Sunday, April 18, 2021

BOOK REVIEW: Book of Love by Erin Satie

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

The soon-to-be-released Book of Love by Erin Satie is an engagingly silly and serious romance set in the mid-eighteen hundreds in London. While following some of the conventions of Regency Romance (the hero is a duke, the storyline primarily is one of courtship and marriage), there is more emphasis on the politics of the day, mostly the struggle for women’s rights.

Cordelia Kelly is a gently-reared lady, the daughter of a judge. Pretty, intelligent, and a little too serious, Cordelia is unable to settle for any of the men her parents parade before her. Her father, who once supported her education, now regrets having raised a daughter with a mind of her own. When the family drama escalates, Cordelia escapes to London determined to support herself as a book-binder. For the most part, she succeeds. Although her position is financially precarious, she has a small but loyal clientele. She also has a small group of similarly independent female friends. She isn’t looking for a man in her life. Nevertheless, one finds her.

Alistair Chandros, Duke of Stroud, is a giant of a man. (Handsome, of course, but the description makes him sound like he has a pituitary disorder.) He has a kind heart, and his threatening size has always been a problem. He compensates by playing the fool in order to be less intimidating. He’s played village idiot for so long that no one takes him seriously, despite his wealth and title. And he is riddled with self-doubt, believing his own press. He occupies his time staging pranks, both for his own amusement and to secretly serve the interests of close friends.

During the course of a prank, Alistair crosses paths with Cordelia. She is utterly unintimidated by him and he’s delighted. He manages to find out who she is, and gets a little “stalk-y,” and she berates him for it, charming him even more.

They dance around each other, with Alistair growing a bit more serious and Cordelia learning to enjoy life again. The relationship develops in a believable way.

At the same time, Cordelia pursues her interest in promoting the Petition for Reform of the Married Women’s Property Law and, later, a divorce law granting women the right to sue for divorce. It’s hard to grasp how few legal rights women had in the nineteenth century, and how hard-fought were the battles to win even the first glimpses of equality. It’s an unusually serious subject for a Romance. And while the author doesn’t take us too deep into the weeds, she does make her point.

If you’re looking for a historical Romance with a little more substance, this one fits the bill.

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