The Cat's Bracelet

The Changeable Rose

Changing Seasons

The Country Mouse by Jessie Watson
(Zebra, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-8217-6689-9
There is a certain delightful charm to a Jessie Watson Regency romance. She is especially good at creating a country setting and peopling it with attractive characters. This skill is very evident in The Country Mouse. What keeps me from recommending this book is a problem with the romance. There is nothing quite so difficult as portraying two people falling in love unawares which is what happens in The Country Mouse. Watson doesn’t quite pull it off. Still, there is much to like in this sweet romance.

Lavinia Taylor has lived her whole life in London and has never especially liked it. When her beloved uncle dies - and leaves her a tidy fortune - she decides to move to the country. Certainly all the animals she has rescued over the years will be happier there, and so will she. She buys a small estate in the Cotswalds and heads off to a new life.

Charles, Marquess Templeton, also heads off the the Cotswalds, but for a very different reason. He finds himself at the center of a scandal and decides that a bit of rustication will be a good thing till the affair blows over. He heads for Templeton Park near the large village of Painswick. Unfortunately, his curricle comes to grief on a winding country road. The now less than elegant marquess is rescued by Lavinia. When she casts aspersions on his driving skill, the two come to cuffs. Charles can see nothing charming about this sharp-tounged country mouse.

Templeton Park has sat empty ever since Charles’ grandfather had left the area after he lost the woman he loved and the family had rarely been in residence since. The village folk have missed the employment offered by a grand house. They are delighted that the marquess is back among them and would very much like that he stay. They decide that the best way to make this happen is to encourage his lordship to wed locally. Since the past marquess’ lost love lived at Greenbriar Lodge, Lavinia’s new home, it just makes sense to encourage a match between the two.

The bad start in the relations between Lavinia and Charles are not helped by the fact that the once impeccable marquess seems to become accident-prone once he arrives in the country. Still, in the restricted society of Painswick, the two are thrown together quite a bit. Moreover, Charles is determined to overcome Lavinia’s low opinion. And the two do share a goodly number of common interests. The arrival of a possible rival suitor poses a problem for the match-makers, but they are determined to prevail.

The hero and heroine of The Country Mouse are both attractive characters. Lavinia is intelligent, attractive, and forthright. It is easy to imagine a man finding her attractive. Certainly, Charles’ attractions are obvious. He is handsome, rich, and - despite his sudden penchant for taking pratfalls - desirable. That the imbroglio he found himself in with his former mistress has led him to reevaluate his life makes him a prime candidate for falling in love with a very different kind of woman than those he knew in London.

As I indicated above, the one problem with The Country Mouse is that we don’t quite see Charles and Lavinia fall in love. There is no moment when either seems to realize that the other is their perfect mate. The romance needed that magic instant. (I am reminded of the scene in Frederica when Alverstoke looks up and realizes that he is in love.)

Certainly there is much to like in The Country Mouse. The setting, the characters, the humor, the dialogue - all are well done. If the romance had been a wee bit more convincing, this would have a definite recommend.

--Jean Mason

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