Rules for a Proper Governess by Jennifer Ashley (MacKenzies & McBrides #7)
Berkley: October 7, 2014 (Historical Romance)
This is going to be a short and sweet review. I liked Rules for a Proper Governess, it just doesn’t stand out in my mind as a memorable read so I find myself in the position of not having much to say about it. Don’t get me wrong, it was entertaining, but not a read I was terribly invested in.
Roberta “Bertie” Frasier is twenty-six when she encounters Scottish barrister Sinclair McBride. Encounter is probably the wrong term, in actuality, she tries to rob him, and he catches her. Bertie, on the orders of her abusive father, stole Sinclair’s pocket watch, which unbeknownst to her, is a gift from Sinclair’s deceased wife. Sinclair has no intention of letting that watch go and gives chase, only to find himself entranced by the thief who stole from him.
While Sinclair does not have Bertie arrested, the attraction between them keeps them both invested and when they encounter each other once again, Bertie finds herself the unexpected governess of Sinclair’s two troublesome children. Respectable employment is not something that Bertie has any experience in, but she soon comes to love working with the children and is committed to being a proper governess to them. Overall, I liked Rules for a Proper Governess. It was a cute romance but I wouldn’t say that it broke new ground. It was a governess story with a twist, but still a conventional governess story that routinely crops up in the historical romance genre. Both Sinclair and Bertie were fun characters to see in this tried-and-true formula, so I was happy with how the author used this trope.
What I was less enthralled with was the sheer number of other complications that cropped up to prevent Bertie and Sinclair’s happily ever after. There was a puritanical relative determined to “rescue” Sinclair’s children, a scorned and revenge-minded suitor of Bertie’s, mysterious and threatening notes sent to Sinclair, troubles with Sinclair’s children, and an abusive father. Personally, I felt there was too much going on in the book and as a result, I found that the pacing, at times, was a little jerky. And I also found that I became desensitized to the seriousness of all these events surrounding the characters; it just didn’t feel suspenseful to me because there was so much to consider suspenseful.
Ultimately, I think Rules for a Proper Governess will appeal to Ashley’s longstanding fans of the series, but I don’t think she will gain new fans with this one. Personally, this series has been hit-or-miss for me, so, as always, take my thoughts with a grain of salt.
For a governess tale that targets the emotions rather than suspense, try Grace Burrowes’ Ethan: Lord of Scandals. This one is much heavier on the emotions, but it was a great read, especially for fans who like the governess trope in their historicals.
For a governess romance that is more evocative of the tone in Ashley’s novel, I recommend The Orchid Affair. It is part of the series (which I highly recommend) but I think fans of Rules for a Proper Governess will enjoy the dynamic between the leads in The Orchid Affair; they are both no-nonsense type of characters, which is how I see Bertie and Sinclair.
If you’re intrigued by the idea of commoner lead, Judith Ivory’s The Proposition is a good choice since the hero, like Bertie, is a noticeably a commoner, in fact, he’s a rat catcher. Not your typical romantic hero, but a good read nonetheless.