I should probably start by saying that I spazzed a little when I found out that Laura Kinsale had a new release for 2010. If you're familiar with my blog then you know how much of a fangirl I am when it comes to her writing. While I've had a couple of misses, my overwhelming feelings about Kinsale's books are that they are awesome historical romances. Her characters are always layered and often deeply flawed. Her heroes are to die for and majority of her heroines are endearing.
I'm happy to report that Lessons in French keeps with that trend.
By the age of twenty seven, Lady Callista Taillefaire had been jilted 3 times. Despite that, she moved on, turning her complete focus to raising cattle, most notable is Hubert, her prize-winning bull. She's resigned herself to remaining a spinster and only attends affairs as a chaperon to her younger sister, Hermione. Callie and Hermione have decided that once Hermione marries, Callie will live with sister and her husband, getting Callie out of Shelford and away from her cousin's haughty wife, the new Lady Shelford. It is at one of the events that Callie has accompanied her sister to, that she hears news that Trevelyn de Monceaux has returned after a nine year sojourn to remake his family's fortune.
Trevelyn and Callie are childhood sweethearts with a taste for adventure. Until the fateful day her father discovers them embracing in the carriage and in a furious frenzy drives Trevelyn away in disgrace. Nine long, lonely years later, Trevelyn returns. Callie is shocked to discover that he can still make her blood race and fill her life with mischief, excitement and scandal. He would give her the world, but he can't give her the one thing she wants more than anything - himself. For Trevelyn, Callie is a spark of light in a world of darkness and deceit. Before he can bear to say his last good-byes, he's determined to sweep her into one last, fateful adventure, just for the two of them.
Callie and Trev were in love before he left, but that love was forbidden being that she was a Lady and Trev was from a disgraced French family. The relationship was doomed from the start and after they were found out, Trev fled, leaving Callie a mess trying to pick up the pieces. She kept up with Trev through the letters he wrote his mother over the years, but she doesn't expect to see him again, so she's floored when waltzes back into Shelford, asking for her help with his ailing mother. Callie has a soft spot for Madame de Monceaux and doesn't turn Trev's request down. She's sure that Trev has thought little of her over the years and finding out that she's been jilted 3 times will turn him off if he happened to feel otherwise.
To the contrary, Trev is just as in love with Callie as he was nine years ago, even though he still feels unworthy. Trev isn't being completely honest about how he's regained Monceaux fortune, and his past is quickly catching up with him. He knows he'll have to flee Shelford once more, but before he goes, he wants to make every minute with Callie count. Thus, an adventure is born. Trev pulls Callie into an elaborate scheme that has them both recapturing the thrill of their youth, while discovering how hard old flames really die.
In the authors note, Laura Kinsale relates Lessons in French to two of her previous books, stating: "Lessons in French is a first cousin of Midsummer Moon and only a very, very distant relation of Shadowheart." Having not read Shadowheart yet, I can only touch on the similarities to Midsummer Moon. The humor is there (though I think Midsummer Moon was funnier), they are lighter works (But Lessons is meatier than MM) and they both have animals that steal the show a time or two (Porcupine beats the bull any day of the week)--but that's about as far as the likeness goes. Lessons in French is very much its own book.
Trev and Callie are fleshed out, fully realized characters. I absolutely loved Trev, his inner-voice and charm won me over early on, and Callie isn't your cardboard heroine. She's not a damsel, nor is she kick-butt, she's a little shy, maybe a bit naive, but she's smart and witty and adorable. Secondary characters compliment the story, with even Callie's bull, Hubert bringing the laughs.
If I had a complaint it would be a little detail about Trev that popped up unexpectedly. I won't go deeply into it because it's a spoiler, but based on what I felt I knew about Trev's character up to that point, it threw me a little. But that is a minor nitpick in a story that was overall a winner.
If you're already a fan of Laura Kinsale, I think you will find Lessons in French lives up to expectations. If you're new to her writing, this book is a great place to start. If you end up enjoying it, I can pretty much guarantee that you'll enjoy much of her earlier work. For me, this book is something of a celebration. I'm happy to know that one of my favorite authors is back and ecstatic to see that she hasn't lost her touch. Definitely looking forward to more! Grade A-
Visit Laura Kinsale here. Read chapter 1 of Lessons in French here.
Lessons in French hits stores today!
ARC copy provided by Sourcebooks.