times, and everything was just really sweet. In Charlotte's case, however, I never really get the vibe that she and William had enough of a connection or a shared passion for anything that would tie them together. William basically decides he needs a new wife and that Charlotte is pretty enough (and, you know, probably has enough substance) to take on the role. She never shows any interest in him until very late in the book, and I honestly feel like she just managed to convince herself that she was in love with the older man so she could comfortably resign herself to the situation dictated by her parents and society.

I know. That's not exactly the most romantic storyline, is it? The whole premise of the book (basically, "Charlotte is eighteen now so she must be married off to the highest bidder!") becomes more sexist the longer I think about it. I don't entirely hold that against Miller, since I'm pretty sure that's just how things were back then and she does try to create realistic loving relationships amidst the arranged marriages, but it still just rubs me the wrong way. As an eighteen-year-old young woman myself, I can't really stomach the way Charlotte's entire life revolves around getting married, loving her future husband, and bearing an heir and a spare for his family. Ick.

I really did enjoy reading The Captivating Lady Charlotte, even if it sounds like I didn't. While I didn't love the main characters quite so much this time, and the plot was a little more murky/rambling than that of Miss Ellison, I actually enjoyed it just as much. I look forward to also enjoying the third book in the series, The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey, when it comes out in a few months.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book in order to participate in a Kregel blog tour.

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