Thursday, February 18, 2010

Lessons in French by Laura Kinsale

He's always been trouble...

Trevelyan and Callie are childhood sweethearts with a taste for adventure, until the fateful day her father discovers them embracing in the carriage house and, in a furious frenzy, drives Trevelyan away in disgrace...

Exactly the kind of trouble she's never been able to resist...

Nine long, lonely years later, Trevelyan returns. Callie discovers that he can still make her blood race and fill her life with excitement, but he can't give her the one thing she wants more than anything—himself.

For Trevelyan, Callie is a spark of light in a world of darkness and deceit. Before he can bear to say his last goodbyes, he's determined to sweep her into one last, fateful adventure, just for the two of them.

There was great excitement when it was announced that Laura Kinsale had a new book coming out this year. I was pleased because she is a big name in historical romance circles in particular, but personally I wasn't truly excited mainly because I have only read one of her books previously, albeit one of the classics - Flowers from the Storm. I am thinking that I am going to be more excited when we get news of the next book from Laura Kinsale, and now it is my intention to read through as much of her backlist as possible.

Lady Callie Tallefaire is the daughter of a duke, but at the age of 27, and having been jilted by fiances three times, she is resigned to the fact that she is never going to be married. Her cousin is now the duke, and his insufferable wife duchess, and Callie is waiting for the day when her younger sister marries so that she can move out with them. Callie is somewhat unique amongst her class. She is a lady, but she is also intensely passionate about her animals, in particular her prize bull, Hubert.

As youngsters, Callie was often caught up in escapades and adventures with her neighbour, Trevelyn d'Augustin. Trevelyn is a French emigre whose family escaped from The Terror with little more than the clothes on their back. However, when Callie and Trevelyn are caught in a somewhat intimate situation by her father, Trev is banished, returning to France ostensibly to try to regain his family's lands.

After ten years, Trev has returned, and he is completely surprised to find that Callie is not yet married with children, and finds that the feelings that he once had for her are not as dead as he thought. Trev has returned to visit his sick mother, but in so many ways he is not anything like he initially seemed. I am very much a hero-centric romance reader, and in this book I was not disappointed. Gradually we get to know the man that Trev has become as a result of the life he has experienced, and it is fair to say that he hasn't been living an elegant, or gentlemanly, life while he has been away.

Being the unmarried cousin to the current duke means that Callie is subject to the whims of her cousin and his wife. She is devastated when she finds out that he has sold her prize bull to one of her former suitors, Major Sturgeon, just before she is about to exhibit Hubert at the local show. It is to Trev that she turns in her despair, and there begins a series of misadventures featuring the two of them.

There is a definite sexual chemistry between Trev and Callie, but there is an underlying feeling of yearning, particular on Trev's part. He is a man used to thinking on his feet. His plans quite often don't necessarily work out as he intended, but he improvises as necessary, with often funny results, particularly as he leads Callie into some unlikely situations.

He is ,however, not what he seems, and neither Callie or his mother have any idea of exactly what is going on in his life until the very end of the novel. If there is a weakness with this novel, it is the ending. Suddenly we find out exactly how dangerous it is for Trev to have returned to England to see his ailing mother, and for him to remain there because of his attachment to Callie, and also some explanation of why Callie has been so unlucky in love for all these years. All's well that ends well I guess.

I loved how unusual some of Trev's past experiences have been and how they have influenced him, and I loved how certain he was in his feelings for Callie. Yes, he may have been tempted to walk away from Callie, but not because he didn't love her, but because he did love her and he knew what her life may have been had she stuck with him.

Callie wasn't quite as well defined for me. Whilst so many romance heroines are described as spirited (particularly the red haired ones who are so prevalent in historical romances) often they can be a bit too modern, or a bit too clever. There's no doubt that Callie was intelligent, and she did have unusual interests for a woman of her time, but she did still seem to fit her time in terms of setting.

This novel is a welcome return from Laura Kinsale, and one that I enjoyed very much. Whilst the story was funny (with a touch of slapstick at times) and somewhat light, there were also well developed characters with interesting back stories, and plenty of depth lying just under the surface waiting to be discovered.

This is my first read for the 2010 Pub Challenge, and also counts for my Romance Reading challenge.

Thanks to Sourcebooks for sending me a copy of this book for review.

Rating: 4.5/5


  1. Wonderful review, Marg. I'm glad to see you enjoyed it so much. I started reading this one the other day and really love it so far.

  2. I have yet to read her, but with your wonderful review I'll be getting to Kinsale very soon. Thanks!

  3. Oooh.. this sounds like a good romance. Not really my genre, but I might look into it. Good review!!

  4. I'm not reading the review because I've not found the book yet! i'm going into to Melbs this weekend to that shop you showed me and pick it up. Went to three shops yesterday and they told me 6-8 weeks to order it in - ARG!

    I'll come back after I've found, then read it.

  5. I"m taking this with me on a trip this week and hope it will be the escape I need from classes all day.

  6. I am glad that you enjoyed this book so much and that you now have such a wonderful back list of the author's work to read! Great review!

  7. I am glad that you enjoyed this book so much and that you now have such a wonderful back list of the author's work to read! Great review!