Sunday, January 24, 2010

Book Review: Improper Relations by Janet Mullany

by Janet Mullany
Released February 18, 2010
Publisher: Little Black Dress
ISBN: 978-075347803
Genre: Historical Romance
4/5 Stars
Summary (Press Release)
Compromising liaisons, crossed wires and conflicting loyalties - It's another gem from Regency star Janet Mullany. After losing best friend and distant cousin Ann Weller in marriage to the Earl of Beresford, sharp-witted Charlotte Hayden feels inclined to be even ruder than usual to potential suitors. But after a compromising liaison with Beresford's wicked, wayward cousin, Shad, she's suddenly propelled into a reluctant marriage, and finds herself missing Ann more than ever. But when Ann returns from her honeymoon, she drops a bombshell - not only is she not sure she loves Beresford, she's also had a child out of wedlock, and is planning to betray her husband with her former lover. Charlotte's realisation that she's falling in love with Shad only serves to make her dilmema even worse: should she keep Ann's secret, or tell her husband the truth?
My Thoughts
The first few lines of the novel caught my attention immediately: "My story begins with a wedding. Not, I hasten to add, mine. I have been assured from reliable sources that certain farmyard creatures would sprout wings and fly were I to receive a proposal." I found these lines intriguing and right from the beginning, I knew I was going to like the heroine of this novel, Charlotte Hayden.
Ann, a vicar's daughter, came to live with Charlotte's family after she inherited a large sum of money upon the death of a dreadful, old cousin, for whom she had been a housekeeper. After being introduced to society, she committed the sin of meeting the Earl of Beresford and falling in love before Charlotte was able to make a match of her own. Despite all this, Charlotte and Ann remain strong friends and Charlotte is the maid-of-honour at Ann's wedding. At Ann's wedding, she meets the Earl's good friend, Jonathan Trelaise, Viscount Shadderly, the 'wicked' cousin, and feels an immediate attraction.
While at a ball several days later, Charlotte and Shad are caught in an embarrassing situation, and the gossips are alive with the news. Shad does the honourable thing and proposes to Charlotte as it is the only way to save both of their reputations. Even after he proposes, Shad can't imagine why he was so impulsive and worried about Charlotte's reputation, but it seems he couldn't stop thinking about her and her lips, despite her sharp tongue and her lack of interest in following societal norms.
During the ensuing courtship and wedding, Shad mistakingly thinks Charlotte's in love with Ann's husband Lord Beresford, and feels sudden jealousy. And when Ann comes home from her honeymoon and confesses a shocking secret to Charlotte, which she hides from Shad, he becomes even more suspicious, and suspects she is making assignations to meet Beresford when he is busy elsewhere. I do not want to give anything away here, but the ensuing situations provide a lot of grief to all parties involved until everything is resolved satisfactorily in the end.
The text is fun and flirty and makes you feel good when you read it. It isn't your typical romance novel with the bodice-ripping love scenes, but full of flirtations and many innuendos. Ms. Mullany entertains with dry wit, and brilliantly funny escapades that made me laugh, and feel sheepish for the characters caught in the situations. It was about parties, clothes, shopping, and gossip. There was a darker side too; there were those moments about those who don't follow societal norms, and the poor, and what can happen if they are not taken care of, or if they don't have families who can help them. They were just glimpses, but given in such a way, it made you pause and think, and know that not everything is perfect.
The developing relationship between Charlotte and Shay and the contrasting relationship between Ann and Beresford is brilliantly done. While I admired Charlotte's loyalty to her friend, there were times when I wanted to shake her to make her see that Ann often thought about herself above all others. This often got Charlotte into trouble with Shad and could have prevented a lot of problems. That being said, Improper Relations was enjoyable, pure fun, and I enjoyed every minute of this book, a novel written with emotion and sensitivity. I am looking forward to Ms. Mullany's next book.