Saturday, March 2, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: The Pursuits of Lord Kit Cavanaugh by Stephanie Laurens

I received this book for free from Netgalley. This did not influence my review.

Stephanie Laurens is one of the reigning queens of Historical Romance, so I’m not sure how so many years have gone by since the last time I read one of her novels. I saw The Pursuits of Lord Kit Cavanaugh on Netgalley and decided it was time to jump back in.

Lord Christopher Cavanaugh (Kit), the young half-brother of a marquess, has had a difficult upbringing. His mother was something of a Lady Macbeth character. He managed to avoid her schemes and matchmaking by pretending to be an irredeemable rake. Now that she is dead, he’s stuck with his reputation. Undaunted, he leaves London for Bristol to follow a passion he has long yearned to indulge: he wants to start a company that builds luxury ocean-going yachts. He has the capital, a good business sense, important connections, and a close friend who knows yachts. Bristol was once a hive of wooden ship-building activity, but since the coming of steamships, the city is in decline. The city’s elders are thrilled beyond measure that a man of consequence is bringing jobs back. Kit has his eye on a particular warehouse for lease and has no difficulty securing it.

Unfortunately, the building is not exactly vacant. A local charity has been using it. But the owners assure Kit the charity will quickly clear out.

Sylvia Buckleberry is a clergyman’s daughter who has found her calling: running a school for the sons of local dockworkers and craftsmen. She has the support of the local church and has been able to hire a couple of teachers and purchase supplies. But she relies on the goodwill of the owner of the warehouse recently secured by Kit for a venue. When she learns that the warehouse is about to be leased out from under her, she is determined not to let the school fail.

Sylvia and Kit have met before, at the wedding of friends. Kit was intrigued but put off by her cold shoulder. Sylvia was cold on purpose because she was actually giddily infatuated with his bad-boy image and appalled at herself for it.

Sylvia expects the worst from Kit and is surprised when he acts opposite the way she expects. In fact, he outdoes her in concern for the welfare of the students, the fate of the school, and the general condition of the unemployed dockworkers and boat builders. His wealth is seemingly bottomless and he stands ready to hire everyone who wants to work.

There is a problem though. Not everyone supports the school and not everyone is rooting for the success of Kit’s business. While the romance is the main focus, the story is carried along by this additional conflict and potential danger.

The novel is a quick, enjoyable, escapist read. The protagonists verge on a bit treacly as they spread their goodwill thickly and hold no grudges against those who wish them ill – most of them anyway. But their pleasantness was a nice break from heavier reading. It’s clear why Laurens is a perennial favorite.