A Loyal Companion by Barbara Metzger

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SPOILED AND UNGOVERNED, FITZ WAS NOT SUITABLE COMPANION FOR A LADY OF FASHION….

And certainly no proper chaperon. Fitz begged to disagree–after all, a dog was a true Incomparable as far as friendship, loyalty, and protection–and soon lovely Miss Sonia was plucked by her rusticated roots and packed off, dog and all, to London. Perhaps there she would find a husband to tame her free-spirited ways–and keep her out of trouble.

Sonia, however, always had a soft spot for the underdog, and Darius Conover was such a fellow. Scorned by society for a scandalous deed, Conover was not redeemed even by his heroics in battle. Until he met Sonia and Fitz, two passionate souls undaunted by even the most odious circumstances–and decidedly determined to undo the shackles binding his heart.

Publisher and Release Date: Originally published by Fawcett Crest, February 1992; reissued by Untreed Reads Publishing, May 2012

RHL Classifications:
Time and Setting: Regency England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Patrice

There’s an old warning to actors in showbiz: Never work with children or animals. I don’t suppose this applies to novels when the heroine is equally adorable. The seams of A Loyal Companion are bursting with little ones, a variety of animals and all the mushy, gooey sweetness that comes with them. I’d like to emphasize that the author employs children and animals liberally in her work to bring the characters closer together. I have no complaints about her devices because just like the showbiz warning implies, it’s just so darn, well, cute.

When a wealthy country squire marries a London beauty who is disowned by her family, they are blessed with years of happiness until her untimely death. Alone with memories of happier times with his wife – and the generous company of a village widow or two – he raises his four children: two sons, George and Hugh, and two daughters, Catherine and Sonia, who he calls “Sunny” for her golden looks and lively disposition. Shortly after George’s marriage to an insecure social climber, Sonia is forced into London society and into her maternal grandmother’s care. Lady Almeria, the dowager Duchess of Atterbury, is strong-willed and determined that her rebellious daughter’s mistakes will not be repeated. This does not stop Sunny from befriending the blacklisted Earl of Ware, Darius Conover, an acclaimed war hero with a sordid history that connects him to Lady Rosellen Conover who is married to his cousin Preston.

With her vibrant personality and unassuming country ways, Sunny is headstrong, loyal and loving. Once she decides to befriend Major Conover, she will not be deterred by rumor, the censure of the ton or the formidable Lady Almeria’s threats to ship her off to boarding school. For the first time since her arrival, Sunny feels she has made a true connection to a man. As always, there are scandalmongers and naysayers waiting to destroy the new bonds between the pair.

Sonia “Sunny” Randolph is best described as “knowing her own mind” by her father, Squire Elvin Randolph. He is proud that she is very much like her deceased mother, Lady Allison, who defied her relations to wed him. I would not describe Sunny as an actual tomboy, it’s an limited generalization based on her country manners. She has her own sense of style, and is a natural flirt, without any affectations. I would compare her to a golden wild rose with thorns, a contrast to a hothouse orchid which describes her sister Catherine. Sunny’s confidence and genuine sincerity are what make servants, commoners and the highest peers of the ton like her.

I’m not certain I would have chosen Major Conover for Sunny. He has a ton of emotional and physical scars from fighting on the fronts against Napoleon, as well as those from the vile accusations that lurk at home. Yet the pair are such complete opposites that the attraction works, because Darius is a soldier and Sunny can be herself with him. He is used to responsibility and yet he needs someone like Sunny to fight for him and care for him. Sunny and Fitz the dog are perfect for him in every way.

Fitz the dog, is a gorgeous black sheepdog with white markers from Squire Randolph’s estate, and is Sunny’s companion, much to her grandmother’s displeasure. He is an important character because he helps to bring everyone closer, providing loads of humor, while demonstrating how ridiculous human beings are in situations that are comparably simple for animals.

A Loyal Companion is a delightful tale wherein a plucky country lass meets — and saves — the love of her life. With a little help from her dog, she lures, stalks, and bags her reluctant suitor. To be certain, I’ve always appreciated that whenever dogs are involved in romance, the outcome is a guaranteed HEA for everyone except the villains. It’s a sweet, quick read with loads of witty observations and dialogue that will make you snicker. If you’re a dog lover, who appreciates a hero that is an underdog with a charming heiress dogging his heels, then I recommended this novel for fun times and frolics.

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