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Book Review: Emily Goes to Exeter

I’ve loved Marion Chesney since I was in Middle school, but I never got a chance to read this series. It wasn’t in my library system and this was long before Amazon, so I’m catching up now. 

The year is 1800 (early for Regency Romance but relevant) and Hannah Pym has just received an inheritance from her recently deceased employer of over 30 years. Deciding to throw caution to the wind, she aims to travel. To Exeter. In winter. On the flying coach she’s seen outside her windows so many times. On the stage she meets Emily, a naive spoiled brat who is running away from an arranged marriage, and Lord Ranger Harley, Emily’s affianced husband, as well as other characters like Mrs. Bisley, Mrs. Bradley, Mr. Fletcher, and more! When the weather forces them to seek shelter at an inn, the sparks fly… as do the bullets.

So… I really liked this book. I did. I really liked Hannah Pym. She’s a wonderful character with complex wants and motivations. She’s older (in her forties) but not reduced to a caricature.

But she’s not the romantic interest in this book (there’s hints of a future romance with her former employer’s brother but that’s definitely not realized in this book). And because she’s not the romantic interest, and this book devotes itself to not one but two romances, is where it falls down.

First off, we don’t meet any of the romantic leads until over a quarter of the way through the book. That’s a bit too late.

Secondly, the “main” romance felt more secondary than the “B-plot” romance. Emily and Harley should have been the primary couple. But most of the time when we see them, they’re sniping at each other with Emily being a spoiled brat most of the time while Harley tries to correct her. But it kind of falls into Mansplaining territory at times. (Other characters try to wash the spoiled brat off of Emily too including Hannah Pym but some of the harder points come from the male lead.) The B-plot romance between the wealthy recently-widowed Mrs. Lizzie Bisley and the impoverished solicitor Mr. Fletcher is much more plot relevant. Not only does she have a total of three suitors vying for her. The climax of the whole novel relates to her plot. Emily and Harley are supporting characters in it.

Thirdly, I wasn’t rooting for Emily and Harley to end up together. I liked Harley. The fact that he was so awesome to Hannah Pym was definitely a plus in my book. Emily just annoyed me. A lot. A lot a lot. So when they decided to get married at the end of the book, I had a hard time believing it.

So for that, even though I enjoyed the book, it loses a star.

Other nitpicks that didn’t affect the rating… like the fact that there were three characters whose last names ended in “-ley” two of which were Mrs. B—ley. Confusing. Second the author uses third person omniscient and jumps from POV to POV within the same paragraph at times. Most of the time you’re in one of the three lead’s heads… but it will jump around as the author decides she wants to share something. It’s not my preferred method and as an editor I actually advise my clients NOT to do this. But this was written in a different time.

Things that kept it from being rated lower. The characters. OMG the characters.  For all that I was annoyed at Emily, I loved the well roundedness of all of the main and supporting cast. They were individuals. Real.

I also loved the realism of the time, and the insights I got into the class structure. Seriously Chesney did her research and it showed.

I liked the plot… particularly the B-plot. I liked the women supporting women theme of the book.

I read this book in a day, I liked it that much. So because of that, this gets…

Four Stars.     

If this is your jam, you can get it here. Frankly I’d see if your library system has it… it’ll likely be on Hoopla.

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