I’m always a sucker for childhood friends-to-lovers in historical romance, and Virginia Heath’s new book has a lot of fun with the trope!
Book: How Not to Chaperon a Lady by Virginia Heath
Publication date: 28th September 2021
Ownership: E-ARC sent free of charge by author. All opinions my own.
His childhood nemesis…
…is the woman he can’t resist!
Chaperoning Charity Brookes while she’s on a singing tour should be easy for Griffith Philpot—he’s spent his whole life sparring with her over her flighty ways! But as he discovers that she’s much more than the impetuous girl he thought he knew, a passion ignites between them… Sharing a steamy kiss leaves him torn—he’s supposed to be responsible for guarding her virtue!
This is the third book in the Talk of the Beau Monde series, which follows talented sisters Faith, Hope and Charity Brookes, but you don’t need to have read the previous books to start here. I’ve read and loved book two, The Marquess Next Door, which I reviewed here, but I’ve yet to track down Faith’s book. The previous couples do pop up, so series readers will enjoy that, but they appear in a way that totally makes sense in this story for such a close-knit family. In fact, both Charity and Griff’s families play a large role, and as someone who loves seeing well-done family relationships in romance, this was a treat.
I had a lot of fun with the dynamic between Charity and Griff! I loved his viewpoint, as he seems like a genuinely good guy, and I enjoyed him being torn between filling the big brother role he was being forced into, and wanting to protect Charity for entirely different reasons. His exasperation is so well-portrayed. I was less enamoured with Charity, who is rather selfish and naive for a lot of the book – she felt a lot younger than 22. However, it all makes sense in the context of her history, and it’s easy to see how she’s been babied by her family and feels like Griff treats her the same way, so I don’t blame her for kicking against his supervision! I really enjoyed both of them having to constantly readjust their perceptions of the other’s behaviour in the past – I don’t usually love the old chestnut that ‘he’s only mean to you because he likes you’, which forms a big part of things clicking for Charity, but it is a nice way to bring the enemies-to-lovers and friends-to-lovers tropes together into the same book. Their bickering looks a lot like flirting, and they’ve both suppressed their feelings so long that when things finally bubble over between them, it’s a scene that is sweet, funny, furious, and passionate at the same time.
The dialogue can sometimes be clunky, which surprised me after the flowing banter of the previous book; there’s a fine line to walk between having characters being open about their feelings, and having them outright state their motivations as if they’ve just come out of an intense therapy session. At several points I felt both Charity and Griff leant a little too far to the latter side, explaining things about exactly why they feel a particular way that should have been left to the reader to infer. That being said, it does mean that there’s a sense of honesty between them that should please anyone who’s not a fan of the common romance issues of miscommunication, and it lets the two of them work through their issues with a surprising amount of compassion for each other. The overall pacing of this is fairly unusual – it’s almost two stories in one, with the second half having a marriage of convenience plot that could have been its own book – but it doesn’t feel overly long, and I raced through it.
This isn’t my favourite of the series, but it’s still a lovely read, and it’ll be perfect for those who like their Regency romance light and fun. It’s absolutely stuffed full of tropes and has a fabulous time with them. Four out of five cats!