The Shocking Lord Standon

The Society Catch 

The Disgraceful Mr. Ravenhurst
by Louise Allen
(Harl. Hist., $5.99, PG)  ISBN 978-0373-29551-7
Set in 1816, this story tells the tale of first cousins meeting again and falling in love. I really struggled with that concept even knowing that this was an acceptable practice in the times. The tale was enjoyable but I could never quite get past a sense of distaste. Beyond that, there are things that don’t completely sit well and times when I grew frustrated with the characters, but in general The Disgraceful Mr. Ravenhurst is a book that brought some smiles and satisfaction.

Theophilus Ravenhurst is the son of a bishop, but that did not stop him from being an adventurer. He loved antiquities and traveled the world looking for and finding collections for himself and at times as a broker for others. He is currently in the process of a acquiring a chalice that is pornographic in nature that was used by a society who participated in orgies and sacrificing young virgins. He had actually purchased the chalice from the owner and was in the process of taking it back to England to a mysterious Lord who wanted it when he was robbed, injured and the chalice was stolen. He is heading back to the previous owner in an attempt to get it back, as he suspects duplicity.

Lady Elinor Ravenhurst is the daughter of a woman who is known as an architectural scholar.  Elinor is on the shelf and serves as her mother’s secretary and companion. She has given up hopes of marriage and dresses as a dowdy spinster. She and her mother are currently traveling in France to sketch and analyze old churches. They meet up with Theo and the adventures begin.

Elinor and Theo start off as friends and discover that they share many interests. They are thrown together and find they are also attracted. Kisses are shared with lead to speculation. Theo sees the lovely woman beneath the shell and begins to help Elinor in choosing a wardrobe that complements her rather than hides her. Elinor finds she is outside her comfort zone, so she  focuses on intelligence and logic rather than emotions she is uncertain of. Both fight their feelings and in doing so lead the other to believe that they are intrigued but not falling in love.

While they are exploring their feelings, they are also searching a castle for the missing chalice, sketching for Elinor’s mother, fighting off bad men and women, escaping from a near certain death and traveling together as husband and wife. During these travels, they share a little more than kisses, although Elinor remains technically a virgin. They fight their feelings and rebuff each other in many ways that are familiar to a romance reader because these efforts are seen in book after book. In fact, when they do make love, it is only because Elinor offers to experience it since she knows she never will, otherwise.

There is much to like in this story. These two are intelligent and well-matched. They laugh, they converse, and they admire each other as they fall in love. They are both dense in seeing what the other is feeling. The adventures are familiar and yet, there are a few twists that enliven the tale.  The villains are a bit of a surprise and that alone rated some points with me. 

Since this is part of a series on the Ravenhursts, there are characters from previous stories that make an appearance and those who have read the previous books will delight in seeing them.  But this book clearly stands alone. Sadly for me, I just could not get passed the first cousin barrier to fully embrace their romance.  The Disgraceful Mr. Ravenhurst, however, is a solid story and worth a look.   

--Shirley Lyons

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