Having read Julie Anne Long’s eleven book Regency romance Pennyroyal Green series, I am not really in a position to judge how this novel reads as a standalone, but as a long-awaited end to the series, I have but two syllables: BRAVO! Somehow The Legend of Lyon Redmond manages to be both epic in the way required of its buildup and personal in its sweet and believable love story. What’s more, Long successfully tied up every single loose end I could think of from the preceding books. I can’t imagine the planning and plotting involved.
As the two big fish in the small pond of Pennyroyal Green, Sussex, the Redmond and Eversea families are centuries-long rivals for fame and fortune. They also share a legend that once in every generation, there will be a pair of star-crossed lovers in their rival folds. In the current generation, it is eldest son Lyon Redmond and eldest daughter Olivia Eversea. Like Romeo and Juliet, they spy each other across a crowded room and are instantly, overwhelmingly drawn to each other. Unlike Romeo and Juliet, they do not die owing to a Big Misunderstanding; however, when their secret relationship is discovered it ends with Lyon disappearing for five years. Nothing is known of his whereabouts or what on earth Olivia did to make him leave, so this thread of the missing son and the self-contained, possibly pining woman has woven through the first 10 books. Olivia and Lyon have had character development over the series, so when Olivia decided to moved on and take a suitor, readers knew their end was in sight.
The Legend of Lyon Redmond starts with Olivia preparing for her wedding to an incredibly patient man, Lord Landsdowne, and then flashes back and forth to her relationship with Lyon and the eventual final straw that drove him away. I loved it. The juxtaposition of who they were then and are now was a great display of character development, particularly hers. Lyon may have gained a reputation as a mystery man, and possible pirate, but Olivia has been living under the weight of her role as a jilted woman, and consequently a matrimonial prize, for years and she has been worn down by it.
Long is always a funny, clever writer, but she sometimes leans towards the twee. That was not the case with The Legend of Lyon Redmond. What I found instead was that she seemed to be giving the historical romance genre and its tropes a big, enthusiastic kiss. I greeted so many of the events with a delighted “of course!” as Long used many standard romance turns, but the joy was in recognizing and embracing them while they were happening. They ALL work because the reader is in on the joke (such sounds of glee, I made), knows what is going on, and because the emotional connection between Lyon and Olivia is written so sincerely and is so completely understandable. Thank you, Julie Anne Long. The Legend of Lyon Redmond was a long hoped-for gift wrapped with a beautiful bow.
A complete summary of Julie Anne Long’s catalogue, with recommendations and a ranked order of the Pennyroyal Green series, can be found here.
Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.