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Review: A Rational Proposal

A Rational Proposal (Furze House Irregulars Book 1). A dark-haired young woman in a pink gown gazes curiously over her shoulder.A Rational Proposal by Jan Jones.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Duration: 6 hrs 29 mins.
Publisher: A Choc-Lit Production from Soundings.

A Rational Proposal, Furze House Irregulars, Book 1 by Jan Jones is a highly enjoyable Regency mystery, which introduces a cast of characters I am excited to hear more from.

#BennetSistersScale: Lizzy - 🌹🌹🌹🌹 Bright, unconventional, and passionately devoted to those closest to her, Verity makes this story a classic Lizzy.

Audible Summary: "When spirited Verity Bowman is left a sizeable legacy by her uncle on condition that she spends six months 'in a wholly rational manner', neither she nor her long-suffering attorney Charles Congreve have any idea where it will lead them. Nor, it has to be said, does anyone else. 

Set in Newmarket and London, A Rational Proposal is the first in the Furze House Irregulars series featuring women of spirit, women of courage, women who don't see why, in this male-dominated Regency era, they should not also play their part in bringing wrongdoers to justice.

©2018 Jan Jones (P)2020 Soundings."

Verity, like all women of her class, is meant to be "biddable and decorative", but as her exasperated friends and family frequently note with a sigh, Verity is far better described as 'incorrigible'. This made her quite my favourite type of heroine, and Charles' determination not to become entangled in yet another of Verity's schemes was, obviously, doomed from the off.

It is not often that I enjoy a new series as much as I did this one, and though we met a plethora of colourful characters in this first Furze House Irregulars story, they each earnt their place, and I'm delighted that they will feature in future stories. Charles and Verity's personalities and their situation developed nicely throughout, and the seeds of their friends' upcoming mysteries were sown alongside the promises of further domestic intrigue and excitement.

I did feel that some of the elements of this mystery were hinted at rather too heavily at the beginning, making the denouement less revelatory than it could have been with a little more subtlety early on, but it was still an entertaining investigation and reached a satisfactory conclusion.

A Rational Proposal is a witty and spirited Regency, but it doesn't feel anachronistic for that. It was a little 'wordy' in places but generally struck a good balance between period language and contemporary understanding. It was an evocative and engaging audiobook, with the descriptions of the period's cultures, practices, and fashions giving the listener enough detail to create a vivid mental picture of the characters' experiences without overloading them with information.

There was a passage early on which made me smile. "James Harrington was under orders to join his ship. Will Lawrence travelled down to Portsmouth with him, saw him safely away, then set off to visit his grandmother..." I do enjoy little coincidences such as these, and in this case it was not at all difficult to imagine another Lawrence traversing the streets of our iconic port town!

The narrator was Karen Cass, who I first heard narrating Jane Robinson's Ladies Can't Climb Ladders . I hadn't realised that she was also the narrator for this series, but it provided me with the perfect opportunity to compare her style when reading fiction and non-fiction. Both were excellent, and her gentle, refined, lively voice suited the era very well and helped me find an instant sense of Verity's bright humour and vivacity. Cass paired a timeless gentility with contemporary warmth to really bring this audiobook alive.

She also did very well with the male characters, accessing a nice depth of tone that enhanced the voices of our principled hero, the sneering villain, and all the gentlemen in between. I felt that she sometimes lacked the exasperation and tumultuous yearning in Charles' more frustrated moments with Verity, but still enjoyed her portrayal of the characters.

It was a little unfortunate that she chose the French pronunciation of the card game 'Piquet', calling it 'PEE-kay' instead of its more period-appropriate 'pi-KETT', but it's a very common misunderstanding in historical fiction as both forms are in use in modern English. As far as I understand it, the Anglicised version was more common in the Regency era, but do let me know if you uncover evidence to the contrary!

As this story concluded I was sorry to see this it end, which is always the best sign of a good book, and the perfect way to leave the first of a new series. I'm already looking forward to the next Furze House Irregulars book, A Respectable House, when it becomes available in audio.

I'd recommend this audiobook to everyone who enjoys Regency romance and light historical mystery, especially fans of Lynn Messina's Beatrice Hyde Clare Regency Cozy Mysteries.

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

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A Rational Proposal is also available on Audio/MP3 CDs and Large Print from Ulverscroft's website.

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