Lord Fenton is a gambler, a dandy, and a flirt—and he must marry or else he will be disinherited, stripped of his wealth and his position. He chooses Alice Stanbridge for two simple reasons: he once knew her as a young girl, and she is the least objectionable option available to him.
However, Alice has harbored feelings for Fenton since their first meeting ten years ago, and she believes his proposal is real. When she discovers it is not, she is embarrassed and hurt. However, a match with the most-eligible bachelor in London would secure not only her future but that of her family as well.
Determined to protect herself from making a fool of herself a second time, Alice matches Lord Fenton wit for wit and insult for insult as they move toward a marriage of convenience that is anything but a happy union. Only when faced with family secrets that have shaped Fenton’s life does he let down his guard enough to find room in his heart for Alice. But can Alice risk her heart a second time?
Source: ARC from Shadow Mountain Publishing via NetGalley
It’s a curious thing that I managed to finish this book considering that I found the main characters intolerably stupid. It started off so well, with the precocious young Alice demanding a garden from young Charles in return for not telling his father that he burned a meadow. Admittedly, my early opinion of Charles wasn’t too high, but I liked little Alice.
And then they both grew up, with Charles become a ridiculously childish waste of space whose only aim in life seems to be taking part in silly wagers in the hope of pissing off his father. As for Alice, well, despite all her constant assertions that she’s a practical girl who doesn’t read silly romances, because she’s not an idiot – well, turns out that she is an idiot. What else can she be after she somehow convinces herself that she’s marrying Charles for love when he proposed by letter? It wasn’t even addressed to her, he was asking her father for permission and she somehow decides it’s love! She must accept! It is a grand romance!
Even worse, it takes her several weeks of him not talking to her or looking at for her to even suspect that actually this might not be such a great love story after all. Then Charles tells her everything and they turn into a squabbling pair of brats who do their absolute best to drive each other nuts. Charles by being an irritating fop and Alice by scolding him whenever she gets the chance.
If the proposal hadn’t been by letter and Charles hadn’t been so obvious in avoiding her, I might have felt bad for Alice – because I really, really disliked Charles. There is nothing likeable or mildly redeeming about him. He’s rude and silly and irritating and childish, all while believing himself to be so very clever. The fact that he bows to his father’s dictates after everything made it all worse. Why bother living his life such a way, if he’s just going to turn all meek and mild when he threatens to disinherit him? Surely, since Charles’ behaviour is down to his father lying about his own honourable character the scandal of disinheriting his heir would have been perfect fodder for Charles. If he’d said go ahead and blast the scandal I might have even liked Charles a bit.
Instead I didn’t like him at all. On top of everything, the idea of a sixteen year old coming home from Eton and being shocked to find his father paying off a mistress was totally unbelievable to me. The idea that Charles was that naive quite frankly baffled me. I know that his mother doted on him, but boys talk and the aristocracy wasn’t exactly quiet about its scandalous behaviour, so I really don’t understand why it shocked Charles so much that he wasted the next ten years of his life being ridiculous to irritate his father.
As for Alice, I was ready to change my mind about her until she started throwing her weight around in the country house and decided Adam had to go when the poor man had done nothing to frighten her, he was just different to what she knew. As someone who frequently laments about how she doesn’t fit in anywhere and spends a lot of time out in the garden enjoying a simple life, I would have expected more compassion from her. Yes, she does sort of redeem herself towards the end, but she also insists on loving Charles when he does nothing but run away and get drunk, which just made me disappointed.
And that’s how I felt about this book overall. The Regency setting is well enough told, if a little sparse on actual detail, while the idea of Adam watching a blue jay made me twitch (as great as it is to include wildlife, please ensure that it’s actually native to the country you’re writing about. Yes, we have jays here, but no, they are not blue jays. They’re not even blue, except for a tiny flash on the wing), and I was sad about the lack of any real country in the country setting. Mostly this is a tale about a bunch of not particularly likeable characters going through the motions and dragging things out with an added twist of family drama to make Charles stomp about like an even more spoiled brat than usual.
In short this book didn’t work for me, but I actually managed to finish it which is why it has two stars instead of one.
Lord Fenton’s Folly is Out Now.
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