Set in Sussex and centered around the parliamentary election season, Sweet Disorder features a heroine, Phoebe, who is poor, plump, widowed, and in possession of her father’s votes. Except being a woman she can’t cast them but any man she marries can. And her votes are so very necessary in a very tight election. Welcome to the oddness of English elections in the Regency Period. Enter Nick Dymond, Brother to the Whig candidate. He’s there to convince Phoebe to marry a man who will vote for his brother. Except the longer he gets to know her, the more he wants her for himself. That’s a problem because his family will never approve. After all, he’s the son of a noble, and she is the widow of a newspaper printer. Not to mention he’s got his own baggage, PTSD and a very severe wound from the peninsula wars, which left him with a limp.
As for Phoebe, she doesn’t particularly want to get married. She’s been married before and it didn’t turn out well. She’s doing just fine selling stories to the newspapers and living in the tiny and untidy rooms in a boarding house. But when her family needs her, she puts her own happiness on the line and agrees to a marriage of convenience. The only problem is who will she choose?
The Tory Candidate? The Whig Candidate? Or herself?
I like the story. I really liked Phoebe and Nick. Their reasonings and rationales made sense. Like there is a giant/huge class issue and then there’s the fact that they’re not supposed to be falling in love with each other. I especially liked that neither one was seen as less or by the other. But that things like her poverty, her weight, his wealth, and his disability weren’t overlooked and forgotten in the midst of the love must conquer all. Then there’s the families and their drama. So much drama.
Even with the drama, this isn’t your typical Regency Romance. First off, there aren’t any balls. Or dastardly Dukes. Or gaming establishments. And I loved that. It’s so rare to have a romance between lower class people. Every day people. Even small town people. While Nick came from the gentry, he’s a younger son and his experience as a soldier had colored his sensibilities more. He wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. And I like that.
This story takes “slow burn” seriously. Very seriously. Which might be off-putting for some people, but when I read it I was in the mood for slow. The plots and twists are well telegraphed, and the book takes time to set the stage and introduce all the players. And all of the players are important. I also liked that Phoebe’s other suitors were all viable, they weren’t horrid for the sake of being horrid. I even liked them as characters and potential romantic heroes. They just weren’t the romantic hero that Phoebe wanted. All of the characters were well rounded, and I really liked that.
Trigger warnings! Because those matter. Period appropriate sexism, discussion of miscarriage, discussion of depression & PTSD, mild BDSM, period appropriate ableism, and parental neglect/emotional abuse. That being said all of the triggering content is handled well as I would expect from Rose Lerner (which if you’re looking to support minority authors Rose Lerner is Jewish). Basically this was an adorable slow burn featuring every day people in Regency England. If you’re a fan of Austen, this would likely be up your alley. As it is, I’m happy to give it. Five stars.
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