As a die-hard Regency romance fan, I am always delighted when an author displays a feel for the manners and customs of the time. Of late, such extensive author attempts are increasingly hard to find! Therefore, with her well-researched, emotional love stories Diane Gaston has certainly won my devotion.
On a warm July evening in 1817, Vauxhall Gardens featured a concert starring Miss Rose O’Keefe. After her stunning performance, the Marquess of Tannerton immediately instructed his secretary to offer "protection” and soon, the lovely Rose O’Keefe would be in his bed! After all, Vauxhall Gardens was a delicacy of dubious delights.
The Marquess of Tannerton was a good man and a very good employer and Jameson Flynn hoped his job, as the marquess’ secretary, was but a stepping-stone toward a more lofty future! Flynn had significant ambitions. He wanted better things. As a servant, Jameson Flynn hoped for the government; sometimes he even dreamed of royalty.
Yet suddenly, he found Rose O’Keefe in his most secret and bewitching dreams. When Flynn came to Vauxhall to procure her . . . for his employer, he had no illusions. He was, after all, the marquess’ secretary and the Marquess of Tannerton expected Miss O’Keefe’s affections to be bought and brought to his bed! And yet suddenly, Flynn found all his ambitious plans askew. Suddenly, Jameson Flynn wanted Rose O’Keefe for himself and that meant he was betraying the man who employed him. It meant he was betraying his future!
Rose O’Keefe wanted to sing in London’s greatest theaters! She wanted to live the life her mother had lost; she wanted King’s Theatre! Yet now, her heart betrayed those dreams. Rose’s gentle heart pined for something else — love — and it was not a love shared with the Marquess of Tannerton! No, it was a love shared with the marquess’ handsome, Irish secretary, Jameson Flynn. Through her songs Rose knew, no love could be as pure or as true as first love! And Jameson Flynn was first love!
I liked several things about INNOCENCE AND IMPROPRIETY. The first is that it felt right; the language, the setting, in fact Ms. Gaston’s research, in general, all seemed appropriate for the times. Gaston’s attack upon the era is very refreshing! In addition, the characters are very likable, particularly if you like restrained (rather than hoydenish) heroines and proper (rather than rakish) heroes. Unfortunately, the all-important secondary character, the Marquess of Tannerton, did suffer! His character flowed from the pages as too ill-defined. Of course, some of INNOCENCE AND IMPROPRIETY’s characters are from Gaston’s previous books, so perhaps the marquess has a story of his own coming!
Still, what fun and delectable reading watching the innocent Rose and the very proper Mr. Jameson Flynn come together! Initially, poignancy ruled most of the pages, especially during the scene when Flynn arranged, for Rose, an evening at the opera. At this point, I believed! In addition, Ms. Gaston threw in a pinch of mayhem and a dollop of darkness in the form of a despicable man.
Yes, Ms. Gaston has the knack for Regency romance. So why not a higher rating? Simply put, INNOCENCE AND IMPROPRIETY ran out of steam, and yet the final, satisfaction was present. It loomed in the ill-defined Marquess of Tannerton character! I honestly thought the cuckolded marquess knew of his secretary’s quandary and was toying with the man playfully. So what started in fabulous poignancy, ended in confusing disappointment! What a pity, because overall INNOCENCE AND IMPROPRIETY is a well-researched pleasure.