Sunday, February 7, 2016

New Review: Barbara Devlin’s ENTER THE BRETHREN – Fanciful Regency with an Earl who is a ship’s captain

An early Regency set in 1810 mostly in London, with a prologue set in 1307, this is the first in a series of stories about a secret order of mariner knights who serve the Crown.

The story begins as Trevor Marshall, Earl of Lockwood, breaks into the cabin of Dalton Randolph, whose ship is anchored off Jamaica. Trevor is intent on revenge as Dalton once stole Trevor’s mistress. At first I assumed Trevor was planning to steal his old mistress back, but no. I realized later that that the woman Trevor intends on stealing is Dalton’s new mistress. However, Trevor doesn’t realize the woman he abducts is not Dalton’s mistress but highborn Caroline Elliott, an innocent who stowed away on Randolph’s ship in an effort to escape her London Season.

Caroline is not like any other Regency debutante you will have encountered. When Trevor names her a courtesan and a paramour, she does not correct him but readily agrees to be his mistress on the condition she can call the shots. Trevor agrees to that unlikely arrangement and they sail away on his ship to London where she shares his bed and her recipes with his cook. Oh yes, she also mends sails and is good at fencing (good enough to take on pirates).

Caroline thinks she is plain yet Trevor tells her she’s a great beauty. How she missed her looks was a bit puzzling. Yes, the man she thought she loved married another but still. Caroline is also naïve. She thinks if she has sex with Trevor she will be “ruined”. Surly she would have known the rules of London society: she was ruined the minute she stowed away on Dalton’s ship. Then sleeping in the same bed with Trevor for weeks with all his crew aware makes her twice ruined—even without any sex. Clueless might be a good description of this heroine. Oh yes, and she is clumsy, often tripping over her own feet.

Trevor is a handsome rake who had no thought of marriage until Caroline came along. Even then, it took the prodding of her brother, the duke, to get him to do the right thing after Trevor took her innocence. The author did that part rather well, I thought.

The abduction scene at the beginning was enticing and there are a few more as the pirates return. The dialog is often witty banter (there are some good one-liners as Caroline and Trevor get to know each other). But there are some improbable moments, too, where one must suspend belief entirely. Apparently he never noticed her highborn speech, either that or his doxies and courtesans (and Dalton’s) were an educated lot. And the ship must be large (to have stern windows) and steady as there wasn’t much movement, even in the storm.

I did think it odd that the dukes and earls called themselves by their first names and they invited Caroline to do the same. Peers in the Regency used their titles, not their first names except with close family like a wife or sister but not with a buddy. There were some other deviations from the Regency era, but if you like witty, somewhat fanciful Regencies, this may be the one for you.

The Brethren of the Coast series thus far:

Enter the Brethren
My Lady, the Spy
The Most Unlikely Lady
One-Knight Stand
Captain of Her Heart
The Lucky One

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