As a romance reader, I rely on recommendations since it’s a genre full of authors of wildly varying quality. Like any other group, there are a few greats that land on one’s autobuy list, then the excellent, very good, reliable, guilty pleasures, desperate measures, and so on. Finding good new-to-me authors always feels like a coup. My romance spirit guide, Malin, has pointed me in many the right direction, as have others. Writer Courtney Milan suggested this author on her blog and who am I to turn down the opportunity for a good book and a good turn bringing attention to a new author.
Sweet Disorder by Rose Lerner is set in Lively St. Lemeston and has the most interesting political intrigue of any historical romance I’ve read. It’s not spies or fighting Napoleon, but the prosaic reality of nineteenth century voting rights which create the impetus for the story. Widowed Phoebe is being courted by opposing political parties. She can’t vote (I know), but the man she marries will be able to. Given a sudden motivation for financial security that a husband is her best bet of providing, Phoebe declines, then agrees to politically motivated matchmaking. I have never read anything like that before, have you? Nick Dymond has been charged by his family with finding a suitable partner for Phoebe. The local baker seems a good choice, but he and Phoebe don’t really connect, nor does Nick’s opposition have more luck. Since I have mentioned his name twice now, I am sure you can guess who Phoebe ends up with.
Sweet Disorder had strong historical elements and vocabulary, and I really liked that it felt grounded in believable history. Phoebe is a zaftig heroine which is a bit of a departure and appreciated since many times in romance the heroine is either upset that her lush curves are not the fashion, or that she is slim and therefore doesn’t have much chest, the poor dears. I must admit though that I found myself skimming passages of the book, that the tone was a bit uneven, and I was surprised by the love scene choices. I tried another of Lerner’s books, True Pretenses, and did not finish it. I may try again with another of her novels given that the historical elements are so strong, and, after looking at these two novels, she embraces unconventional heroes and heroines.