I have gotten a few of Elizabeth Mansfield’s books on Audible, and, in rereading them, they have not lived up to my memory of how great they are. Still, they are superior to almost every other regency I have picked up lately. Elizabeth Mansfield excels at portraying heroes that are good, even sweet men. This is not one of those. The hero in this one is a nasty piece of work. He was a bad father and a bad husband to the late sister of our heroine. Even though he was neglectful and unfaithful to her she worshiped the ground he walked on. We learn later that she was terminally ill and instead of telling her husband the truth so as not to impede his brilliant political career, she told him she was not interested in intimacy anymore, and encouraged him to find it elsewhere. What. Miles and Olivia, the dead wife’s sister, and our leading lady, have always been antagonistic to each other and this devolves into almost hatred, before the corner is turned and Miles starts to redeem himself with Olivia’s help. However, throughout most of the book he is unreasonable, hateful, and angry. The narrator, I suspect, made him even more unpleasant than how he probably was on the page because she voiced him with a particularly villainous, snarly tone. She went too far, and it lessened my enjoyment of the book.
I’m afraid on this “re-read” audio version, I agree with the majority of the reviewers about the contemptible stupid behavior of the heroine. Sophia has set about proving that the hero is justified in his bad opinion of her by creating scenes and embarrassing him at his country betrothal party. At first, her purposely behaving like a zany clumsy hysteric was a little amusing. I did get some laughs out of her setting the piano on fire and then her phony inconsolable self-flagellation. But the incident with the horse was way too much. She really crossed the line. Totally unreasonable and foolish.
Elizabeth Mansfield was one of my favorite traditional Regency romance authors and if I had to pick a favorite of hers, this one would be it. She really misdirects you into thinking one man will be the hero and love interest and the true love interest sneaks up on you. The romance is tender and touching.
In general, This author’s forte is non-stereotypical characters, or at least her heroes and heroines usually have a little quirk or two that makes you very fond of and invested in them. She is amazing at creating a sweet sexual tension between the love interests without anything more than a kiss. To add to the appeal of her books, many are lightly interconnected by family similar to my other favorite, the great Patricia Veryan. A while back, her books had become available on Audiobooks, and I have re-read a few of them. Sadly, they didn’t quite hold up with the passage of time. But this one, and a few others, are still among my favorites. Strangely, it is those which remain out-of-print and hard to find at a reasonable price.