Friday, October 19, 2018

Romance at the Royal Menagerie, by Ruth J. Hartman (author), Julie Hinton (narrator)

Clean Reads, October 2018

Francesca Hartwell loves cats of all kinds, including the big cats, all of them, and luckily for her, her father is the caretaker of big cats in the Tower of London's Royal Menagerie. Ever since her mother ran off to become the mistress of an earl, Francesca has pent most of her time with her father at the menagerie,. More to his distress than his pleasure, she has proved to have a real talent for handling the big cats.

They are absolutely dependent on his income from this job, and the Head Keeper would be very displeased to know that she was entering the cages, so she can only do so after hours.

And then one day she meets John Fairgate, an obviously well-born and wealthy man, visiting the menagerie, and he shares her love of big cats.

He apparently is not titled, and that's a good thing because her father is never going to forgive losing his wife to a titled nobleman. But John Fairgate could be the new donor the menagerie needs to care for the animals and keep her father employed, and he doesn't have a title...

John Fairgate is the heir of his Uncle, Baron Paddington. His beloved uncle has just a few requirements for him. Be ready to inherit the title and its responsibilities. Give up his ornithology research, because it's incompatible with devoting enough time to future duties as the Baron.

And marry a suitable wife, specifically, a woman he has known since they were both children, Miss Jezebel Cartwright. Miss Cartwright's father was his own dear friend, and they had long agreed it would be just ideal if the two children married when the time came. What the Baron doesn't recognize, but John does, is that Jezebel Cartwright is a malicious shrew, who, in the real Regency London, would have been ruined fairly quickly for her shameless, and perhaps more to the point, rather crude and obvious, attempts to get her hooks into John, whom she regards as her own property.

John, Francesca, Francesca's father, and John's uncle are all, ultimately, smart, decent, likable people. Francesca and John are both courageous and honorable, and are not going to do the wrong thing.

Jezebel Cartwright, on the other hand, probably can't spell honor. Or honour, if we're being picky and English, which would be appropriate for a Regency romance.

So, negatives: No, sorry, I can't imagine the cat caretaker's daughter at the Royal Menagerie in early 19th century London being educated and polished enough to ever pass muster as a future Baron's wife. Jezebel Cartwright is so far over the top that she's coming down the other side. If you're sensitive to such things, and I often am, you're going to be rolling your eyes pretty quickly.

Yet, somehow, I really enjoyed this one, even while I was rolling my eyes. It's fun, and I like these people.

So, recommended with the stated caveats.

I received a free copy of this audiobook from the author and am reviewing it voluntarily.