Smile Politely

Rules of romance

’Tis a crying shame that the word “Piffle” is so underutilized in our modern lexicon. I, for one, think it could come in quite handy, especially when speaking of romance novels.

In this instance, I speak of Rules for a Lady, written by local romance author Jade Lee (who originally published this under the pseudonym Katherine Greyle and who also pens contemporary romance novels under the name Kathy Lyons). The plot of the book, summarized for browsing purposes, goes thusly:

To Become a Countess…
RULE #1: A lady does not attempt to come out in London society disguised as her deceased half-sister.
RULE #2: A lady does not become enamored of her guardian; even though his masterful kisses and whispered words of affection tempt her beyond all endurance.
RULE #3: A lady may not climb barefoot from her bedroom on a rose trellis, nor engage in fisticuffs with riffraff in order to rescue street urchins.
RULE #4: No matter how impossible the odds, a lady always gives her hand and her heart–though not necessarily in that order–to the one man who sees her as she truly is and loves her despite her flagrant disobedience of every one of the RULES FOR A LADY.

In the book, which I chose randomly from among Lee’s very healthy roster of historical romances, it’s Regency England, and Gillian has in fact faked her own death to pose as her deceased half-sister, Amanda, in order to acquire a wealthy husband. That’s her plan, at least. Spending her “Season” in London, she is sponsored by the Earl of Mavenford, whose job it is to introduce her to eligible bachelors.

Gillian instead finds herself drawn to the Earl of Mavenford himself. There are two mysteries within the book: first, will the truth about Gillian’s identity come out? And will she and the Earl of Mavenford end up together?

It’s worth reading to find out.

I’m not sure what an expert in the field of historical romances looks for in such a book. The presence of sexual tension? The historical accuracy? If it’s the latter, then is it possible to be too accurate? Lee describes the plight of a Regency woman so convincingly that I found myself bemoaning their hardships as well. Gillian is often told what she can and can’t do, risks being sold into sexual slavery, and must deal with unwelcome advances by many men. Of course I already knew that it hasn’t been all sunshine and lollipops for women throughout history, but a commentary on women’s issues is not exactly what a person looks for in a romance novel. Well, it’s not what I look for, anyway. In fact, if the point of these books is to make the reader hot and bothered, I can honestly say that being quite so true to the time period had the opposite effect.

Speaking of being hot and bothered, this novel stands in stark contrast to the modern romance novel, Two Week Seduction, by Lee’s alter ego, Kathy Lyons. Instead of the SEX that was ever-present throughout Two Week Seduction, this romance novel was actually…romantic.

As for the author, Jade Lee’s website states that:

USA Today Bestseller JADE LEE has been scripting love stories since she first picked up a set of paper dolls. Ball gowns and rakish lords caught her attention early (thank you Georgette Heyer), and her fascination with the Regency began. And as a Taurus, she lives to pit a headstrong woman against a tortured hero just to watch them butt heads on the way to true love. Flesh wounds are rare, but the healing and laughter are real.

Rules for a Lady is what it is: an historical romance novel set in Regency England. The language is authentic enough that I had to look up some terms: hair shirt and mews come to mind. Nothing stands out as particularly far-fetched or particularly outstanding. But (and this is crucial), there wasn’t a point where I wanted to stop reading, which isn’t something I can always say about some of our locally-produced fare. I’ve now read two of Lee’s novels, and I recommend them, especially in this season of Love.

Perhaps, at first, you will feel as I did when when I first started reading romance novels: a little embarrassed at the thought of being caught with one in public. But now?


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