Book Review: Rosemary … too clever to love

If Lady Mary Crawley, and her Downton Abbey siblings were to jet off to the Med for a week of sun, sand, sangria and #beachreads #romancebooks then this is the very book they would have devoured. It’s a pacy, quaffable, page-turner whose cover doesn’t do it justice.

regency romance | historical fiction


Rating: 3 out of 5.

back cover blurb

What does an educated and intelligent young gentlewoman do when she is forced to make her own way in the world? She becomes a governess. In this case, Rosemary Drover, no more than a girl herself, takes charge of Marianne, a motherless ten-year old, and some years later goes to live with her guardian, the Earl of Wyburne.

Rosemary’s sharp mind and talent on the pianoforte, together with her unusual beauty, make a distinct, if unwelcome impression on the Earl. He finds himself falling in love and determines to avoid her as much as possible. Marrying a governess does not accord with his view of himself.

Meanwhile, Marianne’s romantic disposition makes her chafe against her guardian’s restrictions. She wants life to be like a gothic novel; he wants her to be a very proper young lady. Rosemary can see trouble looming and tries to reason with her employer, to no avail.

Where will Marianne’s romantic fantasies lead her, and how will Rosemary save her and prove her value to the Earl? With all the elements of the gothic novel – a deserted castle, and evil abductor, a daring rescue – Rosemary or too clever to love is an updated telling of an old tale, with a decided twist.

Author - GL Robinson | Published by - Amazon in May 2020 | Pages - 195 (paperback)

I would like to thank Glynis for sending me a copy of Rosemary: or too clever to love in return for an honest review.

my thoughts

Never having (knowingly) read a regency romance before, I turned to the all-wise goblins of Google to enlighten me about this bookish genre … and up popped mentions of Mills & Boon, bodices, swooning, and such like.  The boy usually gets the girl, and the girl is unflinchingly beholden to the bounds of feminine strictures of that period.  So, if feminism is your thing, then this genre certainly won’t be.

And so it was with more than just a hint of prejudice, that I opened the book.  I really wasn’t expecting to enjoy it … in part because I’ve always scoffed at the mention of Mills & Boon.  But, oh lord, that cover! I’m a nightmare for judging books by their covers, and this one positively pumped out vibes of the dry, dusty texts of my English Lit classes at school.  The book’s title does little to help things either.

However…

…. perhaps the book should be called Rosemary – you won’t see this coming 

… because this book came as an unexpected and pleasant surprise to me.  Prejudices, be damned! I need to be a bit more open minded, it seems.

The first thing that struck me (apart from the title and the cover … I really do need to get over that) was the immediacy of the book.  From the very first sentence the author makes it clear that this is going to be a pacy page-turner of a book, landing the reader directly in the heart of the story.  There is absolutely no sign of a long-winded introductory narrative that’s so common in other historical fiction books.  This energetic tempo is maintained throughout the book which, coupled with the compact chapters, make for an engaging read that cries out ‘one more chapter’ each time you come to the end of the previous page.  

The second thing that caught my attention was the tone of voice.  Whilst the author has generously peppered the story with era-appropriate phrases and terms, the over-riding tone of voice was never ponderous or stodgy.  Quite the opposite … it flowed freely, with a contemporary air that wouldn’t have been out of place in a Penny Vincenzi or Tamsina Perry novel.  And it’s for this very reason that I found myself enjoying the book, engaging with the characters, and imagining it as the must-read / beach-read book of the Downton Abbey sisters. 

It has flirtation, frisson, jealousy, treachery, glamour, jewellery, pret-a-porter fashion, and super-big country ‘piles’.


[INTERLUDE – throughout the book … and still now … I’ve been unable to silence my shouty inner ‘day job voice’! It’s crying out to see what the marketing effect on sales of Rosemary would be if the publishers were to push the boundaries of regency romance book cover design and opt for something totally different; something resembling contemporary.  The content of the book is absolutely begging for a vibrant, clean, arresting cover design … and I’m convinced it’s achievable whilst staying true to the genre’s roots.  END OF RANT]


On to the book …

There are three key characters – Rosemary, Marianne, and Giles.  Having been orphaned at 17-years old, Rosemary is left with no option but to seek work as a governess; a perfect choice for her to put her unusually strong and well-rounded education to good use. Marianne Fairchild’s mother died during childbirth, and she may as well be fatherless too as he is largely absent from the family home.  Thankfully, Anthony Fairchild had employed the governess services of Rosemary when Marianne was just 10-years old, and the two girls form strong, almost sisterly bonds which are further strengthened when Marianne’s father dies just five years later.  With her family home being willed to a distant (male) cousin, Marianne is placed under the guardianship of her uncle, Giles de Mornay; third Earl of Tyndall … or mockingly, ‘dear Uncle Giles‘ … which necessitates a move to High House.  Having lived somewhat frugally at Fairchild Court, High House is the epitome of luxury, glamour and affluence.  

The Earl, unused to sharing his home with ‘respectable’ ladies, is thrust into a learning curve that tests his patience, propriety and – occasionally – politeness.  Where Rosemary is ardent and outspoken, Marianne is vivacious, energetic and romantic.  His usually quiet pre-dinner drinks – once an opportunity to unwind after a tough day ‘at the office’ – and peaceful evening meals are suddenly filled with chatter, and he often finds himself the subject of Marianne’s ‘engaging conversation’ practice, or questions about silk and ribbons.  He’s as uncomfortable as an ant under glass on a sunny day.

To make matters worse for dear Uncle Giles, Rosemary unleashes a bold new look, emerging from a chrysalis of dowdy brown sackcloth into a pearl-wearing butterfly, sporting tailor-made dresses and bouncy auburn curls.  The glamorous wardrobe isn’t only for the well-to-do Marianne, you know! Whilst this new look forces the Earl to confront his growing admiration of Rosemary, it also catches the fancy of a local (married) lothario – father of twin girls befriended by Marianne – and so ignites the Earl’s simmering jealousy and Rosemary’s frisson.

In a bid to remove Rosemary from his orbit, the Earl packs Marianne off to Lady Gough; a wizened, widowed cousin living in London who he believes will ‘counsel her in drawing room manners’, and prepare her for her coming out season the following year.  Marianne’s initial excitement at living in London (with her beloved Rosie attending as her chaperone) is quickly quashed by the ancient aunt’s relentless afternoons of stuffy gatherings at home surrounded by her own cronies, whilst taking full advantage of Rosemary’s talented (free) piano recitals.  

Unwittingly, the Earl has thrown Marianne into the path of Baron Clive Hutchings; an old enemy from his school days, who seizes her as his opportunity for revenge.  Double-trouble bubble – Lady Gough has a boorish, lumpen son called Raymond who sees Rosemary as fair-game, and perfect material for an acquiescent wife. So you can well imagine Giles’s reaction when he arrives, unannounced, at the aunt’s Grosvenor Square home to find Marianne whispering sweet nothings to the dastardly Baron, whilst Raymond is doing his utmost to eye-up Rosemary whilst she’s indisposed at the piano.

It’s at roughly this point in the book that the Earl shrugs off his stuffy appearance, and we come to learn he’s somewhat ‘ripped’ beneath that perfectly pressed shirt of his, favouring boxing as his manly pursuit.  And it’s this injection of machismo to his alpha male countenance that starts to quicken hearts and imaginations.  

At last, Marianne is living (in her imagination) the life of one of her gothic heroines, forced apart from the man of her dreams by a cruel and unreasonable uncle.  When he doesn’t throw her into a tower and lock the door she’s temporarily crest fallen, but remains undeterred in her plan to meet her beastly Baron at the enigmatic and bewitching Vauxhall Gardens … unknowingly followed by Rosemary who just happens to be dressed in mens clothes. Can Rosemary save the day?  Is this the chance for Uncle Giles to show himself to be the heroic hunk we now know to be lurking under that handsome waistcoat?  

I think this is the time for me to stop writing and for you to start reading.  

But what I will say, before I finish, is that this is an unexpectedly enjoyable book – a beach read; not just for the Downton Abbey sisters but for any one of us.  It flows well and is as quaffable as a perfectly chilled glass of rosé.  The vivid descriptions of clothing, locations and events are well-researched and cleverly written within the conversations of the book’s characters, rather than lengthy waffles of third-person narrative.  The characters are warm and likeable, with the ubiquitous ‘baddies’ not failing to raise a ‘boo! hiss!’ reaction in my mind each time they arrive on the page.  But most appealing is the humour woven throughout the book; from Marianne’s youthful exuberance to Giles’s reaction to being slapped down by Rosemary on a number of subjects.  This little book has gumption and spirit, and packs an undeniable punch that will make even the most vociferous anti-romantics feel something akin to enjoyment.


Buy Rosemary, or too clever to love at AmazonUK | Amazon.com


about GL Robinson

Website | AmazonUK | GoodReads

GL Robinson is from Portsmouth in southern England, but has lived in the USA for over forty years with her American husband.  She tried and failed to adopt an American accent, so people still call her The English Lady. GL stands for Glynis Louise, which is her full name; she’s called Glynis is the UK and Louise in the USA, so she chose GL to cover both! Glynis retired after a career as a French professor, and enjoys gardening (except for weeding!), reading in bed, and having tea parties with her grandchildren.

Glynis was inspired to start writing after the unexpected death of her dear sister in July 2018. They were educated in a convent boarding school and would giggle at historical romances after lights-out under the covers. They were, are are, a life-long passion for them both. Her novels are historical romance written in memory of her sister, Francine. She has written six so far, and hopes to publish more this year.

For more information about the author, to listen to her read from her books, or to receive a free short story, visit romancenovelsbyglrobinson.com


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