Review of SEDUCING MR. HEYWOOD by Jo Manning
Five Star First Edition Romance Series, 2001/2002
Lady Sophia Rowley was the talk of the ton, highlight of any social gathering in Regency London, and notorious as a woman who had married three times and taken countless lovers. Now, she has returned to her late husband's ancestral home with the intention of taking on her responsibilities as a mother. After being abandoned by her last lover, she feels the need for calm, but she wonders whether she can fit into the countryside. Mr. Charles Heywood is the priest for Sophia's town, and appointed by her late husband as co-ward for Sophia's two sons. The attraction between the two is nearly immediate (once Charles recovers from an initial stumble), but Charles cannot bear the thought of a purely sexual relationship while Sophia has put all ideas of marriage behind her.
The arrival of Sophia's father puts the slow development of their relationship on a more intense pace. Her father has thrice sold Sophia on the marriage market and intends to regain control of his daughter, her figure, and the fortune her children stand to inherit from her late husband. The Earl of Dunhaven has even brought a handsome young man along with him. Charles is an obstacle, but the Earl doesn't let obstacles stop him.
Author Jo Manning has done her regency homework--the scandals, meals, wardrobes, and focus on reputation all ring true. I would have preferred for her to dig deeper into the emotional development of her two characters. The first meet starts off as a funny and different romance but Manning doesn't build on this. Instead, Charles goes from being a good guy, essentially nowhere. Sophia is understood to have been largely misunderstood and quickly learns the value of motherhood and the worth of being the squire of a rural village compared to the superficial nature of London society. Even Earl Dunhaven's nasty plots come undone too quickly.
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