Title: The Virtuous Ward
Author: Karla Darcy
Genre: Regency-Era Historical Romance
Description/Synopsis: If you love Downton Abbey and Jane Austen you’ll love The Virtuous Ward! This is book #5 in the Sweet Deception Regency series that brings you the adventures of the gentlemen of the ton who are members of Sweet’s Racing Club and the women they love. Lord Maxwell Kampford has kept his ward in seclusion but now must sponsor her in society in order to marry her off. Unsophisticated and trusting, Amity is set up by Max's jealous fiancée to fail. Max is confounded by the loyalties of the girl who seems to champion every orphaned and abused animal and turns his bachelor household upside down. Will he discover love or let this charmer get away?
Readers Love Karla Darcy, RWA Golden Heart award winning author.
WARNING - SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT - REVIEW BELOW
First off, I have to say that the cover to this book while very pretty, doesn't do a lick of justice to the main heroine, Endurance (Amity). Out of all the regency-era romance novels I've read, Amity may be one of my favorite female leads of all time. Despite being raised by parents that didn't care about her in the slightest, then losing said parents and ending up a forgotten ward of a virtual stranger, Amity makes it a habit to be positive and look for the joy in life despite her circumstances. She is outgoing, mischievous, optimistic, kind-hearted, and willful while maintaining manners and class. In so many regency-era historical novels the women come across as boring, simpering, delicate, even downright stupid at times, so it was a breath of fresh air to find a novel where the main female lead wasn't any of those things.... without crossing too far over the line and becoming downright tomboyish or brash.
On the other side of the spectrum, the main male lead (and Amity's guardian) Maxwell, was a stodgy man who was all about order, class, and propriety - until he met Amity. I loved the combination of these two characters as they became friends in-good-humor and eventually grew to love each other.
This book was what I consider a "sure-read": it was fast paced, clear, well-written, and the plot was easy to follow and not complicated (despite the tenuous relationships between all of the characters). Though I can't say it was the best, or even most exciting book I've ever read, I can say that it was right up there with what you'd find in your typical regency from harlequin despite the fact that it was e-published... meaning quality and easy to enjoy.
I think the real pull of this particular book was the colorful characters and the way they interacted. Amity and her abigail (and friend) Betta were a great pair, not to mention the pairing between Maxwell and his plain-jane cousin. All of the characters (except for the villainous Honoria and the dour Ophelia) portrayed such camaraderie and humor in their interactions that it was hard not to fall in love with all of them. Overall it was a very light-hearted romantic romp - and if you enjoy regency-era historical romances, you'll enjoy this.
The only point of contention I had with this book was that the relationship between Amity and Maxwell lacked much passion (though that seems to be fairly typical of the era itself). I would have liked to see more sparks fly between the two. That being said, it was still a really nice afternoon read, and I recommend you give it a look.