Thursday, February 4, 2021

BOOK REVIEW: A Lady's Formula for Love by Elizabeth Everett

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

A Lady’s Formula for Love
by Elizabeth Everett is not your usual Regency Romance. Rather than a simple frolic showcasing Regency London as a playground for the idle rich aristocracy, this novel shines a splash of light on the disgruntled of the times: the poor and working class, middle class, LGBTQ people, and women. There are even people of color in the novel, though their roles are small. (Really, the only ones enjoying themselves in this time period were the wealthy white men.)

The heroine is Violet Hughes, Lady Greycliff, a young widow and brilliant scientist. She is nursing old wounds because her deceased, significantly older husband had tried to quash her brains and turn her into a gentlewoman hostess, the appropriate role for the wife of an earl. He criticized her looks, her outspokenness, and her desire for physical affection. Upon his death, somewhat freed by it, she formed a ladies’ club, the Athena Retreat, for women to come together, support one another, and pursue various scientific endeavors. They pretend it’s merely a social club, but even that is enough to stir animosity among those who don’t belong and find the idea of women socializing to be an outrage.

Meanwhile, Chartists are advocating for universal male suffrage, and some of the protests are growing violent. One group, led by Adam Winters, has begun exploding canisters of gas that poison the lungs of innocent bystanders or those sent to quell the protests. The British government must spring into action.

Violet’s stepson is a government agent. Well aware of Violet’s expertise in chemistry, he asks her to create an antidote to the gas. Unfortunately, as she works on it, word leaks out somehow and she becomes a target. In order to protect her, her son brings in another agent, Arthur Kneland, a skilled bodyguard, one of the best. Arthur is looking forward to retiring, buying a farm in the north country where he grew up, and one last well-paying assignment will set him up. Guarding one female from disgruntled protesters should not be that difficult. As long as he doesn’t get distracted. . .

Of course, he does. From the beginning, Arthur and Violet are seized with undeniable lust for one another, which blossoms into love. The novel leans a bit too heavily into the sex scenes to drive the plot along, but there is also character development, the opening up of their hearts as they confess their inner hurts, and the denouement of the political danger. It took a while for me to get involved with the story because the plot seemed too farfetched, but the characters were both amusing and poignant and the underlying theme of female empowerment made it a worthwhile read.

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