Like many of you, I’m hard to please when it comes to my beloved Regency era. After all, a typical young lady’s real life in the period would be something less than a page-turner. So a book has to be believable but imaginative, well-researched but innovative, to win my heart. It’s a narrow path historical writers must tread; take a wrong step and I either yawn from boredom or snort in disbelief.
Which is why a really good historical like Kate Nobles’ Follow My Lead is such a find. Ms. Noble gives us characters who, though not typical of the time, could have really existed, and puts them into creative, fresh adventures that make sense. Ms. Nobles’ balancing act is worthy of a Wallenda.
Our heroine, Miss Winnifred Crane, is a bluestocking of the first order, and she is determined to win entrée into the all-male Historical Society. In that effort, she bumps into – literally – the hero, Jason Cummings, the Duke of Rayne.
Winn manages to get the Historical Society’s attention, but she is challenged to prove her expertise by proving the provenance of a disputed painting. And Jason, who only wants to settle down with the nice, sweet, typical miss he’s been eying, gets swept into the quest as Winn’s guardian.
Now, we’ve all gotten a little used to the typical “exotic” locations of the Regency: travellers typically journey through war-torn France or Spain or jaunt off to the Indies (East or West). But Ms. Noble takes Winn and Jason on their merry adventures in search of fine art and true love in – of all places – Bavaria and Austria. You can tell that Ms. Noble did her homework, but the facts are sprinkled in lightly, just enough to season the mix without overwhelming it.
The witty interplay between Winn and Jason is nicely handled, with exactly the right balance between snarky and sweet. And I particularly loved the description of Jason as a “manageably good-looking [Duke] – despite the curse of his red hair.” What a delightful change from the raven/bronze/flaxen headed heroes who are always drop-dead gorgeous!
There is, of course, the requisite toad of a suitor, who wants to sabotage Winn’s efforts so she will settle down and marry him. But he’s not one of those evil-for-evil’s sake villains. His motivation has a fresh little twist – he wants to be a renowned art expert and plans to pass Winn’s brilliant work off as his own.
No surprise to tell you that Jason and Winn complete their quest, vanquish the toad-suitor, and have some really hot sex along the way. And if you’re like me, that’s just how you want life to be.
This was the first of Ms. Noble’s books I’ve read, but I’ve googled her back list, and you can be sure that it won’t be the last.