A very lighthearted, sweet read.
4.5 stars/5 stars
When I came across this book by chance while browsing, the plot immediately intrigued me. While I've read many books where the heroine is of a lower social status than the lord hero, this is the first I've come across where the heroine is actually a chimney sweep's daughter!
The story begins comically when the hero, Robert Selborne, comes back from war and finds out that in order to receive his inheritance from his deceased father and grandmother, he must 1) marry a lady who was present at his cousin's wedding (which is the next day), and 2) be celibate for 100 days. This obviously puts him out of sorts, but he decides to go through with finding a lady to marry, in order to restore his principal home, Delaval, to order. Unfortunately, due to the passing of his father and grandmother, his cousin's wedding has been reduced to having only a few ladies of marriageable age, and none that appeals to him. This is when he spies the heroine, Jemina Jewell, who is a chimney sweep's daughter but has received a lady's education. They quickly strike a marriage of convenience, and against statuses, fall in love with each other.
While many critics of this novel mention the credence of such a fairy tale story, I am not so cynical as to not enjoy a good story when I see it. The primary cast is wonderful; the hero is nice beyond belief and sincerely wishes to find love in his marriage. He, of course, falls head over heels in love with Jemina, who, due to her status in life, has a rather cynical view on the notion of love in marriage. It was refreshing to find for once a heroine who holds the cynical view on love rather than the hero, as it happens far too often in regency romances. Eventually, Jemina does learn to place trust in her husband, and learns to love him just as much. Another aspect of this novel I really liked is the fact that both parties are honest with each other in what they want. Robert and Jemina both knows that he wants her, and neither can or tries to deny their attraction, but knows that they must stay celibate to receive Robert's inheritance. The scenes in which Robert tries to battle his lust for his wife is highly amusing.
Further embellishing the story is a wonderful cast of secondary characters, who throughout my reading has invoked a great deal of giddiness and joy. Even the mean Cousin Augusta is more for comic effect than pure malice.
The only reason I didn't give it 5 stars is because there were a few unresolved points. First, Robert had nightmares of when he was still fighting in the Peninsula, but that just somehow disappeared once he got married? I find that hard to believe such nightmares could disappear overnight. Second, Jack's whole masquerade as a highway man was simply resolved far too quickly, with barely a single mention. Did the authorities catch the real highwayman? It was vaguely mentioned and I can't remember it at all.
Final thoughts on the novel: There are no cliched plots in this novel,and everything resolves itself into a splendid happily-ever-after worthy of Disney recognition. Yes, the plot is hard to believe, and yes, you may find the characters too nice or sweet, or just simply too wonderful that you want them to exist in real time. But the bottom line is that this is a lighthearted, joyous read of two people learning to love each other, and I highly recommend it for anyone who loves a good fairy tale.