Review: Sauce for the Gander by Jayne Davis

Posted March 31, 2019 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 15 Comments

Jayne Davis’s first book, The Mrs MacKinnons, was a blast of fresh air in the stuffy and overdone trope-forest of Regency romance. Brilliantly-drawn characters, an unusual situation and a hefty dollop of humour in unexpected places made it a delight to read, even though there were darker undertones. This book is a much more conventional outing, a marriage of convenience that turns into a bit of a boy’s own adventure, but still a wonderful, classy read.

Here’s the premise: Will is the son of an earl obsessed with rank and heritage. He’s the second son, but now the heir and responsible for perpetuating the line. But he’s been gallivanting about town, bedding willing married women and gambling excessively, in the time-honoured tradition of Regency heroes. But then he’s caught out by an irate husband and challenged to a duel. He survives by the skin of his teeth, but his father’s had enough, and orders him to marry his choice of bride.

She turns out to be Connie, the little-regarded younger daughter of a lower-ranked local man, whose meek and obedient demeanour masks a spirited intelligence. The two meet at the altar, and make their way immediately to Will’s grace-and-favour estate in Devonshire, where the servants and locals are strangely unwelcoming.

The romance is the usual one for a marriage of convenience – a slow build through respect to physical attraction to trust and, eventually, love. I liked both Will and Connie very much, although there really wasn’t very much to dislike about them. Will’s bad-boy reputation drops away pretty fast, to turn him into a thoughtful, caring man, and Connie is a bit of a paragon from day one. I would have preferred a little more friction between the two – perhaps resentment at their enforced marriage, or some hints of bad behaviour from Will, but his previous wildness is all set down to boredom and the two get along together pretty well right from the start. There are one or two moments where Will has to consciously broaden his horizons to encompass his new responsibilities, which was neatly done, and the way Connie struggled to find the right moment to raise the issue of sex was very believable. Still, their relationship felt very modern to me, and I’m not sure that any Regency man, especially one with Will’s past, would be quite so considerate of his wife’s feelings.

The boy’s own adventure was great fun, but I won’t spoil things by saying any more about that. At least it went some way towards alleviating Will’s boredom and need for activity. I wasn’t totally convinced by the resolution to the various difficulties, which seemed fraught with potential problems to me, but the romance ended charmingly.

This is another wonderful read from the author. It lacks the originality of the previous book, and I missed the humour, too, but the writing is superb, with some glorious descriptions of the house and surroundings, and a strong sense of both time and place. Thoroughly recommended. Five stars.


15 responses to “Review: Sauce for the Gander by Jayne Davis

  1. Ealasaid

    Her first series, the three Vienna books, are the most Georgette Heyer-like, but many of the Blackhaven ones I found quite charming and nicely written.

    • Mary Kingswood

      I think many authors start close in style to either Georgette Heyer or Jane Austen, before finding their own voice. I’m looking forward to reading the Blackhaven series.

      • Ealasaid

        Agree. A couple of early Mary Balogh novels are very reminiscent of Georgette Heyer, Lady with a Black Umbrella being one of them.

    • Mary Kingswood

      Apparently Will made a brief appearance in The Mrs MacKinnons, although I don’t remember it. So it may be that this book is the ‘establishing story’ for a whole Marstone dynasty.

      • Kathleen

        In “Sauce for the Gander” Will is the son of the Earl of Marstone. In “The Mrs Mackinnons” I believe the Earl of Marstone mentioned would be, at that point in time, Will.

        • Mary Kingswood

          Yes, I imagine so. I just wish I could remember what role he played in The Mrs MacKinnons.

          • Kathleen

            It’s a little convoluted to explain, and you really need to reread the book to get it straight!

            In a nutshell, Matthew Southam, the main character in The Mrs MacKinnons, had some severe aftereffects (PTSD) from his time fighting in India. Matthew’s orderly/assistant, Webb, was extremely concerned for him and sent for a Doctor Lorton, who contacted General Stuart (Matthew’s former commanding officer I believe), who then contacted the Earl of Marstone for assistance. Apparently the Earl had taken interest in Matthew, and set up various ways of keeping track of him and eventually helping him.

            As I stated, very convoluted, and now I am rereading The Mrs Mackinnons to figure it out. Both books are wonderfully written, but I like The Mrs MacKinnons best.

  2. Ealasaid

    This was very good though I felt it lacked some of the depth, nuance, and humor of The Mrs. MacKinnons.

    • Mary Kingswood

      A very succinct summary! I’m hoping that, since this is the first of a series, that this is just setting the groundwork for more original later books, but this is still a great read.

      • Ealasaid

        It’s interesting how much series from the same author can vary. I had once recommended Mary Lancaster’s Regencies to you and I very much enjoyed her Vienna and Blackhaven series, but her most recent series, the Unmarriageable one, just doesn’t seem to have the same wit and charm of the earlier series. It almost seems like she’s now going through the motions and her heart isn’t in it. Perhaps that’s why some authors write in more than one genre, to keep it fresh and maintain their own interest in it.

        • Ealasaid

          The progression of the books tells a story in itself, I suppose. The first 3 book series, Vienna/Imperial Season, was very funny and not sexually explicit. The Blackhaven Brides, a 9 book series, was not quite as comedic but still humorous and those books became more explicit. The last book in that series I felt was rather wooden and almost too explicit, and I wasn’t surprised when she started a new series. But this new one just isn’t of the same caliber IMO. I wonder if editors pressure writers to include more explicit scenes because “sex sells”.

          • Mary Kingswood

            She’s published 10 books in the last 12 months, not counting box sets, so she may be suffering from burnout. It’s hard to maintain the same freshness and originality with that sort of production schedule. I have the first Blackhaven box set (on your advice!) but haven’t had time to read it yet. So many books, so little time…

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