Sunday, July 3, 2011

My Dearest Enemy by Connie Brockway

Book Description:
Breathtakingly romantic, startlingly original, Connie Brockway's novels have captured the hearts of readers and the raves of critics everywhere.  Now she brings you a unique and unforgettable love story that begins with a series of letters between a world-weary adventurer and the woman whose love brings him home. 

Dear Mr.  Thorne, 

I give you fair warning.  I intend to do whatever I must to abide by your late uncle's will and win Mill House.  Though I know he never expected me to succeed, and for whatever reasons is using me to shame you, I accept his challenge.  For the next five years, I will profitably manage this estate.  I will deliver to you an allowance and I will prove that women are just as capable as men.  And at the end, I shall accept Mill House as my reward.  

Lillian Bede 

My Dear Miss Bede, 

Forgive me if I fail to shudder.  Pray, do whatever you bloody well want, can, or must.  I shall look forward to making your acquaintance in my lawyer's office five years hence, when I take possession of Mill House.
Avery Thorne

This was a delightful book, I'm realizing I love Connie Brockway, her novels have loads of humor, passion and just the right amount of seriousness to them to make them memorable and not too "fluffy."   I loved the fast pace and quick wit.  It's an amusing and clever story about how two people both vying to win a stately manor wind up falling in love with each other, despite their opposing objectives. Their "courtship" begins through a series of barbed letters filled with insults over the course of nearly five years.  What happens to them when they finally meet in person is delicious.  Plus, there are other facets to this story that give it depth and poignancy.  A great read and I read it in one day -  I love, love, loved it!

Lillian Bede is the unlikely beneficiary to the estate of Mill House that an older friend has left her. But, his will stipulates that she has to make a success of it in order for her to keep it after five years, otherwise the estate reverts to his nephew, Avery Thorne.  Not easy for a young woman under the age of 20, even though she is known for her outspoken ways.  Lily is a suffragette and a firm believer in women's rights.  I liked this unique quality in a heroine and it fits in well with the Victorian setting of the novel.  She is no shrinking violet and has - spunk!  Avery Thorne, who thought he'd be the heir to the estate graciously accepts defeat - for a time.  He's certain this nobody, Ms. Bede is not going to be able to manage the estate by herself and in five years it will be in a shambles.  Thus, he will eventually come into his rightful inheritence.

So, for the next five years, Avery gallivants around the world, biding his time.  Traveling to places like Africa and South America, he writes and publishes stories of his travels on safari and lost civilizations.  Fighting crocodiles and braving several near death experiences, he becomes fairly well known for his adventures - and every young boy's idol - including his young nephew who is back at Mill House with Ms. Bede.  Avery wasn't always the adventurer, though.  An asthmatic, he was perceived to be a weak and sickly young boy, but as an adult he learned to avoid those things that set off his asthma attacks - horses.  It turns out his young ward (and nephew) has the same malady.  Avery's world wide adventures have made him strong and robust.  These five years have done wonders for him! 

Something else has happened during those five years.  Against his will, he's developed a strong appreciation for Ms. Bede.  And vice versa.  Their correspondence over the years is hilarious to read about, each letter outdoing the last in blistering observations and sarcasm.  Ms. Bede is a force to be reckoned with.  Avery reads her letters aloud to his safari friends and cohorts - who all have fallen in love with her from afar.  What will Avery think of her when he finally meets her in person?

I can assure you, their meeting is everything the reader hopes it will be.  The two of them carry on just as unlikely a courtship in person as on paper.  There is much humor and ultimate passion between them.  Avery is a gentleman and I loved his character.  Even though he expects to take over Mill House eventually, not all turns out as he expects.  His honor and heritage are the backbone of how he behaves and believes - and instructs to his nephew, who needs a father figure in his life.  Once he meets Lily and falls in love with her, how can he reconcile ousting her from Mill House yet keeping her in his life?  What would be the honorable and gentlemanly thing to do?  And how can he do it without hurting her own sense of pride and self reliance?

The various plot-lines, aside from the main story between Lillian and Avery also kept my interest.  I enjoyed reading about the developing relationship between Avery and his nephew and how he helps him overcome his asthma.  I enjoyed Avery's non-conformist sister, who is known for her lascivious ways.  I was interested in the friendship that develops between his sister-in-law, who feared her dead husband (Avery's brother) and Lily's suffragette friend (who's staying at the house due to a broken leg).  I kept thinking that they'd turn out to be more than just friends. ;)  But most of all I liked the theme of survival and overcoming adversity - whether it's fear, a malady like asthma, or just being a woman in a man's society.

If you like historical romances, not unlike Julia Quinn's, with lots of humor and a good plot line with some tenderness and passion, this will be right up your alley.  I happen to love this combination.  This book is a gem and a worthwhile read.  The letters were my favorite part of the book, actually.  So sharp and spirited - just plain clever!  I highly recommend My Dearest Enemy and I look forward to reading all of her books! 



Marie-Thérèse said...

This sounds wonderful! I've never read anything by Connie Brockway but I've heard great things about her. It looks like it's time for me to read her books (starting with this one).

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

M-T - definitely give her a try. I loved her last book that I read of hers as well. Full of humor and exotic locations too, in parts. Very, very entertaining play between the h/h.

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