Thoughts After Reading:
I do not believe I have ever heard mention of the author Elizabeth Chater before trying her traditional Regency A Season for the Heart. Now that I have completed the book, however, she has most definitely caught my interest. The novel A Season for the Heart – particularly the first half of the novel – was some of the most entertaining storytelling I’ve read in quite some time. It mixes ideas both old and new for a Regency storyline. Old ideas, because it includes a worldly, competent, and titled hero whose ennui is no match for the delightful enthusiasm of the innocent heroine. And new ideas, because the plot is set up as a loose parody of gothic novels and other “Romantic” plots. The result is a book that is largely lighthearted, romantically convincing, and thoroughly amusing. I became a bit disappointed at the misunderstandings that popped around the center of the novel, and the silliness of an external conflict that isn’t really an external conflict… but things were tied up rather nicely at the end.
The heroine is a country miss, another one of those young women who is all that is sweet, understanding, cheeky, and deceptively competent. Yet she has the additional characteristic of being a Romantic, in the adventurous sense. Having read many types of literature, she likes to mentally cast herself in the role of the “Blighted Heroine” – and her favorite type of amusement is thinking up imaginative and unlikely reasons for a given scenario. The hero gains her acquaintance after she runs – quite literally – into him. To his own great surprise, he is delighted by her flair for the dramatic and the fantastic, as well as her considerable knowledge of the classics. He becomes more animated and happy in her presence than he possibly has ever been. Learning of her poor living conditions under her aunt’s care, he sweeps her off to London to be a companion for his widowed sister-in-law. They have a great deal of fun teasing each other on the journey, and even run into a few adventures along the way. There are several misunderstandings that manifest once they reach London, with the heroine developing platonic friendships with several young bucks and some confusion about various would-be engagements. Additional tension is caused by the implication that there is a considerable age difference between the hero and the heroine (he referred to her as “child” a few too many times for my liking), and that the heroine has a bit of a self-esteem problem. A pseudo-external conflict is thrown in when the heroine is kidnapped by a well-meaning friend, but she sets him straight without any need for assistance. Everything is tied up neatly with a rather sweet conclusion, and a total of three engagements.
I do wish Elizabeth Chater’s A Season for the Heart focused a bit more on developing the relationship between the protagonists, rather than wasting ink on unimaginative misunderstandings. All in all, though, I found it to be a thoroughly enjoyable Regency romance. The characters were entertaining, the comedy was intelligently hilarious, and the elements of parody kept the plot engaging from the first to the last page. It’s a traditional I strongly recommend.