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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

REVIEW: "My Dearest Enemy" by Connie Brockway

My Dearest Enemy
My Dearest Enemy by Connie Brockway
For Ages 18+ (Language, Sensuality)
Historical Romance -- Victorian England

Dell -- 1998
Mass Market Paperback, 387 pages
Received through PaperBack Swap

THEMES
Beta Hero, Troubled Inheritance

SUMMARY
“Dear Mr. Thorne, For the next five years, I will profitably manage this estate. I will deliver to you an allowance and I will prove that women are just as capable as men.” 
Lillian Bede is shocked when she is tapped to run the affairs of an exquisite country manor. But she accepts the challenge, taking the opportunity to put her politics into practice. There’s only one snag: Lily’s ward, the infuriating, incorrigible globe-trotter Avery Thorne.

“My Dear Miss Bede, Forgive me if I fail to shudder. Pray, do whatever you bloody well want, can, or must.” 


Avery’s inheritance is on hiatus after his uncle dies—and his childhood home is in the hands of some domineering usurper. But when he finally returns, Avery finds that his antagonist is not at all what he expected. In fact, Lily Bede is stunning, exotic, provocative—and impossible to resist.

FIRST LINE
"The news of Horatio Algernon Thorne's death came accompanied by a letter from him."

MY THOUGHTS
I have had My Dearest Enemy on my TBR shelf for over two years and it just kept getting shoved back every time I visited to pick out my next read.  But, for some reason, I finally got inspired to read and it and now I am mentally berating myself for not reading it the moment I received it.  This story was an absolute pleasure to read from beginning to end and I can see myself re-reading it for years to come.

The story begins with Avery Thorne discovering that his uncle has died and decided to mess around with Avery's inheritance of his beloved Mill House.  Horatio has never liked Avery and gives the running of Mill House to a suffragist named Lillian Bede for five years to see if she can make it profitable.  If she is successful, Avery will lose all hope of inheriting the one place he always thought of as home.  Avery decides to pursue a lifelong desire to travel at this time which forces Lily to discover his location in order to fulfill her duties to his uncle's will.  This starts a lengthy exchange of letters between Lily and Avery which is enhanced upon their first meeting five years later.

Avery Thorne and Lily Bede are two of the most enjoyable characters I've read in a historical romance in awhile.  Avery is from an aristocratic family (no title), but has always been an outcast because of his health issues and shyness.  He has a keen mind and a sense of honor that rules his outlook on the world.  Lily's unorthodox background and liberal politics really make her stand out in a genre full of spoiled ladies and courtesans.  I loved how respectful Brockway was with this character and the way that she showed Lily growing as a person through her experiences running the house.

The relationship between Avery and Lily started (as I mentioned above) through their five year correspondence, but things really got going when he returned from his travels.  The fieriness that they both displayed in their letters is still evident despite the fact that, on Avery's side especially, that is not something that is obvious to the rest of their acquaintances.  The banter is witty and full of sexual tension which just made me laugh so many times.  I did find myself wishing that there were more physical scenes between Lily and Avery, but that is a minor quibble in an overall superb romance.

Besides Lily and Avery, Connie Brockway peppers her story with fascinating side characters.  My particular favorites were the members of Avery's family that Lily unwittingly adopts as her own.  Francesca, Avery's spinster cousin, has a fiesty independence that hides an inner sadness.  Horatio's heir, Bernard, has health issues that are reminiscent of Avery's and he provides a great way for Avery to showcase the advantages of real gentlemanly behavior.  I would love to see both Francesca and Bernard get their own stories sometime in the future.  I also liked the unlikely friendship between Bernard's widowed mother and Lily's suffragist friend.

The convoluted inheritance is a common theme in historical romance, but I think My Dearest Enemy is the best use of that plot point I've ever read.  This complication is used as a launch pad for Avery and Lily to begin conversing since neither one's personality would probably have allowed them to get to know each other without external help.  The letters are truly one of the highlights of entire book.  At the beginning, both characters are disgruntled about their situation and take it out on each other in their letters, but it becomes obvious (to the reader, at least) that these exchanges allow them to reveal key points of their personalities.  I've read quite a few reviews that say that the reviewer would read an entire book made up of Lily and Avery's letters.  And I was pleasantly surprised to find that I agreed with them.

There are a few minor subplots to go along with Avery and Lily's growing relationship.  I was afraid that Lily's tendency to hire pregnant maids would come across as overly cute, but I found these ladies to be so funny and irreverent with their antics.  A small mystery involving possible sabotage to Lily's management success keeps the action going though I found the perpetrator to be a little obvious.  All in all, these secondary story lines do their job which is to provide a break from the romance while not overshadowing it.

In conclusion, My Dearest Enemy is considered a classic in this genre for many fans and I finally understand why.  Connie Brockway provides readers with a lighthearted, but still thought-provoking romance with two likable characters.  There is just something about the mix of the prose with the plot and the characters that is hard to describe in a review.  But, I knew it was something special a few chapters in and I hope that others will give this oldie, but goodie a chance sometime.


5 STARS


STEAM LEVEL
Flush -- Detailed descriptions of lovemaking though nothing overly graphic.

FAVORITE QUOTES
"I don't give a bloody damn if I never share your bed, your name, or your house -- you are still my concern. You can leave, take yourself from my ken, disappear for the rest of my life but you cannot untangle yourself from my -- my concern. That I have of you, Miss Bede, for that, at least, I do not need your permission."


CHALLENGES READ FOR

 

7 comments:

  1. Oh my gosh, this looks soooo cute. I clearly need to read this - at least so I can read the letters!

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    1. It is adorable, but never goes into overly precious. I think you would really enjoy it!

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  2. Sold. I always enjoy a fresh approach to historical romances, as long as they are respectful of the historical time period and its mores. Sounds like this one fits the bill!

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    1. Connie Brockway is notoriously respectful of the historical settings she is writing in. I think you will find Lily's involvement in the Victorian-era suffrage movement to be really intriguing. Thanks for commenting!

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  3. Oh I see I need to get back to reading this author, she does a fantastic job with her stories. She has been a personal favorite, since I first started reading romances. I do love fresh approach and I think I am going to look this one up this week. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this one, you sold me!! :)

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  4. I think I have my next pick for Throwback Thursday! LOL :) Thanks for the lovely review Jennifer. I love that short exchange through correspondence featured in the book summary. :)

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  5. Oh love (and hate) when that happens and once you've put off for so long is amazing. I've not tried her yet but you so have me wanting to. Sounds fantastic!

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