ARC Review – ‘My Lady Governess’ by Elise Clarke

Title:  My Lady Governess
Author: Elise Clarke
Genre:  Romance (Historical/Regency)
Date of Publication: 20th December, 2017
Page Count: 200 pages (ebook)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

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One knight, one runaway heiress, one rollicking romance: A breath of fresh air in Regency romance!

Proud and haughty, Lord de Waare is almost as medieval as his castle…until he accidentally abducts a governess, who turns out not to be a governess at all, and who shows this knight that his heart is not as armoured as he thought.

A girl with a dangerous past, Marina would happily disappear again, but since de Waare won’t let that happen, then the least he can do is help her clear her name. But moving back into society is dangerous for her and for the stern man she’s coming to love. She knows the rules of honour and society, and she won’t allow de Waare to compromise the principles that define him.

But de Waare didn’t become the Crusader by accepting defeat. Faint heart never won a fair lady, and de Waares always win.

To be fairly blunt, I had a strong dislike for this book until at least 25% in – I was very close to DNF’ing it and moving on, but I’m always reluctant to do that with ARCs and try to make it at least 50% through before giving up. And lo and behold, I actually started enjoying myself finally and ended up finishing this in one sitting.

I’m a big fan of regency romances – I’m well-aware of the genre’s flaws, but when done well, it thrills my heart and makes life rosy and grand. ‘My Lady Governess‘ is definitely not an example of regency done well. It’s better viewed as a parody of the genre and knowing that going in would’ve helped greatly because once I adjusted my perspective, seeing it as skewering the more ridiculous regency tropes and deliberately exaggerating common themes enabled me to enjoy it more once I was in on the joke. I went from ‘this is atrocious, who approved this for publication‘ to ‘omg, that’s hilarious, I totally agree this kind of thing is ridiculous, lmao‘.

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It’s like when I watched Fifth Element as a recommendation from people who said if I enjoyed Star Trek, I would like that movie. I went in expecting something familiar and instead it was completely wacky and out-there and I hated it. But Galaxy Quest was sold to me as a loving parody of Star Trek and I adored it! There’s the catch 24 with satire – when people don’t realize it’s satire and take it seriously, it bombs completely.

But after I caught on, taking this book with a grain of salt made the experience much more palatable. I mean, honestly, I dare you to read this excerpt and tell me it’s meant to be taken at face value:

She gasped, her face filling with devastation, then she choked, gasped again, then burst into howling tears. She really howled, too. It wasn’t at all like her anger at Doncaster. This was something else, an agonised wailing beyond her control, water literally pouring down her face so fast it fell off her chin within seconds of her starting.

Fortunately, Lord d Waare was never at a loss, whether facing enemy gunfire or wailing women. He summoned up his most commanding manner. ‘Erminia, pull yourself together!’ he barked.

There. That should do it.

She ignored him. The wailing continued, thick with distress, great heaving sobs, shaking her whole body, as if he hadn’t spoken, to his astonishment.

Ladies and gentleman, I present to you our level-headed heroine, in response to a snide comment from the hero. Not facing mortal danger or presented with news of a loved one’s death, simply Marina’s reaction to a cutting set-down from Tam. She literally cried herself to sleep in his arms and had to be carried to bed!

This is the woman who put a brave face on being abducted and forced into living with Lord de Waare, repeatedly informed they were going to be married and being kissed into submission anytime she protested, but a minor insult in their usual banter is what pushes her to an emotional breakdown. Riiiight. And even if you buy that maybe it’s the straw that broke the camel’s back, there’s no way on earth that any man is going to think that response is going to solve the situation!

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I completely loathed Tam for the first half of the book, but once I had my revelation that none of this was to be taken seriously, he became more tolerable. Tam is the typical regency lord who values honor and society’s principles taken to the extreme – he keeps insisting that he has to return Marina to her family even after she begs him not to and tells him that she fears her abusive uncle, even with the scars to prove her story. But oh no, what a conundrum, what to do!

Of course he had to write to her uncle! He had a runaway former heiress here, a girl so distraught at being cut from her grandfather’s will that she had gone insane and never recovered. A spoiled brat of a girl, form all accounts, come to a terrible end for her pride.

Miss Frome. Erminia. The pert little blonde. The girl he’d wrenched from a house and position, insulted, smacked on the backside and made cry, who had just given him the most outrageous story on little evidence, and of whom he knew nothing for certain except that she was covered in fencing scars on her shoulders.

HMMM. Definitely isn’t clear at all how to proceed…

But of course, all his chivalry and vaunted values don’t count for a thing when it comes to the hero’s dealings with the heroine! Somehow the rules of conduct with regard to ladies are completely disregarded, thrown out the window and never to be thought of again.

Not a man blessed with a vast reserves of patience, he decided he’d argued enough with her; he knew a quicker way of dealing with recalcitrant females. Time to use it. Suddenly his arm shot out, then he seized her little chin, forcing it up so that she was stuck staring at him as he leaned across the table until his nose was two inches from hers. His great chest swelled with purpose and Ethelberta, he was pleased to see, gave a convulsive swallow and then shut up entirely.

“You know you’ve no choice. Do you understand?”

“This is all your fault,” she spluttered, in a high strangled voice.

“Yes, so I’m making amends for it. Do you understand?” With one flick of his hand, he mad her chin waggle, his eyes not moving from her face.Finally, with massive reluctance, she nodded. “No, Erminia. Say it aloud. And now might be a good time to use my Christian name.”

‘No!’ squeaked the blonde, five feet one of defiance.

It was far too easy. Back to her shoulders, back on her feet, back in his hold and back to being kissed, although this time she managed to fight for all of five seconds before he felt her sway into him and catch him on his own shoulders, unable to break away. When he did it for her, he kept hold, but she was in no state to do anything but put big, shocked eyes on him, her chest heaving.

Hand back under her chin, he repeated inexorably, ‘Yes, Tam.’

‘Y-yes, Tam,’ she got out, defeated.

This is clearly a mockery of how often the heroes shut up their love interests by slamming their mouths together and swallowing her protests. It annoys me every time I read this in a book, and the number of times it crops up here in such an exaggerated manner just has to be intentional.

She abruptly stopped yelling at him. She had no choice because Tam grabbed her and in an instant his lips were crushing hers; she was slammed up against his chest as he gave her the full benefit of his expertise in kissing a woman. And since he had an awful lot of expertise, for all her fury Marina lasted about two seconds before she exploded into kissing him back.

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The problem is that even though I recognize the satirical nature of ‘My Lady Governess‘, there isn’t a lot of valid characterization to latch onto that can endear the characters to us. Tam is a send-up of the dictatorial arrogant alpha males that litter the romance market whose forceful high-handed treatment of the heroine verges on sexual assault at times, but parodying this doesn’t allow for much nuance to make him likable.

Marina is the only seemingly sensible straightforward character as she starts off fairly calm and composed, but then is promptly reduced to a watering pot for much of the book. It reaches the heights of absurdity when there’s an amusing part where she’s reportedly been weeping for four days straight even while impressing everyone by issuing orders and taking control of the situation.

With such characters that operate on the extreme ends of the spectrum, it’s too hard to engage on an emotional level with them. I found this story entertaining but ultimately shallow and frivolous.

Personal Rating: 3 out of 5 kitties approve this book.

3cats

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy free from Escape Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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