Saturday, July 05, 2008
The Viscount in Her Bedroom
Our book today is Gayle Callen's 2007 romance novel The Viscount in Her Bedroom, the third volume in her saga of the marital adventures of the high-spirited Shelby girls, Louisa, Meriel, and Victoria, as they seek to mend their family's fortunes - and find true love - in 1840's London and surrounding country houses.
When our story opens, kind, empathizing Louisa is growing bored and frustrated when she receives a message from the Dowager Viscountess Wade, offering her employment as companion to her grandson, Simon (the Viscount of the title), a dashing, sociable young man who's been blinded in a riding accident and retired from society. Louisa remembers young Viscount Wade vividly, and her generous heart is immediately struck by all the changes his affliction must have wrought in his life.
With quick, deft strokes, Callen thus sets her stage for the inevitable romance that will blossom between Viscount Wade (Callen calls him 'Lord' interchangeably, which is incorrect and therefore odd, since her entire series - The Duke in Disguise, The Lord Next Door, and this volume - is based on titles, which you'd think she'd have sorted out before she embarked on the task) and Louisa. Callen has a sure sense of the shifting vulnerabilities between the two ... shifts made all the more precarious by the burgeoning desire that tips even innocuous encounters into greater significance, as when Louisa offers a such a simple thing as guiding Simon by the arm:
She paused. "May I escort you?"
"I enjoy being displayed on the arm of a beautiful woman."
He felt her arm tighten in his, but all she did was laugh, that husky laugh that made him yearn to hear it in private.
She was patient and cautious as they walked, speaking softly of every obstacle in the way. He was the one who couldn't concentrate, with her soft breast pressed into his upper arm. He stumbled once when they reached the terrace, and she hugged his arm even tighter. He could have groaned.
Naturally, there are complications that crop up in the course of their true love, but they are swept away as the novel hums along. Callen's prose sparkles with her evident delight in the act of writing itself, and that makes her a wonderful companion. The romance genre, despite being far and away the best-selling school of fiction currently being published, is habitually looked upon with disdain by readers of more 'serious' types of fiction. But we here at Stevereads aren't 100 percent sure Jane Austen, were she alive today, would share that disdain.
In any case, we doubt she'd wring her hands worrying about the distinction, and Gayle Callen certainly doesn't; she has dancing, delightful stories to tell, and The Viscount in Her Bedroom is a very enjoyable example, worth your attention for an idle hour.