I am not a reader of historical romance. When I see "ton," I think "unit of measurement." My only other experience with historical romance didn't leave me with a hankering to read more of the sub genre. (The novel in question featured a really cool female spy who spent the first third of the novel kicking the hero's ass. Since the hero was the typical humorless, manly-man, with less sex appeal than a splintery, wooden dildo, I really enjoyed watching him get his ass handed to him by a girl. Then the heroine fell in love with the hero and inexplicable became a gibbering moron for the remainder of the book. Fail.)
Celia, the heroine in The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton
, starts the story by using the gray matter between her ears and doesn't shed IQ points when she falls in love with the hero, Tarquin Compton.
Celia Seaton is a governess, recently sacked for having a man in her room at night. The man in question was a burglar searching for the mysterious McGuffin that will drive the subplot. But this is Regency England; the good old days when men were men, and women, chattel. Consequently, Celia's employer, who is also her fiance, fires her on the spot. Penniless and jobless, Celia takes a ride from the first person she meets on the road...who turns out to be a kidnapper. The kidnapper takes her to a cottage in the middle of nowhere, steals nearly all her clothes, and leaves her there, but not before making it clear that he'll be back.
Despite her state of near undress, she escapes the cottage, only to find an unconscious, shirtless man on the doorstep. He's been knocked out by a blow to the head. He's hawt
. Unfortunately, he's also Tarquin Compton, the arrogant dandy who ruined her reputation in society by comparing her to a cauliflower. When Tarquin regains consciousness, he can't remember who he is. Celia, who believes that a jerk like Tarquin isn't going to help the likes of her, lies, telling him that he is her fiance. She also tells him his name is Terrence Fish. (In light of his vegetable comparison, she should have dubbed him Terence Turnip.)
Tarquin/Terence thinks the only thing piscine in the vicinity is Celia's story. But for lack of anything else to do, he goes along and accompanies her across the English countryside to the home of an aunt(?) she has never met.
Celia soon finds that a blow to the head greatly improves Tarquin/Terence's personality. Terence is pleasant, helpful and as his new sobriquet might suggest, quite a fisherman. (He catches a trout with his bare hands by tickling its belly.) All is going well, except for the problem that Terrence is eventually going to remember he isn't the Fish Tickler, but instead Tarquin Compton, dandy extraordinaire, trend setter, yada-yada-yada.
Tarquin does regain his memory, but not before he and Celia have made the beast with two backs. Tarquin is far from happy about his new persona--deflowerer of women who look like vegetables. Especially since their little romp may have made a baby. In which case, Tarquin insists he will have to marry Celia. Celia, for all her troubles, nevertheless, doesn't relish the thought of marrying a man who loathes her.
The remainder of the story takes place back in civilization, following Celia and Tarquin's on again, off again relationship, as well as the mystery of her kidnapping.
Stuff I really liked about novel. The dialogue is cute and actually witty. Celia and Tarquin exchange barbs, but unlike some witty banter, it isn't overdone. (Watching two people fight for 200-plus pages isn't my idea of a love story.) I really enjoyed the section where Celia spends time with the slightly eccentric Montrose family. The Montroses reminded me of Harry Potter's Weasleys. Sort of. I mean, the Montroses have money. But they're also a boisterous and fun family, and a huge relief from the rest of the stick-up-their-asses British high society.
The story doesn't get 5 stars because I really wanted a greater sense of danger from kidnapping/missing ruby subplot. Celia and Tarquin's romp across the countryside was a little too safe for me. (Again, I'm not a romance reader.) A bigger problem for me is Tarquin. The story really didn't explore his character enough; the reasons for his need to belittle and often hurt those around him. There is a suggestion that his obsession with clothes and standing was precipitated by his loveless upbringing. But he never really confided this to Celia or anyone. The result kept him too distant, and ultimately not lovable enough.
But this was a fun book (even for a not-romance reader). If Miranda Neville writes a story about one of the Montroses (Miranda? William?), I'll be sure to read it.