Reviewer Amy Lignor: Amy is the author of a historical fiction novel entitled The Heart of a Legend, and Mind Made, a work of science fiction. Presently, she is writing an adventure series set in the New York Public Library, as well as a teen fiction series, The Angel Chronicles. She is an avid traveler and has been fortunate to have journeyed across the USA, where she has met the most amazing people, who truly bring life and soul to her books. She lives in the Land of Enchantment (for now) with her gorgeous daughter, Shelby, her wonderful Mom, Mary, and the greatest friend and critic in the entire world - her dog, Reuben
Lessons in French was a lesson in life, love, and laughter for me.
Our main character is Lady Callista Taillefaire. I know, I know, but this is not one of those boring, "bodice-ripper" books. So read on. The young lady, who is an old-spinster of twenty-seven in her world, goes by the name of Callie. Callie is a lovely woman whose bright red hair captures the sun - if she'd only stop covering it up with a turban. Callie stares at the floor a great deal. When she is invited, and must go to shindigs, according to her sister-in-law, Dolly, her eyes never waver from the ground. She believes beyond a shadow of a doubt that all around her are gossiping at her expense. Unfortunately, Callie is right. She has been asked for her hand in marriage not one, but three times in her life, and each man has bolted for one reason or another before they took the vow. This is one part of the story I couldn't understand, seeing as that Callie was smart, funny, lovely, and had more money than most of the town. (Trust me, when the reason for their "bolting" is uncovered in almost the last page, you'll laugh out loud.)
Callie's beloved father has passed away, and much like all patrician regimes where women served as nothing but baby machines, Callie was not allowed to take over her father's estate (even though she is smarter than all male specimens that surround her.) Her Cousin Jasper moves in with his, aforementioned pain in the butt wife, Dolly. Callie is relegated to underling where she will have to soon move out with her younger sister Hermione who is set to be married very soon. This is the last thing Callie wants to do because on her father's estate reside the animals - bulls, oxen, horses, sheep - that Callie loves and cares for. And being forced to move to a townhouse in the city and leave her beloved animals behind makes her heart break.
One evening, as she is sitting in her "place" at a ball, trying to avoid gazes, a handsome face - with body to match - appears in the doorway and walks right to her. Not only is he extraordinary, he is also Callie's best friend from when she was a child. His name is Trevelyn de Monceaux, and is a Frenchman. You can almost see the anger flare in the eyes of the Englishmen milling about his icky, detestable, French frame as he walks across the ballroom and back into Callie's life.
He's been gone a long time and has reappeared because his poor mother has taken ill and he needs to be with her. He begs Callie to help him, and she rushes to his mother's side. There are slightly strange things about Callie's old friend. One, is that he has an "aide" who is a monster of a man, who looks nothing like how a mere servant should look. In addition, Trev seems to have a very large secret to keep, and seems to be constantly looking over his shoulder to see what's coming up behind him. Callie is at once, confused. She remembers the time in her youth when she and Trev had been caught in a carriage by her father while they were, well, exploring an adult world that they hadn't quite reached yet. After that day, Trev had disappeared. Whether by her father's will or not, Callie never knew.
To add to her upending world, one of her old suitors who left her before they reached the altar reappears in town and begins to woo her. His marriage is over and he's back in Shelford, hoping that he can make amends and win back Callie and her vault of money. The guy is complete slime, as all us girls know.
Now, I know so far this seems very "romance" formulaic. It's very difficult for romance writers to scribe anything even remotely differen't because so many romances have been done. But Ms. Kinsale has the ability - and always has - to create twists and turns that the reader would never think of. My favorite storyline is Hubert. Is he a handsome suitor, too, you ask? No. Hubert is a huge bull that Callie owns who will be "shown" at the Agricultural Fair. He is the largest of his kind, and Callie is sure that her "man" will take all the prizes. Unfortunately, her ridiculous cousin loses HER bull in a card game and Hubert is taken away from her by a new master. Then...how exactly does the bull show up in Trev's kitchen a little while later? And why has the bull's fur/pelt been dyed? Is Hubert an escaped felon that the constable is looking for to hang? Nope, that's not Hubert, but Trev is certainly running from something.
The wonderful way this author ties in "tricks" to save Hubert, save Callie from being thought of as the thief who stole Hubert from his new master, and save Trev from a fate worse than death because of the chivalrous "thing" he did so long ago, makes this book so much fun I couldn't put it down. I also love the fact that the "romance" is between two best friends who pulled so many tricks of their own when they were kids, that their love for each other stems from a much deeper place than just the normal fake "hot and lusty garbage" that so many romance authors dwell on.
My advice to you is to pick this one up and follow Callie through a light-hearted, romantic romp that changes her life - and, Hubert's, of course - forever.
This wonderful novelist has been "missing in action" for the past five years and I, for one, am elated that she's returned. Enjoy!