Tuesday 12 August 2014

Passion and Propriety by Elise de Callister

Book cover: Passion & Propriety by Elise de SallierWilliam, Viscount Blackthorn has lived a horribly unhappy life. He was born to a cursed family, meaning that his mother died giving birth to him, like the previous 5 or so generations. His father was a lecherous alcoholic and had nothing but hatred and venom for his son.  The neighbourhood despised and feared the family and he met with kindness only from the servants in his house and his only childhood playmate. As soon as possible, William was sent off to boarding school. There, he was ostracised by his peers for the curse.  Not wanting to pass on the curse to future generations William determined never to marry, and therefore was able to make a career choice generally not available to firstborn sons – he joined the army rather than come home and tend to his estate after his father’s death. The Blackthorn curse is thought by many to have cursed the district too. Many families have moved away, both to avoid this, and to try and find a better landlord, because William’s steward has kept the harsh rules that the previous Lord Blackthorn imposed and William has never intervened. William is battleworn and battle scarred and in fact is gravely injured. Refusing to let his injured arm be amputated William has instead come home to die.
“His death would put an end to the curse that had plagued his family for generations, and it seemed fitting for that to occur at the place where it all began.”
Passing the local church on the way William is attracted by the music being played and he goes in to listen. He recognises the woman playing the music as his former childhood playmate, the vicar’s eldest daughter Hannah, the sole bright spot of his youth.

Hannah is having a very bad day. It is her twenty seventh birthday, which means she is now officially an old maid. She has had a busy and useful life for the past few years, helping her father tend his flock and raise her sisters after the death of her mother, but she would like a family of her own. She is trying to accept that her dreams of marriage and motherhood are going to remain just that – dreams. Later that day she goes to visit her mother’s grave and finds William has collapsed in the graveyard. She immediately goes to help him, but finds herself in a dilemma. The steward of the estate has dismissed nearly all the staff and is currently away on a ‘business trip’ so there is nobody to pay for medical care for William and nobody will go there from kindness due to the curse. Hannah decides to go and care for him herself with the naive hope that her status as an old maid will protect her reputation, and the reputation of her sisters by association. It probably would have made more sense for her to have nursed him in the vicarage, but she doesn’t realise how little assistance she will have at Blackthorn Manor.

William has been sorely lacking in tender care in his life, and becomes very fond of Hannah’s company. This is in addition to finding her extremely attractive, a feeling that is mutual. In these times unmarried men and women couldn’t really be friends and William can’t offer anything more, though he finds himself wishing that he could. When circumstances intervene William and Hannah find themselves thrown together once more, but will he be able to continue to resist her?

I thought this was a very entertaining read although there were a few times I had to suspend my disbelief a bit, I really don’t think he could have returned home from war abroad with his arm as it was and I also believed that if people were as happy and relieved to get servant work as they appeared to be they would have been more discreet – if they’d been my servants I’d have got rid of them all and rehired! Nothing is kept secret, and even allowing for servants gossiping things which they were never told somehow get to be common knowledge.

I really liked both the hero and the heroine. I deeply pitied William for how sad and unloved his life had been. Only in the army had he found acceptance, when he could leave his horrible family and the memory of the curse behind.

The thoughts of both William and Hannah are often really amusing, and I enjoyed their dry humour. Here is William with a hangover:
“He was clearly suffering some terrible, life-threatening malady.....There was no point to Hannah catching whatever dreaded disease had claimed him.” 
Their attitudes in some respects seemed to be a little too modern in my eyes, particularly their attitudes to sex. Although some reasoning is given for this, considering both of them are virgins they seem to know an awful lot about sex and are happy to openly discuss it with just about anybody! There were a few words and phrases which jumped out as being too modern, or American, e.g. ‘darned’ and things such as William making a reference to his disabled left hand only noticing when he has to cut his food but it would notice anytime he eats because the custom in Britain is to have the fork in the left hand and the knife in the right at all times, not just when cutting food. I also am not sure whether a ‘sulky’ is a carriage that would have generally been found in England at the time, I would have thought a gig or phaeton would be more likely, depending on what class of person was driving, but these are small quibbles in the scheme of things.

There are some interesting secondary characters introduced in this novel, too. Hannah’s friend, Grace Daniels is the illegitimate daughter of a lord, who was cast out by her stepmother after her father’s death. She now provides apothecary care and herbal tinctures to the community and she was instrumental in saving William’s life by her work on his arm. She gets off to a very poor start with William’s new steward, and it’s a real mystery as to why, but Grace’s story seems set to be told in the second book in the series, Duty and Desire, due out in early 2015, which I'd certainly like to read. I thought Passion and Propriety was a very entertaining book and it was a lovely way to while away a rainy Sunday! This is better than a 3 star read but not quite a 4 for me.  Please note, for those of you who prefer to avoid them, that this novel contains sex scenes.

3.5 star read

*Many thanks to the publisher of this book, The Writer's Coffee Shop, for allowing me to have an e-ARC copy via Netgalley for my honest review. 


  1. Thank you for the kind and thoughtful review. I'm so glad you enjoyed the characters and their story. I'm annoyed with myself for missing the reference to 'sulky', as you're right - it wasn't added to the term 'phaeton' until later in the 19th century. My copy editor will kick herself! I had to chuckle at missing the 'fork in the right hand', as I'm Australian, and we eat that way too...or we're supposed to. As to William and Hannah's relative openness about sex, that was a tricky one to balance. My first Regency novel, Innocence, and its sequel Protection, stayed more in keeping with the times, with the heroine starting out almost entirely ignorant when it came to the specifics of sex. Having begun life as a fan fiction story, the series attracted a lot of readers who don't normally read historical romances, and many of them found my heroine's degree of ignorance implausible. This time I may have swung a little far in the other direction, though Hannah had assisted her midwife friend and William was an officer, so neither of them would have been entirely in the dark. Plus, it was a lot of fun to write that way!

    Thanks again for reviewing and posting on your blog. It was an unexpected treat.

    x Elise

    1. It was a lot of fun to read too! I read it in one day, which is a compliment to how much I was enjoying it. There were some really funny parts, like their conversations when he was ill and their respective thoughts on the design of the human body. I liked the fact that they were both so likeable as people too.

      Regarding the sex issue, as an author you really can't win, some people think you should have no sex, others will think any sex in a book should be more steamy than it is, some people will feel that there should be realism and others want the hero to be a super-skilled even if it's his first time. However you write it somebody won't be happy.

      Thank you so much for commenting and all the best with the book. I'd like to read book 2 when it comes out because I'm intrigued as to what is going on with Grace and the steward!

    2. Thank YOU Ceri. I love to hear it when people can't put down a story I've written. :)

      I've almost finished writing Grace and Jonathan's story. It's due at my publishers on Oct 1st for publication next year. I'll be checking for any pesky 'darns' or other discrepancies before submission, but it's amazing what can slip through. I don't think a day goes by when I don't google 'origin of a word or phrase', and I'm often surprised at how recently many of them were coined or how their meanings have changed over the years. My copy editor and I struggled over the use of 'making love' as it wasn't a euphemism for sex until later in the 18th century. I ended up digging my heels in and deciding to keep it, as it's such a lovely phrase and very difficult to replace!

      Thanks again for taking the time to read and review Passion and Propriety as well as posting your review on Amazon. I'll definitely make sure you are contacted with the offer of an ARC and a place on my blog tour for the second book in the series, Duty and Desire. If you're interested, I can ask my publisher to send you the ARCs for my first two books, Innocence and Protection. The two books make a complete series featuring the same two characters. It's actually more one long story, but my publishers wanted it split in two. They're a little bit steamier than Passion and Propriety but with a similar feel. If you're interested, you can email me at elisedesallier@gmail.com

      Thanks again!

    3. That's a very kind offer, thank you so much! I took a look at your other books on Amazon after you mentioned them in your first comment, and they look like something I'd enjoy. Also very interested in book 2 of this, I need to know what Jonathan's problem is with Grace and find out why he won't let Grace try and help his son when he can see she has had good results elsewhere. Lots of prejudice going on with that man!

      I know exactly what you mean regarding the words, the online etymology dictionary is a favourite of mine. Some words are a lot more recent than you'd think but conversely, some phrases sound modern but are actually really old. It makes me worse reading on kindle, because it's so quick to look it up!

  2. "I really don’t think he could have returned home from war abroad with his arm as it was" he he he Ceri this sounds like a fun and entertaining read. Your review made me warm to the characters. Loved the quote when he's in his cups :)

    1. Thank you Tamara! It really was an entertaining read. It rained pretty much all day Sunday so I had some good reading opportunity and very much enjoyed myself! The characters were very likeable, and so funny, they made me chortle quite a few times with things they said or thought.


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