My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts...
With Resisting Miss Merryweather, Emily Larkin’s Baleful Godmother series continues to its second installment. I found this one much better than book 1, which wasn’t up to my expectation where romance was concerned.
The Baleful Godmother is a Regency-set series based on female characters who have special “gifts” or powers. But if you want to start from the very beginning, you can with The Fey Quartet. These are a set of novellas listed as “prologue” to this series. Set in Medieval-era England, this series explains exactly how our unique heroines come to inherit their “gifts”. I found The Fey Quartet absolutely delightful, couldn’t wait to find out how the protagonists’ descendants deal with their gifts, bestowed by a Fey in exchange of a favor done to her. Their female descendents were to have a ‘wish’ granted on their 25th birthday; wishes that’ll grant them to have some type of special power of their own.
In book 1, Unmasking Miss Appleby, we meet Charlotte Appleby; orphaned, confirmed spinster, living on the charity of her horrible uncle. She didn’t even know about her special gift because her mother never had the chance to explain anything before she passed away. But then our very own Bale Tongue (the Fey who grants the wish) drops by suddenly. Prior to that, Charlotte was desperate to escape this horrible family she was living with but with no prospect to speak of, she couldn’t think of a way. Bale Tongue’s appearance gave her opportunity she was looking for.
Charlotte chose shape-shifting, which would allow her to become any living creature on earth. But she needed to change into a man to apply for the job she was hoping to get. Lord Cosgrove, Marcus, was looking urgently for a secretary at the time and had advertised on the newspaper. He had some trouble chasing him and needed help ASAP. Charlotte was very determined to work under Lord Cosgrove because the pay would be good. She goes with her plan of transforming herself into a man to attend the interview. All goes well and she’s hired by Marcus. Together then, they start working on Cosgrove’s problem.
But Charlotte had her own problems to face. In midst, she finds herself so attracted to him that she devices a plan to sleep with him. And the whole scenario and thereafter was just........not good. Charlotte was deceiving Marcus, who had no idea about her identity until the very last moment. Everything backfired and I couldn’t even bring myself to feel bad for her. She made her bed and all that. :/ Needless to say, I didn’t like it at all, and it ruined quite a bit of my fun. So despite the fact that I liked the storyline because how well-written and intriguing it was, I didn’t love book 1.
Resisting Miss Merryweather is about Marcus’s friend Barnaby, whom we meet briefly in book 1. But they have a long history to share, both good and bad. And Anne Merryweather is Charlotte’s cousin. I don’t remember meeting her before this book.
In book 1, it was revealed that Marcus and Barnaby, who were best friends since childhood, came to a bad blow when Marcus’s deceased first wife Lavinia with Barnaby. In one word, he helped Lavinia cheat on Marcus. There have been other developments in between, which you’ll learn more of if you read book 1. Marcus wasn’t amenable to ever forgive Barnaby for this. Hell, even Barnaby didn’t forgive himself for this one-time transgression that ruined lives, and ruined his most treasured friendship pretty much.
Since then, lots have happened to change Marcus’s POV of why Barnaby did what he did. He had met and married Charlotte. Recently they had a baby boy named Charles. After much thought and chat with Charlotte, he’d decided he didn’t want this to go on. He wants his best friend back. With that in mind, Marcus invites Barnaby to attend Charles’s christening. Barnaby accepts... but he didn’t know if he could actually attend. He was so burdened with guilt that he felt sick to the stomach.
Despite everything, Barnaby decides to at least join Marcus in his country house and see what happens. But it was becoming harder as he got closer to his destination. He was feeling so bad that Barnaby almost turn back. Then suddenly, Anne Merryweather comes up on the path from somewhere, changing his whole perspective on the matter. Well, he didn’t know that at that time but it would change his life in more ways than Barnaby could ever imagine.
Anne, whom her loved ones call ‘Merry’, it seemed has seen Barnaby from afar some years ago in a ball. She was engaged at that time, but nevertheless was taken by Barnaby’s dancing skills. It’s because Merry’s father was a dancing master and she’d not only trained from him, but also helped him train other young men. She’d often partner with them while practicing. So when she saw superior dancing skill she knew it. Also Barnaby’s joie de vivre was quite infectious. He loved what he did and it showed.
Since then, lots have changed. Merry had lost her fiancé to the sea. Her parents passed away too and now, she’s living with Charlotte and Marcus. It wasn’t charity because both loved having her around and wanted her to be around as long as possible. Still, the whole matter made Merry uncomfortable. She didn’t want to impose on anyone longer than necessary. But no matter what, Merry saw what was for real; this Barnaby is so very different from the old Barnaby that it made her extremely sad. Suddenly, she felt that urge to try and bring the old, much happier, Barnaby back.
From her father, Merry also learned another thing. To read people. It’s not her special gift though. She just could read a person from their body language. This is how her father knew which pupil would be good and which one would be a troublemaker. Merry could see Barnaby wanted to reconcile too but burdened with guilt, he’d dug a hole so deep that it’d be a really difficult task to pull him out of that hole. She knew Marcus was looking forward to this meeting with hopes he can resolve whatever differences were between them. He wanted to start over... Merry only hoped Marcus was up to the challenge.
Merry found it heartbreaking that Barnaby would punish himself for so long. She heard what has occurred from Marcus and Charlotte and didn’t hold it over Barnaby. I didn’t either. But how can anyone get through to someone who is determined to punish themselves?
Merry’s birthday was also approaching in a few days. Unlike Charlotte, she was very aware of their legacy; the gift she was meant to have from Bale Tongue. She was prepared for it… or so she thought. It wasn’t as easy because whatever she chose, it’d be for a lifetime. She’d either thrive or go mad depending on which gift she chose and how she handles it. If she can handle it well. Bale Tongue won’t be back ever again to take it away so she’d be stuck.
While she contemplated on it, Marcus and Barnaby make an effort to work their differences. It’s true that Barnaby was way too deep into guilt and I hated the reminder of it in every few paragraphs because it seemed he liked punishing himself by reminding it ever so often. He questioned his own self and questioned his presence at Marcus’s son’s christening. He can’t very well be the child’s Godparent! Hell, he shouldn’t even be here!
But Merry tries her best to get through to Barnaby, to help him cope with his guilt and move forward. With that, we could see a budding relationship between them as well. Both liked each-other enough to think of something more intimate than just friends. Merry was beautiful and full of life, which attracted Barnaby to her in no time. Things also begin to shift in Barnaby-Marcus’s friendship, or whatever was left of it, when Barnaby begins understanding that he’s not entirely at fault in what happened 2 years ago. He had to have a painfully awkward talk with Marcus about the whole matter but it was necessary.
But chaos ensures when some of Marcus’s men discover some caverns while in search of 2 lost boys. He and Barnaby decide to check the caverns out to figure out how dangerous they are. When things go well in the first exploration, they decide to take Charlotte and Merry with them to have a look. And that would be a mistake. That day would forever be marked as something traumatizing for all of them...
But this incident will also solidify Merry and Barnaby’s relationship. And force Merry to reach a decision for an appropriate gift because time was of the essence. In short, it was running out when lives were at stake.
I’m glad that I can end my review on a positive note. I truly liked this story quite a lot. Can’t wait to find out who is getting the next book, which is titled Trusting Miss Trentham. 4 stars and recommended.
Complimentary copy received from the author, thanks Ms. Larkin!