Sunday, August 7, 2011
The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton
Celia Seaton finds herself locked in an attic in nothing but her night shift after being kidnapped by a man in a cart. She manages to find her way down out of her prison only to come face to face with her enemy, Tarquin Compton, who had humiliated her in front of the ton. Celia is by no means wealthy, but was presented with a brief opportunity to come out in the ton, but it was brutally ended when Tarquin, the arbiter of ton fashion, compared her to a cauliflower. She had taken up employment as a governess before becoming engaged to the master of the household who had kicked her out when a strange man was found breaking into her room. Tarquin had been hit over the head by her own kidnapper and when he regains consciousness he has severe memory loss and, hoping to get a bit of revenge and hoping he will help her, she tells him his name is Terrance Fish and that the two of them are engaged. They begin a journey hiding from the man chasing him, sleeping outside in the air, fishing barehanded in streams, and Celia falls in love with this new man.
Only after they have seduced each other does Tarquin remember who, and what, he is and he escorts Celia to his estate in Yorkshire where his dragon of an aunt finds her announces an engagement between them. Tarquin is furious to have been tricked, but he cannot get Celia out of his mind, even as he recognizes that she is completely wrong for him. With the help of his close friends, the Iverleys, he devises a plan to keep Celia safe from those who kidnapped her and it is only a coincidence if it means that she spends more time in his company. She is hidden away at a house party that his friends invite him too, where it is more apparent than ever that Celia will not fit into his world. But when her room is again invaded, Tarquin is there to rescue her and they must work together to figure out who is after her and what they want. Secrets about Celia's past are revealed and she fears more than ever that she will lose Tarquin, but pretending to be Terrance Fish has changed him and he has learned that he wants different things in his life, especially the beautiful and unconventional woman he loves.
This book started in an awkward manner because I felt like I had missed a first chapter because it was the middle of a kidnapping and it took awhile for all of the characters' backstories to be explained. It was an interesting, and new, approach for me, as I feel many authors really start with an explanation and since I'm used to that it just sat oddly with me. Celia's background was intriguing and I really liked the brief glimpses into her past that we got and, although I wish we had gotten more, I really felt like it contributed to making her the person she was. I especially liked how accepted Tarquin was of it and how he encouraged her to be more open with herself about how important her past was. I love that she had a sense of humor about her situation and looked out for her best interests, while still caring about other people. I'm used to reading about maids or titled ladies, so I was also intrigued that she was somewhere in between, but I never completely got into her character and it might come back, again, to the fact that I felt like I missed the beginning of the story that wasn't written.
Tarquin really surprised me because most romance novels heroes make fun of the dandies, but he was actually a dandy himself! However, I guess because Neville didn't want to offend the readers sense of masculinity, he was a dandy who apparently only dressed in black and white. Make of that what you will. I will admit his obsession with fashion was a turn off for me, say what you will, even though it was explained during the course of the book as his reaction to being a lost little boy. It took him a long time to "grow up" and realize what he wanted in his life and came across as rather immature. The kidnapping and side plot took up a large part of this book and, although it did not overwhelm the plot, I still felt like it was too much. I did not really get into it but I will admit that there were some interesting twists and turns that I was definitely not expecting. I also enjoyed the brief glimpses we got of Sebastian and Diana, from one of my favorite romance novels, The Dangerous Viscount, which were fun and totally in keeping with both of their characters.
Rating: A fun little book, with a heroine I came to find interesting, but far from Neville's best work with some plot problems that I didn't really like.