The Discerning Gentleman’s Guide by Virginia Heath

The Discerning Gentleman's GuideThe Discerning Gentleman’s Guide by Virginia Heath

Barbara’s rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: None – Standalone
Publication Date: 11/1/2016
Number of Pages: 288

Believable characters and witty dialogue populate this well-paced, excellently written, character-driven story. I loved that the heroine is very self-aware and the hero discovers that he really isn’t who he has been pretending (even to himself) to be. His metamorphosis is a sight to behold! You like each of the characters from the beginning, but as you learn more about them and their respective backgrounds you come to like and respect them even more.

Bennett Montague, sixteenth Duke of Aveley, has plans to be Prime Minister within the next few years. He is stodgy, extremely correct, pompous, and austere. He’s followed his father’s plans for his life to the letter and now, the next part of that plan is to find a wife – after all – a Prime Minister must be married. A year ago, he wrote down and then published, some words of wisdom his father gave him for finding a wife. He’s put those into action and has now narrowed his choices down to five ladies who seem to meet all of the criteria. Some of the words of wisdom are:
• Marry a woman who thinks before she speaks. It will save you a great deal of time having to correct her …
• A wife’s first duty is to obey her husband. Therefore, it is the husband’s first duty to enlighten her as to what he wants her to do …
• Do not allow your passions to control your decisions. Passion soon dies, attraction fades, but a pragmatic union to an obedient wife will stand the test of time …
• When selecting a bride, choose a biddable woman who defers to your superior opinion in all matters of importance …

Amelia Mansfield pulled herself up out of the gutter through sheer will and determination. She’s a beautiful, petite woman who spent quite some time living in Seven Dials alone and on her own. She’s gone from living and working in the workhouse to being the companion to Lady Worsted whose nephew is the Duke of Aveley. Amelia loathes and detests anyone with a title – and she has good reasons – which you’ll learn as you read the book.

I’ve read a number of books with the ‘stodgy aristocrat shown the error of his ways by enlightened reformer’ trope. Those were good, but the reformers usually come across just a bit like cardboard. That isn’t the case here. You see and understand why Amelia feels as she does. Why she fights for the poor. Why she crusades for workers rights. It is because she has lived it and she understands it. This author does that very, very well in this book.

Bennett does his dead-level best to adhere to all of his father’s principles for finding the perfect bride – until he meets the outspoken, opinionated, disrespectful companion to his aunt. She certainly has no respect for him or his title. As a matter of fact, she thinks of him as His Royal Highness the Duke of Pomposity and wonders if being so adored becomes wearing on him.

Bennett really is a reformer at heart, but what he believes is fact, really isn’t. He wants to help the slums of Seven Dials, but believes what most folks think about the poor – that they are slovenly, lazy and much prefer to be on the dole. In his mind, he sees them living in homes – just poorer homes, etc. He has no idea that many of them, even though they work, are forced to sleep on the street along with their children. With their meager earnings, they have to choose between a place to sleep for the night or something to eat. Bennett is aghast and heartsick when he learns the truth. His awakening and transformation are a wonderful thing to read!

This delightful story is almost conflict-free and totally character driven. To me, the only thing that would have made it better would have been the addition of an epilogue. I would have loved to see them 5 years out (or even less) with a baby or two and their reform projects up and running, etc.

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Avid reader/reviewer of historical romance and historical mysteries.

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