A Gentleman's Promise*

Romeo & Juliet in Regency England Misses the Mark

This is a Regency version of Romeo and Juliet. Juliet Hill–yes, she is actually named Juliet in the story–is the daughter of a wealthy merchant of marriageable age. In fact, in the first scene, she and her parents are entertaining a potential suitor; his sneezing and clumsiness mean that his suit will not go far. We meet the hero, Christopher Monroe, as he talks with his father. We soon find out that the Hills and the Monroes have a long-standing feud of some 20 years’ duration over some sheep that Monroe thought Hill swindled him over. The hero and heroine have a chance meeting on a street in London, and they find an instant connection, only to find out quickly that their fathers are enemies.

This book had potential, being based on the very interesting idea of having a Romeo and Juliet backdrop to fuel the conflict and motivations of a Regency couple. There are a few more archetypal romantic couples than Romeo and Juliet, but I found this particular story to be melodramatic, and frankly, the author didn’t develop the romantic aspect between Juliet and Christopher well enough. It was instant attraction but with little build-up or chemistry to warrant it.

Also, too, the author didn’t seem to have a sense of some of the customs and viewpoints of Regency England, or at least Regency England as we see it typically portrayed in historical romance. For instance, she called the first suitor that she had a gentleman, even though he owned his own tailoring business. He might have been born a gentleman–though this wasn’t stated–perhaps a second, third, or fourth son, but as he is actively involved in trade currently, he wouldn’t be considered a gentleman by the Upper Ten Thousand or even other gentry. More oddly, after Juliet and her friend Olivia dress as maids to return Christopher’s coat to him near midnight–it was strange enough that she and her friend would attempt to do this–he considers her actions and thinks that they might make other people of more gentle society see her acting as a thief or a “woman of ill repute.” Again, in a Regency romance, such actions of a gentlewoman or a middle-class woman would be seen as reputation-damaging if she were caught, but she wouldn’t be called a woman of ill repute! Loss of reputation doesn’t equal a woman of ill repute; the latter has a wholly different connotation.

The book also had issues with spelling, grammar, and punctuation. In the very first line, folder is used instead of folded. There were other strange misspellings and wrong words throughout the text. The conversations didn’t sound natural at all, they were definitely stilted, and everyone sounded the same. Scenes were overdramatic, tending to go from zero to a hundred rather fast in an almost melodramatic fashion. The scene where the couple’s father’s accidentally meet in a pub is a case in point.

I am a big fan of Regency romance, and I’m usually willing to cut the author’s a bit of slack if they tell me a good story. But I found this story to be silly, contrived, and overdramatic.

I did receive a free advance copy, but–as you might imagine–this did not affect my review