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December 31, 2011 / leuce7

Cannonball Read III Review #7 – The Country Gentleman

The Country Gentleman by Fiona Hill

I was at a friend’s house complaining about the bad rap romance gets, and expounding on how much I’ve learned from historical romance, when, upon mentioning I read Regency novels, he asked me if I would mind if he gave me a couple.  Of course I wouldn’t, and give me a couple he did (his mother knows the author, and he’d intended to give them to another friend who read Regencies, since he himself did not).

And thus began my introduction to Fiona Hill, who writes Regencies in the Georgette Heyer vein (who writes Regencies that read like they came from a contemporary of Austen’s, and not a modern writer who just sets her modern-day-like romance in the Regency period.  Not that I have any problem with that if it’s well done).  And I am ever grateful to my friend for introducing me to this lovely author.

I’ve read Georgette Heyer, who is considered to be the queen of Regency romance (amongst modern-day authors), and I have liked her books, but to varying degree.  I’ve never loved them, though maybe one came close.  I read two of Hill’s, however (and will be reviewing both) and loved both.  Hill’s gift, in my eyes, is the tongue-in-cheek humor she imbues her narrator with, that allows us to see the foibles of the character without laughing at them, while still caring about them and rooting for them, silly though they may be. If I had to pick an Austen book that Fiona Hill might have written, and written well, it would be Emma.

But it’s not only Hill’s writing style that makes her books so enjoyable.  She writes really rich and well-developed characters, who are so clearly defined that a description of a physical twitch of a character’s tells us more about what that character’s feeling or thinking than would paragraphs of exposition.

One of the reasons I enjoyed this book particularly is because of that aforementioned strong characterization of Hill’s.  A Country Gentleman is the story of Anne Guilfoyle, who loses her fortune but timely inherits a country farm that she moves to forthwith, and the neighbors she encounters.  She’s full of the haughtiness of a woman with her place in London society firmly established, and looks down on her country neighbors, who are better than she thinks they are (all of which is shown, not told).  The story develops from there, and you want, from early on, the characters to come to worthy ends.  Hill manages to do this, naturally and very satisfactorily, and entertainingly the whole way.

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