|Connie Brockway’s legion of fans will be delighted with her latest historical romance. The Golden Season has all the trademark Brockway style: an inventive plot, witty dialogue with plenty of humor, and two intelligent, mature leads who balance each other perfectly.
Lady Lydia Eastlake is the toast of London society. She’s a fashion-setter, admired by one and all for her elegance and her vast wealth, and at age twenty-four has yet to be labeled a spinster by the people who find her so entertaining. Lydia is stunned when she is summoned to her solicitor’s office one day and informed that she’s flat broke, due to misfortune, an economic recession, and her own spending habits. Determined to preserve her lifestyle, Lydia plans the unthinkable. She’ll just have to snare a rich husband while keeping her financial situation quiet. Perhaps she can make a man fall in love with her who won’t care that she’s nearly bankrupt.
This won’t be as easy as she thinks. Eight years of turning down Society’s most eligible bachelors means that Lydia is much admired, but has few men left to choose from. However, Captain Ned Lockton, brother of the Earl of Josten, has recently returned to London. The Lockton family is reputed to be very rich indeed, and one look at Ned makes Lydia’s knees weak. He’s the perfect man for her plan.
Ned has his own problems. A successful Navy captain, he has returned home to find his family in a financial crisis of their own. His brother, sister, and henwitted sister-in-law demand that he marry a rich heiress to restore the family fortunes. The economy’s downturn and the gaming habits of his young nephews have brought the family to the brink of financial ruin. Ned, the sensible, levelheaded one in the family, agrees to do his bit. When he meets Lydia in a pawnshop and she’s inadvertently posing as a shopgirl, he already knows who she is. And he’s already fallen for her.
Lydia and Ned don’t fight their attraction, since each believes the other to be wealthy. Soon they are flirting at parties and in a maze, and falling in love in the process. Meanwhile, Ned must try to keep his two scapegrace nephews out of trouble. Lydia has her own problems on the homefront. Her companion, Emily, is a compulsive thief; her best friend, Sarah, is trapped in an unhappy marriage; and her mentor, Eleanor, is a cynical widowed duchess.
Ned might have been a bit more interesting if he hadn’t been quite so perfect. Ned never loses his temper with his family, even though they richly deserve it, and his calm acceptance of the need to marry an heiress was a bit jarring. I expected some reaction; after all, his family is asking him to sign his life away due in large part to their own mistakes, but Ned never bats an eye. In fact, he spends most of his family time cleaning up their messes, but the confrontation I was expecting, at least with the wastrel nephews, never materialized. Having said that, he’s an honorable, patient man and his instant attraction to Lydia takes him off guard. Ned is the epitome of a great guy, and I had to admire his obvious devotion to his family.
Lydia’s initial bland beauty soon gives way to a complex personality with a rather painful past, which is exposed gradually. She has good reasons to crave the limelight, and her gradual relinquishing of that need as she falls for Ned is fun to watch. One of her most impressive qualities is her loyalty to her friends, yet it’s this very same quality that leads her to make a decision at the end that may have some readers howling in outrage. It might set up the end of the story, but comes at the expense of her characterization and her reasoning is flimsy, at best. This was a letdown after such an enjoyable story.
However, Brockway did something toward the end that I truly appreciated. All too often, the main issues in the story are neatly solved by circumstance. Not so here, and the book was the stronger for it.
The growing romance between Ned and Lydia is the highlight of the story. The author wisely takes her time, allowing them to get to know one another beyond the initial attraction. This is something Connie Brockway does particularly well, and it’s writing to savor, laced with humor and spark. Lydia gets herself into several madcap predicaments, but she’s mature enough to know they’re ridiculous situations and simply laugh at herself. We get to laugh along. Ned understands that his life as a Navy office hasn’t allowed him to have much fun, and this is the woman who could change all that. And there’s a lovely bit of steam between them. Readers won’t be disappointed.
The Golden Season is warm, funny, and inventive, and it’s well worth your time. Connie Brockway once again demonstrates why she’s in the forefront of intelligent historical romance.