Title: Sock Monster
Author: Elise Clarke
Publisher: Escape Publishing
Release Date: December 2017
Length: 200 pages
Genre: Historical, Romance
One knight, one runaway heiress, one rollicking romance: A breath of fresh air in Regency romance!
Proud and haughty, Lord de Waare is almost as medieval as his castle…until he accidentally abducts a governess, who turns out not to be a governess at all, and who shows this knight that his heart is not as armoured as he thought.
A girl with a dangerous past, Marina would happily disappear again, but since de Waare won’t let that happen, then the least he can do is help her clear her name. But moving back into society is dangerous for her and for the stern man she’s coming to love. She knows the rules of honour and society, and she won’t allow de Waare to compromise the principles that define him.
But de Waare didn’t become the Crusader by accepting defeat. Faint heart never won a fair lady, and de Waares always win.
Marina Frome takes her role as governess to her three charges seriously, but she is not one to cower to a bully. When Lord de Waare – among others – are invited to stay at the Kemp household while Lady Kemp preys upon her first daughter’s future husband and said daughter simpers like a fool. Marina sees the writing on the wall and intervenes in this plotting mama’s scandalous act, and winds up being abducted from her own residency by Lord de Waare himself – drunk, at that. The opening scenes were quite comical and albeit over-the-top with a fast pace.
On the way to his northern home, Tam discovers Marina Frome is not a frumpy, frizzy-haired, overweight governess. Instead, she is a slender blonde resembling a sprite with such a mind that there is no way she is anything but from the nobility. No servant would dare speak or act in ways such as she. Set to discovering her true identity, Tam gives Marina his own nickname that follows her throughout the book. Convinced she is ruined, Tam refuses any word on the contrary that he will marry her.
Marina soon discovers Tam’s dotting aunt, who seems to do exactly as he bids. A foreign concept to her. She also meets Tam’s younger brother who quickly falls into puppy love with her. Meanwhile, Marina is fighting her own growing attraction and affection for Tam. There are a few awkwardly funny scenes that weren’t fully fleshed out to reveal themselves as naive attractiveness and how Marina can’t handle that. The scene upon discovering Tam in the lake and stumbling all over in the snow comes to mind.
Soon Marina’s identity is revealed to Tam in the few items his friend collected from the Kemps. A small family Bible reveals her to be almost a princess in her own right. The gravity of this scene and Tam’s shock underscores just how massive a scandal this was when it happened four years prior. And the lies that were told only add up to one thing: greed. Marina would have gone on living in hiding, but Tam is determined to assist Marina in getting her inheritance back. And it starts with a visit to an asylum…
While Tam now knows Marina’s true identity, no one else does. They go on pretending, even as they travel to London. It is there that Tam’s wartime friends come into the light, as well as Tam’s very Moulin Rouge-like Uncle Quentin who tells such a tale of the war with the French…and Tam’s old flame, a tall, lithe, bombshell blonde. Once the troupe arrives in London, things take some very strange turns filled with surprises, jealousy, crazy, and blows to pride.
Despite her level head and all of her reflection over the past four years of her life, in addition to her own insistence of how spiteful and mean she was growing up (sometimes just because she could), I couldn’t reconcile such growth and maturity with the fact that Mariana STILL went into overly melodramatic hysterics and weeping on several occasions. The behavior was at odds with her character growth.
Just as there is a flaw in Marina’s character, there is an even bigger one in Tam’s. He lives and dies by honor, but he had an ugly nasty habit of domineering and physically abusing Mariana in what today would be labeled domestic violence. I also couldn’t reconcile that behavior with the man he seemed to be. When Mariana disobeyed him or refused to give in, he would grab her chin and jaw in his hand and jerk her head around to force her to agree with him on whatever subject was at hand. This didn’t add up to the character Clarke built of him being such a gentleman, right out of the Medieval period.
There was some superfluous wordiness at times that bogged down everything. I think it could have been worked out with some more editing and revising, or done away with altogether. I’m not sure the purpose of the particular scenes I’m thinking about being written in that way.
Overall, an enjoyable book if you can look past the few flaws. I did enjoy Marina’s character (minus the hysterics) and I loved Uncle Quentin’s own hysterically outlandish behavior. A roué indeed! I’m interested to see the books that feature Tam’s friends, the wounded Irishman and gorgeous hunk that is the prime meat of the marriage mart.