Rules for an Unmarried Lady by Wilma Counts
Returning from war to take up the guardianship of his orphaned nieces and nephews, Colonel Lord Quinton Burnes expects life to be simpler away from the battlefield. He does not expect to butt heads with the children themselves, resisting his plans for orderly sending the older ones off to school, aided and abetted by their maternal aunt Harriet Mayfield.
At 27, Harriet is firmly on the shelf and seems quite happy about it. Independently wealthy, she’s quite prepared to devote herself to raising her dead sister’s children. Except it seems quite clear their guardian doesn’t want her there…
There were some really weird contradictions in this book which kept giving me a kind of whiplash. The Dowager Countess insisting strict mourning should be observed, so the children must not go to London… and then going out visiting and shopping, and receiving guests. The virgin heroine sleeping with the hero without even a conversation about whether they were courting or not… and the fact that he seduced her and then kept on coming back to her bed without making his intentions clear was extremely un-heroic behaviour. Upon bedding her the first time and realising she was a virgin, his first response should have been to propose, and the fact that it didn’t even seem to occur to him definitely had me not liking him very much.
Perhaps the best parts about this story were the children, particularly the oldest two, Philip and Maria. Teenage side characters aren’t particularly common in historical romance - too old to be plot moppets, maybe - and the exploration of this pair was really intriguing. Their relationships with Harriet were lovely, their grief over their parents tangible and sensitively handled in the story.
What I didn’t get was what Harriet would see in Quint. He was rigid, convinced of his own rectitude, careless of her reputation and had to be forced to change his mind about sending the older children to school by one of them getting into a serious accident, DESPITE being given multiple emotional pleas PLUS good and logical reasons for not doing so. He basically dismissed the opinions or desires of anyone who was not him. He had to be pushed into doing the bare minimum of the right thing, and to me, this really does not make a good hero. I didn’t like his ‘well this is how everyone does it’ attitude towards the mill workers either.
At the end of the day, I’m divided on this one; there are some really good bits and some parts I didn’t like at all. Some excellent period attention to detail (conditions in the mills) and some things which didn’t add up (the dowager countess breaching mourning customs despite apparently being a real stickler). I’ll give it three stars.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.