Bookish Matters

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.

—Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Monday, May 28, 2012

On the Bookshelf—Review of The Paid Companion

The Paid Companion by Amanda Quick
Romance, historical fiction

Set in Regency England, this romance has a murder mystery twist. Deep beneath London's streets, a madman navigates a lost river, heading toward his secret laboratory of alchemy...

When the Earl of St. Merryn's great-uncle is murdered, St. Merryn is determined to find the culprit, but all those match-making socialites of London's ton won't give the rich bachelor any privacy in which to dig for clues. Enter Elenora Lodge, who lost all her money and possessions in a gamble of her step-father's. Lodge is working as a paid companion, hoping to raise enough money to start a bookshop and set herself up as an independent woman. She can't resist when St. Merryn offers her triple wages to masquerade as his fiancee in front of the ton, but soon finds herself involved in the murder case. As the flap copy says, The Paid Companion is "a love story about an ice-cold business agreement that turns into something far more heated."

In novels of the Regency and Victorian era, it is difficult to come to a compromise between the historical reality of the extreme culturally-imposed sexual innocence and ignorance of the women and our modern desire for scenes of sex and passion. In many historical romances, the sex scenes are a chore to read for this reason, awkward and problematic, something to get through in order to get to more interesting facets of the plot. But Quick did a fairly good job at supplying a believable heroine who can satisfy the historical and modern demands of the genre.

The Paid Companion is thoroughly fun, sprinkled with moments of humor and tenderness. One of my favorite quotes from the book: "I see that you find the notion of a hidden door even more stimulating than my lovemaking." I appreciated references to horrid novels and Minerva Press as well as to Mary Wollstonecraft. There were a couple minor plot holes (like why a pretend fiancee will actually help St. Merryn find the murderer) and occasional moments where the dialogue and character's voices didn't ring true. Despite these problems, I still consider this novel one of the better romances I've read and look forward to reading more from Amanda Quick.

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