Desert Isle Keeper Review
My Darling Caroline
1998, European Historical Romance (Regency England)
Jove, $5.99, 352 pages, Amazon ASIN 0515123692
If you've ever been denied the chance to do what you love, you'll empathize with Caroline Grayson. She's a brilliant botanist and an accomplished mathematician. Unfortunately, she lives in Regency England, so her abilities make her an outcast. It isn't seemly for a woman to study the sciences.
Desperate to live her dreams, Caroline makes plans in secret. In a few months, she will travel to America to study botany at Columbia University. They don't know she's a woman. She hopes that once she gets there, they'll be forced to accept her.
But then, her father marries her off to Brent Ravenscroft, Earl of Weymerth. Neither Caroline nor Brent wants this marriage. Caroline goes ahead with the marriage, hoping to get an annulment later so she can go to America. If only she didn't find her husband so attractive. . .
Brent surprises Caroline by treating her with respect. He views her mathematical skills with admiration, rather than disgust or fear. When he asks Caroline to take care of his books, she is elated. Even her father hadn't trusted her this much. Readers will cheer when Brent stands up for Caroline at their dinner party.
Sexual tension climbs to a high as Brent tries to seduce his bride. Eventually, of course, Brent and Caroline consummate the marriage. There are only a couple of love scenes, but they're several pages long. Brent shows just as much patience in bed as he did getting there.
This book's primary strength is in its main characters. All her life, Caroline has been denied her dreams. Sometimes, she lets her passion for botany get in the way of doing the right thing. Yet when she realizes how much she loves Brent, she is willing to make sacrifices. Brent is blunt and unwilling to trust, and he keeps important facts from his wife. He can be hard to like at times, but it is important to remember he acts this way for a reason.
For the most part, the plot was strong. Author Adele Ashworth pulled off some great plot twists yet managed to make them believable - quite an accomplishment for a debut novelist! Still, this book has a foreign intrigue subplot that is rather extraneous. It added suspense, but I found just as much suspense in wondering how Caroline and Brent would work through their problems.
The interactions of the family members added interest to the plot. Still, I had a hard time keeping track of Caroline's sisters and their husbands. (She has four sisters, three of whom are married.) Also, there are two characters named Charlotte, and they are together in some scenes! As you might expect, that creates some confusion for the reader.
The botany background strengthened the novel. It was more than just something for Caroline to do, it was truly important to her. Even I was drawn into the world of botany, and I'm the type of gardener who could kill a plastic plant.
I've read plenty of romances where the characters lied to each other or distrusted each other, and I usually hate those books. What makes this one so much better? As usual, strong characters make all the difference. Some authors create characters who show as much background as paper dolls. But Caroline and Brent had depth. The reader knows that because of their pasts, it's inevitable they act as they do. I almost lost faith in Brent near the end of the book, but I hung in there and was rewarded by learning more about his past. The author ties everything together with great skill, producing a very rewarding read.
-- Anne Marble
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