Title: Royal Regard
Author: Mariana Gabrielle
Publisher: Whaley Digital Press, LLC
Genre: Regency, Romance
Heat level: (M/F, oral sex, masturbation, minor Sadomasochism)
Publisher’s Buy link:
Publisher Blurb:When Bella Holsworthy returns to England after fifteen years roaming the globe with her husband, an elderly diplomat, she quickly finds herself in a place more perilous than any in her travels—the Court of King George IV. As the newly elevated Earl and Countess settle into an unfamiliar life in London, this shy, not-so-young lady faces wicked agendas, society's censure, and the realities of a woman soon to be alone in England.
Unaccustomed to the ways of the beau monde, she is disarmed and deceived by a dissolute duke and a noble French émigré with a silver tongue. Hindered by the meddling of her dying husband, not to mention the King himself, Bella must decide whether to choose one of her fascinating new suitors or the quiet country life she has searched the world to find.
Review of book:
I’d forgotten how much I enjoy a good regency romance, and so glad that I decided to read Royal Regard. This is my first exposure to Mariana Gabrielle’s work, but I’m hooked. Her characters are well rounded and realistically crafted, and I found myself fully invested in them from the get go. What I especially enjoy about this genre, is that falling in love with someone that you’re actually married to wasn’t at all the norm. In fact, it seems that while women would swoon at the thought of a “love match”, many of the male characters I’ve come across would see the open display of affection as a weakness. The standard for marriages seemed to be that they were more a strategic tool to further a family’s connections, than anything to do with depth of emotion between a couple. Sure, you might come to like the person you were with, but women had few rights and a multitude of pitfalls in the ever-changing social scene that they could find themselves a victim of. In my mind, a female was little more than a uterine cultivation device (sounds better than “baby maker”). This was why I loved Bella’s innate strength so much.
She’d had such a difficult upbringing. The only female in a household of rough, sometimes abusive and scheming males, she wasn’t at all confident in ton society. Having basically been brokered away into a marriage to a merchant twice her age, she’d spent the last fifteen years touring the world with him as his wife and diplomatic support staff. You’d think she would be bitter, unsure, and easily victimized; nothing could be further from the truth. Bella had balls (sorry for the visual) that rivaled any of the males she’d encountered along the way. I was fascinated by her ability to cut down any man who behaved indecently, while being so utterly unsure of herself as a female. What a complete dichotomy. Her journey to finding herself certainly had its ups and downs. That’s okay though; I’ve always thought that anything worth having should be worked for. She was smart when it wasn’t fashionable, and I had to give her a lot of credit for remaining true to herself, in spite of the staggering amount of external pressure to conform.
Nick (Duke of Wellbridge) was the quintessential rake. He gambled, dallied with married women, and made a career out of walking the fine line of acceptability. I’m sure if he hadn’t enjoyed such a close relationship with the King of England (I cracked up every time someone used the King’s nickname, Prinny), he’d have been a social outcast. What I loved best about him is that Nick saw in Bella, what so many (except her husband) overlooked; she was a unique and resplendent creature who’s allure would last long after her peers’ beauty had faded. Make no mistake; he thought she was beautiful, but more than that, her wit, intelligence, and innocence drew him like a moth to the flame. I liked that Nick was smart enough though to play the part of the rake, while living his life on his own terms. He wasn’t a bad guy; he simply had no interest in having his days mapped out for him in regard to a wife and family. He’d seen how unhappy his mother and father had been, and was in no rush to enter into that arena. I thought he had many redeeming qualities – it was just a matter of paying attention to what he didn’t say or do to uncover them.
As with many romances, the hero and heroine are the only ones not aware that they’re already in love. Sometimes watching them come to the realization can be tedious, but no so with Regard. I loved watching them deny it at every turn – it almost reminded me of Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady, when he sings about being “accustomed to her face”. These two were a perfect foil for one another on so many levels; and I think that was the essential ingredient to their loving relationship. Let’s not forget though, that Bella was already married. Her husband, Myron, might have not had the romantic relationship that set his wife’s heart aflutter, but he was no less in love with her. He knows that his success is in a large part due to her support and insight, and has no issue with stating it. He loves her sarcastic wit and I in turn loved Myron.
Mariana Gabrielle wrote an exciting plot that was filled with more twists than a corkscrew, and kept me on the edge of my seat throughout most of the book. There were many moments where I was surprised by a turn of events, so much so, that I know I could easily read the story through again and come away with additional insight. Even if you aren’t usually attracted to the Regency romance genre, I think you’d find Royal Regard a thoroughly enjoyable read. This book is already on my TBRA (To Be Read Again) list.
Five Shooting Stars and A Reviewer's Choice Award