Political intrigue could leave his heart the last one standing… alone.
Nick Dymond enjoyed the rough-and-tumble military life until a bullet to the leg sent him home to his emotionally distant, politically obsessed family. For months, he’s lived alone with his depression, blockaded in his lodgings.
But with his younger brother desperate to win the local election, Nick has a new set of marching orders: dust off the legendary family charm and maneuver the beautiful Phoebe Sparks into a politically advantageous marriage.
One marriage was enough for Phoebe. Under her town’s by-laws, though, she owns a vote that only a husband can cast. Much as she would love to simply ignore the unappetizing matrimonial candidate pushed at her by the handsome earl’s son, she can’t. Her teenage sister is pregnant, and Phoebe’s last-ditch defense against her sister’s ruin is her vote—and her hand.
Nick and Phoebe soon realize the only match their hearts will accept is the one society will not allow. But as election intrigue turns dark, they’ll have to cast the cruelest vote of all: loyalty… or love.
Publisher and Release Date: Sahmain Publishing, March 2014
Time and Setting: England, 1812
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Rating: 2.5
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars
Review by Caz
Sweet Disorder is that rare thing – a Regency romance with a difference. Set away from the glittering ballrooms of the ton in the rural town of Lively St. Lemeston, this is a story about ordinary people with ordinary problems, who sometimes struggle to make ends meet at a time of hardship.
The story takes place in 1812, during the General Election. Lively St. Lemeston is controlled by the Tories, although by a small margin, so the Whigs are fighting hard, and their candidate is Tony Dymond, the youngest son of the local landowners, Lord and Lady Tassell. Lady Tassell lives and breathes politics, even though as a woman she is unable to vote herself. Yet she spends her time campaigning for the Whigs up and down the country and has gained a reputation as a formidable political activist, to the detriment of her family life. Two of her sons – the eldest and youngest are politicians whereas Nicholas, the middle son, wanted nothing to do with the “family business” and went into the army instead.
Now home as the result of a debilitating leg wound, Nick is spending most of his time holed up in his rooms brooding, acutely conscious of his new disability and not inclined to move about in society, until his mother descends upon him and orders him to Lively St. Lemeston to help his brother with his campaign. Nick, being very much his own man, is not inclined to do her bidding, until she threatens to cut off his allowance. Having no other means of support, Nick has no choice but to agree.
Lady Tassell wants Nick to engage in a bit of politically motivated matchmaking. Mrs Phoebe Sparks, widow of the town’s newspaper proprietor, is also the daughter of a (deceased) freeman of the town. Because of this, she holds two very valuable votes –not that she can use them herself of course, but should she remarry, those votes could be used by her husband, and Lady Tassell wants to secure them for the Whig cause.
Each party has chosen a potential husband for Phoebe – except that she has no intention whatsoever of remarrying. The latter days of her marriage had not been happy ones, and although life is hard, she is enjoying the independence of widowhood. Until, that is, her younger sister, Helen, drops the bombshell that she is pregnant and that the father can’t marry her and Phoebe knows that remarrying is the only chance she has of arranging matters so that Phoebe can go away somewhere to have the baby without the townsfolk finding out and branding her a whore.
By this time, Phoebe has made the acquaintance of both of her suitors and the man sent to help things along… and while she isn’t interested in either of the possible husbands, she is very interested in Nick Dymond, who is handsome, charming and someone she finds herself able to confide in.
Rose Lerner paints a superb picture of small-town life in the British countryside. All the characters – even the most minor ones – are very well drawn and all feel as though they have lives of their own, and the characterisation of the two protagonists in particular is excellent. Phoebe has a difficult relationship with her mother, and has grown up under her constant criticism. As a result, she finds it difficult to value herself properly, always hearing that little voice in the back of her mind telling her she’s not ladylike enough, too plump, too forward… She’s one of life’s copers, but her life isn’t an easy one and she eekes out a meagre living by writing and selling “improving” stories for women. The exhaustion she feels is palpable and jumps off the page, so it’s no wonder that she occasionally longs for someone else to shoulder her burdens, even if just for a little while. Phoebe certainly isn’t one of those long-suffering stoic heroines one so often encounters – she’s got a hot temper and a sharp tongue neither of which she finds it easy to curb. But her flaws make her seem that much more real, in the same way as Nick’s make him into a not-perfect but intensely engaging and loveable hero.
Like Phoebe, his relationship with his mother isn’t a good one and having spent most of his formative years knowing there was no point in asking for anything he wanted because there was no chance he would get it (especially if it interfered with his mother’s politicking), he stopped asking. He’s learned to be a peacemaker, the sort of man who gets along with everybody and who never feels comfortable expressing his own wants and desires. The point at which he finally acknowledges this to himself is a moment of true poignancy, and I wanted to cheer for him when he decided that it was time he allowed himself to want things and not feel guilty about it.
The romance between Nick and Phoebe is one that develops from an initial friendship, and there is a real sense that here are two people who are the perfect complement for one another. They communicate well and confide in each other (apart from very near the end when Phoebe discovers a secret she just can’t bear to divulge) and their HEA, when it comes, feels very, very well deserved.
Sweet Disorder is well-written and well-researched, with the historical backdrop of the election providing some fascinating insight into the political situation in England at the time. The setting is refreshingly different and I have no hesitation in recommending it very highly indeed.
At time of writing, SWEET DISORDER is available from Amazon for $4.16