You probably already know that I love to read romance novels. I usually read about two romance novels for every “other” book I start to read. Which is why, I think it is fitting to start my reading challenge reviews for the A to Z Reading Challenge with one of my guilty pleasures from January.
R is for Rules of Engagement by Christina Dodd.
I normally don’t like the characters in my romance novels to have children. Children, in real life and in books, can be annoying, and usually imply a first wife. First wives are a whole lot of baggage and in the words of some witty dialogue from Sex and the City, “it doesn’t matter how much of a bitch she was alive, now that’s she’s dead you’re the bitch who can’t live up to her.” But, the quandary in this book is how to get a governess to be hired by a rakish bachelor who has no children. The answer: he can hire one. This solution is not only a vehicle for various plot twists, but also precludes any of the trite and predictable scenes often seen in books about a new mother being introduced to an already established family.
That being said, the child, Beth, is actually quite endearing and doesn’t get too much in the way of the main plot of the story which is essentially two people falling in love.
Pamela is hired as a governess to the orphaned Beth by Devon, a dissolute Earl, in order to lend him an air of responsibility and respectability. There are twists, disguises, mistaken identities, conspiracies, counterfeiting schemes, and appearances by Queen Victoria.
The story, while implausible at times was entertaining. This is one of those books where secondary characters and subplots are more memorable than the main story line. Devon’s grandfather, an elderly but enjoyable man who gives off an air of knowing much more than everyone else, is simply lovable and Beth is a tragic but spirited mirror of the heroine. The Victorian version of a “Blue Moon” (read Grease) is a bit out of place, but made me laugh out loud all the same and lent a lightness to the somewhat serious love story.
I probably wouldn’t read this over again, but Rules of Engagement has by far been my favorite romance novels involving a governess and/or children.
As a general observation, I’ve noticed that the romance genre has a plethora of period novels with governesses as main female leads. I’m not sure if the appeal of this is to give a modern edge to the historic period by involving problems of blending families and introducing characters with complicated pasts, or if it is simply a device of getting single, unmarried females out of the ballroom and into the freedom of a working life. Either way, I’m not sure how I feel about governesses in this kind of literature and I think I will continue to steer clear of them.