Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Snowdrops and Scandalbroth by Barbara Metzger (4 stars, traditional)

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Thoughts After Reading:
Every time I read one of Barbara Metzger’s novels that I end up hating, I’ll wonder to myself why I continue to read her works. But then I’ll find one of her traditionals where everything comes together perfectly – the characters, the humor, the happy ending – and she’ll be instantly added back to my list of favorite authors. Metzger’s Regency romance Snowdrops and Scandalbroth isn’t quite this paragon of a novel, but it comes pretty close. I admired the characters, I loved that their relationship was an odd mixture of lightheartedness and authenticity, and I enjoyed the mostly well-placed comic relief. So even if the romantic development was a bit light, and the second half a bit too silly for my liking, as a whole the novel was an excellent read.

I felt for the hero of Snowdrops and Scandalbroth, I really did. He is a man of honor and principles, and one of those principles is that he wants to wait until marriage for sex. It is this particular problem that causes him a great deal of grief. His ex-fiance, angry at him for ending the engagement because she is much more promiscuous than he, starts rumors about the hero being gay. He eventually feels that he has only two options: join the military and prove his masculinity, or compromise his morals. So he chooses the military. Even after the hero returns as a decorated soldier, however, his hard-earned respect by the ton still hangs upon a thread. He needs something that would solidify his social standing as a virile man. What he needs is a fake mistress. Enter the heroine. The heroine is a country miss without any wealth, after her parents died unexpectedly. I think she can best be described a generally easygoing woman that also has spunk. Too proud to accept charity from the local vicar indefinitely, the heroine takes a governess position in London. Her travel is beset by difficulties involving a jewel robber, and she arrives in London several days late alone and without a means of transportation.  The hero finds her being accosted by two drunk men, and hurries to her rescue. The hero and heroine butt heads and argue a bit, but the hero – ever the consummate gentleman – helps her find safe housing by bringing her to live with his old nanny. After a bit of back and forth, the heroine accepts the hero’s proposition to be his pretend mistress at a Courtesan ball… assuming that he wants a fake mistress because his war injuries have led him to be unable to perform. Some of the romantic development that follows is relayed, rather than shown through the characters’ actions. Nonetheless, it is very enjoyable to watch the protagonists get along perfectly at times, bicker strongly at others, and demonstrate a growing affection for each other. There is some nonsense at the middle of the story when the hero proposes with words of duty, rather than his growing love. I found this a bit odd, given his romanticized views of love. Nonetheless, the plot action that follows is humorously lighthearted, and I loved that the hero refused to give up on the heroine. Everything is tied up nicely in an endearing and triumphant ending.

Barbara Metzger’s Snowdrops and Scandalbroth was not my absolute favorite of her novels, but it certainly ranks up there. I loved how the characters were portrayed, particularly the hero. The romance was sweet and believable, the storyline was lively, and I enjoyed most of the humor. Throw on a great HEA, and the result is an excellent traditional Regency novel.

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