Sunday 3 December 2017

#CBR9 Book 109: "The Summer of You" by Kate Noble

Page count: 354 pages
Rating: 4 stars

Lady Jane Cummings has been mourning her mother's death for a long time when she's finally allowed back into society. Before she gets much of a chance to enjoy the balls and garden parties, however, her brother Jason returns from his Grand Tour on the Continent and insists that she take their ailing father, the Duke of Rayne north to their summer residence in Merrymere in the Lake District. He's terrified that someone in society will discover that the respected Duke is losing his wits and while Jason's plan involves Jane taking care of it (as she has done since before their mother died), she insists that he has to come with them.

Jane is not happy about having to give up the glamour of London for the backwaters of the Lake District, especially as everyone there has known her since she was little and delights in bringing up the time she was five and ran naked through the town square. She's still grieving her mother and getting increasingly more worried about her father's health, while her irresponsible brother seems mostly content to get drunk at local pubs and leave her to take care of everything. She is intrigued by stories of a reclusive and stand-offish new resident in the area, who may or may not be a highwayman as well. When she discovers that this man rescued her brother from a pub brawl, she goes to thank him, and discovers that she knows who he is. She met Byrne Worth, injured war hero, when he was helping his brother Marcus and Jane's former nemesis Phillipa Benning look for a French spy.

Now he seems content to brood and alienate the locals in a small cottage he inherited from a distant relative. Jane thinks the rumours of Worth being the local highwayman are preposterous, especially since she knows he was in London when some of the crimes were committed and sets out to prove that Mr. Worth is innocent. Soon she's not missing London society much at all, and instead looking forward to every new meeting she can steal with the cranky Mr. Worth.

While this is the second of The Blue Raven books, I actually read it first, hence I discovered a few things about the identity of the infamous Regency spy that made certain plot points in Revealed rather less of a surprise discovery. While the first book in the series has more suspense and is more of an adventure romp, this book was also entertaining, on a smaller scale. What is unusual with this book, compared to most other historical romances I've read, was the large array of points of view we got over the course of the book. In most romances, you tend to get switching POVs from the hero and heroine - here you also get POVs from Jane's brother Jason (who is an immature and selfish idiot), quite a few different villagers (including at a least one of a duo of adolescent scoundrels who run around wreaking havoc as young boys are wont to do). It was a bit strange, and I'm really not sure if it added to or distracted from the main story.

Jane Cummings was Phillipa Benning's main rival in Revealed, but over the course of the story, they found a way to become friends, and this book actually starts with Lady Phillipa's wedding to Marcus Worth. Mostly set in the countryside rather than bustling London, this book has a quieter feel, and while the main plot of Jane and Byrne becoming friends and trying to figure out who is trying to frame him as the local highwayman is fun enough, there is a dark undertone in the story because of the Duke of Rayne's developing dementia, and the heavy responsibilities Jane faces in caring for him and trying to keep the world at large from realising the extent to her father's illness, with little to no help from her oblivious and irresponsible brother, who clearly doesn't want to face up to reality.

Byrne got a gunshot-wound to the leg at the end of the Napoleonic war and tried to manage the pain by drinking copiously or using laudanum. Due to his addiction, he didn't really feel he could help his brother sufficiently and retired to the country to try to wean himself off his cravings and slowly get himself back into shape. On the advice of a local doctor, he's been swimming in the lake daily and while he's still struggling with pain, he's on the way to recovery. He's surprised that he finds such comfort in his conversations with Jane, who he initially believed to be just an air-headed society miss.

With Jane being the daughter of a Duke, while Byrne is a mere baron, their social standings are different enough that their happy ending seems difficult. After the dramatic events at the end of the novel, no one really has any objections to their union. There is also a rather sweet secondary romance in the story, involving one of the local magistrate's daughters, Victoria, who for much of the book harbours a very ill-advised and very much unrequited infatuation with the oafish Jason, not noticing just how perfect the younger of the two local doctors are for her until it's nearly too late.

Judging a book by its cover: It seems that Ms. Noble's publishers were very fond of the Regency lady running through random landscape theme, as all of the three first books of The Blue Raven seem to feature this. While it was quite appropriate with Revealed, there is a lot less running around done by Jane in this book. At least they gave the cover model red hair. That's something.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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