Boroughs Publishing Group, $0.99, ISBN 978-1-941260-31-9
Historical Romance, 2014
Calliope and the Viscount is the story of Jamie Renshaw, the brother of the hero of Maddy and the Gambler. Now that everyone else is all married and popping out brats like nobody’s business, the wives are planning to get him to join the married-with-babies bandwagon too. Hey, he makes his own rules, though, and he lives life his own way. Well, that’s what he said anyway, until the ladies introduce him to Calliope Bellingham, their new-found friend. It turns out that her brother knows Jamie – small world! – and she and Jamie both share a zeal for social reforms. It looks like another wedding may be happening soon…
Despite being part of the Ladies of the Abberly Theater series, this one doesn’t have much theater stuff. This may explain why I like this one so much more than the stories that came before it. The author in those previous books clung on to conventional romance tropes despite the fact that most of them don’t work in an unconventional setting like a theater. Here, we are back in familiar territory – activism, earnest people, the Ton. However, here’s the thing: despite the conventional setting, the characters are a little bit different from the usual fare. This is like a 180 of the previous stories, how cute.
Jamie is guilty of first world naïveté when it comes to rescuing third world people from their lot. When in India, for example, he made the kids go to school instead of working in tea plantations. On paper, this sounds great… but he didn’t stay in India long, he went back to England. This means that there would be a bunch of Indian kids who would end up without much knowledge on how to work in a tea plantation. And given that no one else is making sure that these kids have a chance at getting relevant jobs – clerical, perhaps – in the British-run country, these kids are going to end up with unemployable skills and nowhere to go. Good intentions are great, but in Jamie’s case, it can lead to some unhappy consequences for the people he want to “save”.
Anyway, this is not a big problem in this story, and I just bring it up because it stands out like a sore thumb in an otherwise pretty pleasant tale. Jamie is earnest and sincere in his efforts to reform, and I can’t help adoring him for that. It therefore makes sense that his choice in life and his behavior are not the usual type. Calliope is a bit more familiar as the heroine who wants sexy times with the hero without any strings attached, but she follows through with her decisions in a way that tells me that she knows what she is doing. Both of them have some nice chemistry that makes this very short story work.
I like Calliope and the Viscount just fine, and this series doesn’t seem such a missed opportunity after all.