Avon Impulse, $3.99, ISBN 978-0-06-257308-7
Historical Romance, 2016
A Gentleman Never Tells is released as a lead-in to the The Official Essex Sisters Companion Guide, as this short story is linked especially to Pleasure for Pleasure. Now, I do adore the first two books in that series, but I personally don’t see why there is a need for an official guide, aside from making some dough for the two authors behind it, of course. Still, it’s pretty cheap for a book that has extras and behind-the-scenes articles, and it won’t escape the notice of people who compare prices that the official companion, which is far more substantive than this short story, costs only $1.00 more than this one.
Now, this story. It won’t be part of the official guide, so you have to purchase or borrow this one separately if you want to read it.
The Honorable Oliver Berwick was part of the crew that hanged out with Charles Darlington from Pleasure for Pleasure. They were all Mean Boys back then, bullying people by giving them mean nicknames and laughing when these nicknames ruined their victims’ chances at fitting in with Society. Oh, don’t worry, the author will assure you that things aren’t so bad because his victims are like, oh, I got a hot husband in the end despite all that bullying, so no harm done. Still, Oliver today is feeling very remorseful for what he did in the past, and he tries to apologize even when his victims are too happy being boffed by buffed hubbies to hold a grudge. He gets his chance to apologize to Lady Windingham, one of the Mean Boys’ victims, when his niece pesters, pouts, and cajoles him into taking the niece to the lady’s party.
Also there is Lady Windingham’s sister, Elizabeth Troutt, who is still smarting over the fact that her husband, who spent all their years of marriage resenting her and spending time with his mistress instead, had the temerity to die in that mistress’s arms and caused an embarrassing scandal as a result. Both Lizzie and her sister are daughters of a merchant, and Lizzie’s now dead husband considered her beneath him and, hence, it was a humiliation to have to marry her for her money. Anyway, she has trust issues when it comes to men, and she wishes that her sister would leave her alone instead of trying to get her to mingle and meet nice guys.
Lady Windingham, as I’ve mentioned, isn’t too affected by what Oliver did to her in the past. But if Oliver wants to make amends, she’d like him to try to cheer up the perpetually dour Lizzie. You can guess what will happen between Lizzie and Oliver, I’m sure.
A Gentleman Never Tells is a very easy read. Both characters have their share of quirky charms, and there are some good sardonic one-liners here too. I’m also awed by how easy the author manages to get me to like Oliver’s niece, when that character has all the ingredients to be an annoying know-it-all wannabe thing. I actually like Hattie a lot, imagine that.
I do have my reservations about the happy ending, though. The romance feels too much like Lizzie using Oliver to build up her self esteem again; I don’t feel that she has developed the kind of maturity needed to develop a stable, healthy relationship with her beau. Too much of this romance sees Lizzie going all me-me-me-me-me, and our darling comes off more like a rather immature young lady seeking validation about her looks and boink-worthiness from a hot guy. Given that Oliver comes with a handful of a niece, and Lizzie barely knows him or the niece even by the last page, I have no idea whether I can buy the happily ever after as portrayed in the epilogue.
Anyway, this is a cute, frothy read if you have a dollar or two to spare; just don’t take the whole thing seriously and you’d be fine.