Wed
Mar 2 2011 12:48pm

Fresh Meat: Margo Maguire’s Seducing the Governess

Seducing the Governess by Margo Maguire

Margo Maguire
Seducing the Governess
Avon Books, March 1, 2011, $7.99

A Proper Governess Should Never . . .

Assist a handsome stranger, alone on an unfamiliar road . . . unless the rake happens to be her new employer.  

Take a position in a crumbling manor . . . especially if the household staff has been replaced by unruly former soldiers.

Allow her young charge entrée to her heart . . . for once done, it will be impossible to maintain proper distance.

Permit her charge’s uncle a breathtaking kiss under a star-lit sky . . . henceforth she will most certainly lose composure whenever he is near.

And above all, she should never, ever fall completely, irreversibly in love with her employer . . . for nothing good can possibly come of it.

***

  1. Beauty and the beast? Check.
  2. Impossible love between a governess and a lord of the manor? Check.
  3. A hero who must marry money to save his estate from ruin? Check.
  4. A beautiful governess unaware she’s actually an heiress? Check.

As you can see, Margo Maguire’s Seducing the Governess features many well-worn themes. But I like governess romances and beauty and the beast stories, so that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Reading a romance with familiar themes comforts me, but only if the author makes them fresh. Otherwise it’s simply a story that bleeds into the next one without leaving much of an impression.

Maguire kept it fresh by rounding the edges of those themes. As a result, they didn’t follow the path I expected. Here’s an example: Nash Farris, Lord Ashby, who returned disfigured from Waterloo, realizes he’s no longer a handsome, carefree rake. He knows he must marry for money. Further, he understands his wife will likely find him unattractive. What he doesn’t expect is that Mercy Franklin, the governess he hired for his niece, isn’t bothered in the least by his appearance. When she looks at him, she doesn’t notice what causes other women to turn away.

Okay, so a beauty who fails to flinch in the face of the beast is not entirely novel. But that rounded edge, in conjunction to other rounded edges, avoided some aggravating pitfalls. Here’s another example: A hero and heroine at constant odds. Taken to an extreme and I end up with a headache from all the arguing. Maguire doesn’t make that mistake. Nash secretly adores Mercy’s “apparent indifference to his unsightly scars”; he also delights in her “blunt reprimands” and so cannot stop provoking her. These are not grand or mean-spirited provactions, though, nor are they the lashings-out of a beast. Nash’s provocations are small and teasing, so rather than being a boorish, arrogant ass, he charmed me. And though there’s plenty of lust-thought to go around, I loved how the author described Nash’s reaction to Mercy when they ran into each other in the hallway late one night:

The candlelight cast her cheekbones in high relief. Her lashes were thick and black, beautifully framing her sleepy eyes, and Nash could easily conjure the way they would lie against her cheek in slumber. It wasn’t difficult to imagine her soft body lying against his in the darkness of night, soothing away the harsh memories that plagued him.

A man in lust does not imagine what it feels like to cuddle with a woman as she sleeps. But a man in love does, and that the author showed me the depth of this man’s feelings in just two sentences impressed me.

Throughout the book, and particularly where the “hero needs to marry for money” trope is concerned, Maguire rounds edges. By doing so, she cuts down on the sort of melodrama that frustrates me, limits the angst to an acceptable level, and shows her characters to be grown-ups rather than petulant children. I appreciate that sort of subtlety and plan to read the sequel to Seducing the Governess as a result.

For more about this book, visit www.margomaguire.com.


Laurie Gold cannot stop reading and writing about romance—she’s been blabbing online for years. She remains a work in progress. Be one of the few who visits her at Toe in the Water or follow her may-be-too-political-for-you tweets at @laurie_gold.

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10 comments
Megan Frampton
1. MFrampton
I don't think I will ever tire of governess/employer stories. For me, it all started with Jane Eyre.
Janet W
2. Janet W
The Ungrateful Governess by Mary Balogh is just a little different ... and another great reminder of how much her Regencies might be enjoyed by today's readers. A number of her heroines start off as a governess.
Lime Cello
3. Limecello
Ooo I have this book in my TBR - just got it last week? (Whenever, I have no concept of time). So many books I want to get to!
Laurie Gold
4. LaurieGold
Janet, two of my favorite trads are governess romances: Tallie's Knight and Lord St. Claire's Angel. Another plays off that theme in that the heroine is married off to a man primarily to care for his children--A Family for Gillian.
Limecello, you'll have to let me know what you think about the "rounded" edges I wrote about and whether or not they lent a fresh air to often-used themes.
Virginia Campbell
5. VirginiaCampbell
Thank you for a very enjoyable review! All of the elements you mentioned are favorites of mine, and that is why I very much look forward to reading "Seducing the Governess"! I adore "Jane Eyre", and the film version starring George C. Scott and Susannah York is one of my all-time favorite films. I also love "Tallie's Knight" and "Lord St. Claire's Angel", both wonderfully written, poignant romances!
Myretta Robens
6. Myretta
@LaurieGold, wasn't Tallie's Knight extraordinary? It made Anne Gracie an autobuy for me forever.
Laurie Gold
7. LaurieGold
Yes, Myretta, it was.

Virginia (and Limello), I feel the need to lower expectations here somewhat. I mentioned the titles I did in my comments because of the larger conversation on governess romances. This is not a book on a par with either of those three all-time keepers I listed. I'm incredibly stingy when it comes to falling in love with books. What I hoped to convey in my blog entry was that this is a governess/beauty and the beast book that didn't follow expected paths. Because of that the lead characters seemed like grownups. Taken all together, the book read as fresh rather than stale.
Janet W
8. SusanV
Fun historical romance can also include Lauren Willig's books. The astonishingly handsome and muscular hero always marries the heroine with the heart of gold who doesn't realize her beauty & courage.
Liz Maverick
9. lizmaverick
@SusanV I'm totally on the Lauren Willig train. We're going to try and get something from her on the site. Yay!
Virginia Campbell
10. VirginiaCampbell
Laurie! Bless your sweet little honest cheeks--pinch : ) You are not lowering my expectations--I have already seen a variety of mixed reviews for "Seducing the Duchess". However, it sounds like a terrific historical romance to me. It has many of the story line elements that I adore. There was only one "Jane Eyre", but there have been many more governesses in this world. Not every one of them has a literary "classic" of a life , but they can still have a very enjoyable story! I regularly access book reviews, author and publisher websites, book blogs & etc., but I still follow my own instincts when choosing a book. I have widened my scope as a reader these past few years, stepping way outside my normal fiction box. I have made some great discoveries and found some huge disappointments. Hype sells books, but it cannot give talent and skill to an author. In many cases, the hype far outshines the actual content of the book. I have walked out on movies and one concert before it was over, but I always finish my books : )
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