Review: Something Old by Rebecca Connolly (2021)

Posted May 13, 2024 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

This is not my kind of Regency at all. Nothing wrong with it, and I totally understand why many readers would love it, but it just doesn’t do it for me, sadly. Too much angst and introspection, and not enough action.

Here’s the premise: Thomas and Lily Granger have been married for five years. They were inching along a path of gentle courtship when Thomas lost virtually all his money. He then asked for Lily’s hand solely to use her dowry to re-establish himself. Now, five years later, he’s finally achieved that. He’s not only solvent again, but he has Lily’s original dowry to restore to her, as well as his own somewhat improved finances. But even though he loves his wife, guilt has kept him from showing her any affection at all. Now he wants to start again, wooing her as he should have done before they married. But is it too late?

And here’s the kicker: unbeknownst to him, Lily has been in love with him for years, but she’s all but given up hope of their marriage ever developing into a real marriage of mutual affection.

Now, this is an intriguing situation. I find it a little implausible that Thomas would allow his guilt to so overwhelm him that he shows no affection whatsoever to Lily. They live virtually separate lives. However, I’m always prepared to give a book its initial premise, so let it stand. The interesting question is how he deals with the situation now. No points for anyone who said: they sit down over a cup of tea and talk everything through. No, silly, this is a Regency romance, where no one ever simply explains what the problem is and proposes solutions. Instead, the couple both agonise over their situation at inordinate length, chapter after chapter that seem to be nothing but inner monologues.

The first thing Thomas does is to seek out all his best buddies, and ask them for advice. Now, this gives me a severe case of the wobbles. Even today, blokes are (in general) not good at talking to other blokes about emotional problems, and Regency blokes are (in general) more buttoned up than most. It strikes me as wildly implausible that Thomas would be so open about his problems. Generally speaking, Regency marriages were smooth on the surface, no matter what was going on behind the scenes, yet here everyone knows what’s going on and mucks in to offer advice.

I have another grumble at this point, too. All these blokish friends (and some of Lily’s female friends, too, who are also asked for advice) seem to have drifted in from an earlier series. If you’re a fan of the author, and you remember and love these characters, this will be a huge bonus for you, but I just felt as if I’d missed something vital.

After an interlude in London, where things don’t go so well for our newly courting couple, they eventually realise they have to get completely away from everywhere that’s familiar and they head off to the promised Cornwall. This perks the romance up beautifully, but it also causes an outbreak of perfection-itis. The house they rent is idyllic. They themselves are beautiful and wonderful in every way. Lily, we are repeatedly told, is just perfect. Thomas is a considerate employer (he part-owns mines in the area) and devotes time and money to the welfare of his workers and their families. Lily, being very forward-thinking, goes into one of the mines with him. When introduced to the illegitimate half-sister of a local lord, she instantly befriends her. And so on. Frankly, this gets tedious very quickly, and since there’s no plot to speak of, beyond the relationship of Thomas and Lily, there’s nothing to distract from the ongoing monologues and the perfection-itis.

Eventually, a tiny hint of a plot event arises that throws a challenge to our now adoring couple, but I confess that by this time I didn’t much care. As I said before, this style of book just isn’t my cup of tea, but for those who love this kind of emotional outpouring, this is a well-written example, with only a light smattering of Americanisms to disturb. Not a bad book at all, but for me only three stars.


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