Review: King George’s Man by Jayne Davis (2023)

Posted May 29, 2023 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

Jayne Davis is one of the most reliable of the new school of historical romance authors, not because she writes the familiar themes repeatedly but precisely the opposite. She’s not afraid to step off the well-trodden paths and set her characters firmly down in unusual territory – the pre-Regency Georgian era, for one thing, far-flung parts of the British Isles for another, and the hard-working middle and lower classes. As a consequence, her books are always fascinating, and this is just the latest example.

Here’s the premise: Nell Mason has fallen on hard times. Her father’s bank failed, and when he died, she and her mother were forced to turn to her uncle, running a shady inn on the Yorkshire moors. Her mother is now dead, too, but Nell is still there, working as an unpaid skivvy in the kitchen, keeping her head down to avoid her uncle’s cruelty. She’d love to leave, but the occasional coin she gets as a tip isn’t enough to risk it, and where would she go anyway? She knows her uncle’s up to some nefarious business, but there’s not much she can do about that, either.

Into this difficult situation comes a man who could bring her a great deal of trouble. Lieutenant Toby Bourne is on leave from the army before a posting to the Colonies, and he’s recruited to investigate a highway robbery, which leads him to the lonely inn. He soon realises that Nell is not the usual lowly inn worker, and draws her into his plans. She finds herself having to take unusual risks, pitting herself against not just the highwayman but also her own uncle.

So the adventure unfolds, and to be frank, there’s a lot more adventure than romance. Toby and Nell are on good terms fairly quickly, but the drama rather overshadows the gradual development of their feelings. I can’t say the balance was wrong, because the fallout from the robbery is dramatic enough to justify the attention paid to it, but the romance was just a tad low-key for my liking. Even very late in the day, when Toby finally gets round to proposing, they’re both still uncertain about the depth of their feelings. Luckily, they’re both sensible enough to talk things through, so there are no last-minute misunderstandings. And I very much liked the pragmatic way Nell decided their future. It wasn’t the outcome I’d been expecting, but it was perfectly in keeping with their characters. And I loved the mini-epilogue right at the end, summarising a lot of history in one newspaper announcement (and complete with authentic-looking ‘s’ shaped like ‘f’ – a delightful touch!).

I haven’t said much about the adventure, because I don’t want to spoil the plot for anyone, but it’s all very nicely done. Along the way, there are people who both help and hinder Nell and Toby, whether through wickedness or silliness, but they were always fully rounded and believable characters. I actually felt sorry for Miss Delaney, the epitome of silliness, who should have been better protected by her parents, and there were some lovely side characters, like Aunt Em and the magistrate. Naturally, being Jayne Davis, there’s not a single whisper of an anachronism, and the writing is well up to her usual standard.

A lovely, lovely story about ordinary people caught up in difficult circumstances, yet always behaving with honour and dignity, and a fine, low-key romance. Five stars.


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