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Review: Never Borrow a Baronet

Never Borrow a Baronet audiobook cover. A blonde woman in a pink gown stands before a sweeping staircase. Never Borrow a Baronet by Regina Scott.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Duration: 8 hrs 26 mins.
Publisher: Regina Scott.
#BennetSistersScale: Jane - 🌹🌹🌹🌹 Love, honour, and... Orwell? A sweet, clean, light Regency romance with a dash of intrigue and an honourable heart.

Never Borrow a Baronet, Fortune's Brides, Book 2 by Regina Scott is another charming audiobook in what is shaping up to be a highly diverting series. A cross between a Regency romance and a cozy mystery, this audibook will sweep you away to more elegant times.

Audible Summary: "After caring for a crotchety countess, Patience Ramsey wants a more purposeful position. So, when Miss Thorn of the Fortune Employment Agency offers her the post of assistant to amateur apothecary Augusta Orwell, Patience jumps at the chance.

Then, her new employer introduces her at an Easter house party as the bride-to-be of her nephew Sir Harold Orwell. Miss Thorn’s cat Fortune may approve of Sir Harry, but Patience has no interest in borrowing the handsome baronet. She’s had her heart trampled on by false promises before.

Sir Harry has enough on his hands trying to restore the family name while spying for the English against the French. But the pretty Patience could cover for him when he must ply his trade during the house party, so he convinces her to agree to the charade.

As Harry’s work brings danger closer, he begins to realize Patience embodies everything he could want in a wife. Can he convince her to overlook the scandals surrounding him and exchange their false engagement for a true love?

This sweet, clean regency romance is the sequel to Never Doubt a Duke. Fortune’s Brides: Only a matchmaking cat can hunt true love.

©2018 Regina Lundgren (P)2020 Regina Lundgren."

I was delighted to return to Regina Scott's Fortune's Brides series with Patience's story, as she was an interesting minor character in the previous novel, Never Doubt a Duke, and deserved a tale of her own. When we meet her again she is in the process of escaping her irascible employer, Lady Carrolton, and assuming a new position as the laboratory assistant to an eccentric but warm-hearted maiden aunt.

Never Borrow a Baronet was charming and traditional throughout, and very easy to listen to. I especially loved little Fortune's expanding presence and the way she judges the character of the people she meets, offering a regal dismissal to those who do not pass the test. This series' style contains very little of the formality that is found in classic Regencies, but that gives it an ease and air of friendliness that makes it a relaxing and undemanding listen, which is always very welcome from audiobooks of this genre.

This second book involves more intrigue and 'cosy mystery' than its predecessor, taking the familiar house party setting and pitting the guests against an unknown villain who seems intent on harming the inhabitants. As their suspicions grow so do their characters, with the peril they face challenging their perceptions of themselves and each other, often in the most surprising ways. Scott does very well to introduce so many characters without it feeling slow or crowded, and as well as concluding Patience's story, Scott answered a few questions about Meredith's history with Julian, too.

There is a little too much repetition at times, in lines such as "Harry moved from bush to tree, keeping the fellow in sight. Even while Harry kept out of sight.", and the various occasions when nodding "set her silver earbobs to sparkling" or "set her greying curls to bobbing". Because the language used elsewhere does not adhere too rigidly to period grammar, it stands out a little more when historical phrasing is reused. Despite this, the chapters are structured exceedingly well, with a good hook at the end of each, compelling the listener to play 'just one more chapter' again and again.

The main mystery - the identity of the hidden gunman - was not as cryptic as I would have liked it to be. As such, the characters' blindness to the truth was frustrating, but it was nicely resolved at the end in an entertaining and inventive manner than made up for any earlier chagrin. The book hints at the romance to come later in the series, with Lydia, Meredith, and Yvette all considering their hopes for the future, and the final chapter reveals the plot of the next instalment.

Never Borrow a Baronet was also another great performance from the narrator, Jannie Meisberger. Her voice always reminds me a little of Anna Massey reading children's stories in my youth. (Massey's tone is lighter in her narration of books for young listeners than for her regular fiction.) Meisberger also reminds me of Angela Thorne's style in The Secret of Platform 13 (which is renowned for its similarities to the Harry Potter books, which it pre-dates). I had this audiobook on cassette in my youth, and still have the tapes somewhere, and it was lovely to be reminded of it as I listened to Meisberger bring Scott's world to life once more.

There's something wonderfully nostalgic about Meisberger's performance in more general terms, too; harking back to the classics I grew up loving. Though her performance is lively enough that it does not feel old-fashioned, it is still traditional and comforting for its familiarity. As with the previous book in this series I did tweak the speed a little, to 1.10x, which helped it to feel like it bubbled along a little more brightly than it did otherwise.

I can recommend this audiobook to anyone who enjoyed the previous book in the series, and all those who are looking for a Regency that is not sweet but not saccharine.

*I received this audiobook free of charge in the hope of an honest, unbiased review.

The Fortune's Brides series, in order, are:

Book 3 - Never Envy an Earl (not yet in audio).
Book 4 - Never Vie for a Viscount (not yet in audio).
Book 5 - Never Kneel to a Knight (not yet in audio).
Book 6 - Never Marry a Marquess (not yet in audio).

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