A Country Courtship
by Donna Simpson
I never know which Donna Simpson I will encounter when I pick up one of her books. When she is good, she is very good, with intriguing characters, heartfelt emotions, and believable situations (see Lord St. Claire?s Angel and Miss Truelove Beckons), but when she?s not, the novel is kind of – well – dull. Unfortunately, A Country Courtship is of the latter variety.
Jane Dresden agrees to meet Viscount Haven who lives in the wilds of Yorkshire, with the intention of rejecting him. She has always longed for a simple cottage and quiet life and has been promised such by her mother if she will at least meet and get to know Lord Haven.
Geraint Neville, Viscount Haven, is no more interested in meeting Jane, than she is him. He has been to London, and found the women there to be artificial, jaded and grasping. He loves the land and the farming aspect of his life, but this viscount business is stifling. He knows he needs to provide an heir, though, and agrees to meet Miss Dresden. But the likelihood of doing so seems bleak, as he receives a note saying she has been kidnapped.
In truth, Jane has run away. Traveling with her stuffy aunt, she arrived at an inn close to his estate where she heard tales of Lord Haven's stern, dour, humorless demeanor. A letter from her mother catches her at the inn telling of her remarriage and advising her to make the best of it with Lord Haven, as she should not be welcomed back home. So she runs, thinking to make her way to Scotland and her old nurse (why are all old nurses Scottish?) and is attacked by drunks outside the tavern, though she manages to get away.
Mary Cooper, widowed with an infant child, finds Jane in her barn, cold, wet, disheveled, and takes her in. She is a childhood friend of Gerry's and when he visits Mary to ask if she's seen Jane, Mary introduces her to him as Jenny, her cousin and a lady's maid. Gerry, who doesn?t use his title unless necessary, letting her believe he is a simple farmer, is immediately smitten, as is Jenny.
This takes us up to page 60 and the rest of the book is full of interminable inner dialogs by Gerry and Jenny on why a match between them wouldn?t work. Gerry is a viscount – he can't marry a lady's maid! Jenny is "the granddaughter to an earl, niece of a baroness" (this exact phrase is repeated 5-6 times) – she can't marry a farmer, especially one beholden to that mean old viscount!
Gerry's grandmother plays a large part in the novel, though her character was all over the place – by turns, rude, crabby, doting, loving, and Machiavellian. A side plot involving Gerry's sister and her unrequited love of a neighboring baronet is given great weight early in the novel, but is left to dangle unresolved halfway through.
There is so much retreading over ground already covered as Gerry and Jenny both review their actions to date and rue their present situations (several times!), that I was left with the feeling that this was really a 100 page novella stretched out into a 223 page book.
If you haven't read a Donna Simpson traditional regency, check out Miss Truelove Beckons and give this one a pass.
Reviewed by Cheryl Sneed, July 1, 2002
“Too much repetition, not enough conflict makes for a tedious read.”
July 2002, 223 pages
Lord Gerry Haven prefers the quiet beauty of his Yorkshire farm to the artifice of London and the marriage mart. Thus, his matchmaking family takes it upon themselves to find a suitable bride for him. But before he can meet (and reject) Miss Jane Dresden, she suddenly disappears. While joining the search for the missing heiress, Gerry become enchanted by a lovely provincial maiden who stirs him like no London beauty ever could.
Broad-shouldered and strong, Gerry is the kind of rugged country farmer who makes "Jenny" want to forget she's a runaway lady desperate to avoid a match with a top-lofty lord of the manor. Unable to resist the attraction between them, she surrenders to his sweet kisses, knowing that this idyll must soon come to an end. For when Gerry discovers she is not the rural-born and bred Jenny, but Jane – a society miss gone missing – she is certain any chance of happiness in his arms will be lost!