|Edith Layton was one of the first authors I discovered when I started reading Regency romances. For the most part, I enjoyed her books with their interesting characters and smooth, witty dialogue. Although I haven’t read Layton’s books for some time, I’m pleased to say that after a slow start, Alas, My Love tells a story that shows the same strengths.
Amyas St. Ives is growing tired of London. Although he’s enjoying a winning streak at the gambling tables, he wants something more. He wants to find the family he has never known. As a child, he lived on the streets until he was deported for theft. After earning a pardon through military service, Amyas returned to England. Amyas is the only name he knows; he took the surname “St. Ives” because of a song. He hopes the uniqueness of his first name will lead him to his family. Failing that, he hopes to find and marry a woman with good connections.
His search leads him to the house of Mr. Tremellyn and his daughter, Grace. Another woman, Amber, lives in the Tremellyn household. Like Amyas, Amber is a foundling, though she grew up surrounded by kindness and love. Amyas is instantly attracted to Amber, but her uncertain heritage makes him reluctant to act on his feelings.
For the first 150 pages, Amyas spends time with Grace and Amber as he decides whether to pursue Grace. This is the slowest part of the book. It also has the most potential for frustration for some readers, who may not appreciate Amyas’s desire for a wife with a “good family and breeding.” As his origin is unknown, some readers may find this hypocritical. That may be true, but Layton clearly indicates that this is one of Amyas’s inner demons, which makes it more understandable.
In the first section of the book, Amyas is also slow to decide whether to pursue Amber, Grace, or neither, a fact he recognizes during a dinner party:
He was tired of his own indecision; he’d use tonight to decide whether to go on courting her [Grace]—or rather, to really start. He’d been pleasant enough, but if he wanted her as his wife, he had to begin wooing in earnest. If not? Then he’d be on his way to St. Michael’s Mount to see the sights, then back to London and whatever awaited him there. He was done with his quest to find any trace of the infant he’d been.
The dinner party is when Alas, My Love picks up considerably. The party also sets in motion certain events that lead Amyas to some self-analysis. A change in his beliefs allows him to grow as a character.
Amber’s plight is an interesting one. She is treated like part of the Tremellyn family, but she is not a family member. She considers Grace her sister and resolves not to hinder Grace by expressing like or dislike for any of Grace’s beaus. Still, Amber is very aware of her unique position and the fact that she is not really a Tremellyn. Together, Amber and Amyas make a strong couple. They understand and become friends with each other.
Alas, My Love is not perfect, but if you’re willing to take time to get past a slow beginning, you’ll be rewarded with a sweet romance.