My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
I’ve been looking forward to book 2 of Regency Blooms by Jessica Jefferson ever since I read the first book in the series. In that one, I found the author’s writing style great, enjoyed the storyline just as much. But most of all, I was taken with one of the secondary characters, the h’s sister who, I knew, was going to have a book of her own... which is Taming Miss Tisdale. Unfortunately, this story didn’t live up to my expectations. Maybe I had high hopes, I don’t know but I’ll try my best to elaborate what I felt in my review.
In Compromising Miss Tisdale, we’re introduced to the Viscount Tisdale’s 4 daughters, Ambrosia, Lilly, Tamsin and Rose. They also had an elder brother, the only heir, Thomas. Sadly, he passed away some years prior due to a grave illness. Because everybody loved and adored him, his death cast a shadow over the family. All of the sisters were affected, as were their parents, dealing with their grief in their own way.
Ambrosia, the beautiful eldest sister worked hard to become the epitome of grace, beauty and efficiency because she was trying to live up to the expectations of now being ‘the eldest’. To herself, a poor replacement of Thomas. Yet she was also known as a cold fish throughout the ton. Her father is very rich and an important figure, even if he’s a mere viscount. Still Ambrosia was fast reaching the age of spinsterhood, not because she lacked anything or wanted to be one, but… just that society deemed her cold and aloof. Also, maybe, because of her no nonsense attitude towards those fortune hunters. But then, the rakish lord Duncan enters her life, creating a whirlwind of emotions. It was so sudden and unexpected; something Ambrosia just couldn’t resist. The attraction was palpable, making her want something more. But Duncan had other ideas in mind, and not very nice ones. Not at first in any case. I didn’t like him either and it took me quite a while to see that he was, indeed, capable of becoming more than his wild lifestyle. Though Duncan was a bit impatient and somewhat immature, he wasn’t evil. It didn’t take him long to fall for the goodness and beauty of Ambrosia. What the other men were blind to, Duncan saw through with his vast experience. The kisses helped as well. He figured easily Ambrosia is no cold fish and the deceitful plan he’d made to compromise her to get to marry him (and access her dowry) can never be a reality. Because at one point, Duncan realized to his shame that he just can’t go forward with it; that he didn’t want to hurt her. I’d say, the impulsive yet wise Tamsin’s threats may have worked its ‘charm’ on Duncan (one of the best scenes of the book IMO); that if he hurts her sister, he’ll have to answer to her! *grins* I became fond of Ambrosia very early in the story. And as for Duncan, though it came a bit late, I was glad for his self-reflections, then the decisions he made to change his life to make it more worthy of Ambrosia.
I adored Tamsin so much that I was practically impatient to get my hands on her book. Maybe that was the reason why it turned out to be rather a downer. When the story begins, it’s been a year or so after Duncan-Ambrosia’s marriage. Their other sister, Lilly was already married to her childhood sweetheart, another reformed rake, William. We get to see them in the family way, among the few scenes with the family that I absolutely enjoyed the most in this book.
Tamsin has been sent to her uncle’s country estate for something ‘untoward’ she did to some lord. It was a short banishment from London, and for the time being, Tamsin is stuck here. For quite sometimes we don’t get to know what the hell she did that made her parents banish her to the country in the middle of a season. Later it was revealed that she ‘took care’ of a lecherous lord bend on groping her all by herself, even if the method was rather... unconventional. I’d like to stress that I LIKED what she did but can’t say the same about the Ton.
Now, Tamsin wants to explore her surroundings. She can’t just sit at one place, contemplate and converse on weather like a ‘proper lady’, or so her younger cousin Elizabeth would like to point out. This is why one very early morning, she secretly rides out before anyone got the wind of it. While she’s at it, she manages to forget the direction to her uncle’s and stumbles upon a handsome young man. She’s attracted to him on spot. Without much of an intro, she asks for the direction and gets help. He introduces himself as one ‘Mr. Winston’, a cousin to the recluse Duke of Grayson. The Duke’s estate is also nearby, hence Winston informs Tamsin that he’s staying at the house for the duration of a house-party. Tamsin leaves, thanking the man, no less intrigued and bemused. She’s sure she’d never see him again because there’s no way she’s going to the Duke’s estate.
But before that, we were already introduced to said recluse Duke aka Marcus or Marc. He hasn’t had a usual upbringing due to childhood asthma which almost took his life a few times. He still has bouts of breathing problems, though they’re not as frequent as they were before. Marc has become a recluse not by choice but because of his situation. Being the only child and the heir to a noble bloodline, his parents were always overtly cautious about him. Hence he wasn’t allowed to roam, play, make mischief or just have fun like any other young boy. Marc’s life has been essentially centered around this estate, and as big and prosperous as it may have been, he now feels trapped and smothered. His father has since passed on but his mother still holds the iron grip. She still won’t let Marc even visit London to mix with the Ton or the few friends he has. Since no one but very close friends and family have seen Marc in flesh, he has come to be known as a recluse; a mysterious figure.
Even in those few, no one but his childhood bud, Jason, knows Marc better. Jason is a rake and has tried his best to ‘corrupt’ Marc. Well, Marc certainly doesn’t have the kind of ‘experience’ with women as Jason does but he has had a few encounters with light skirts and such, thanks to his buddy’s help(?). And those had probably been Marc’s most interesting ventures ‘out in the wild’. Marc is efficient in the running of the estate but most of his dealings are done thru correspondence. He’s doing well and much better than he’s ever been. Hell, he’s even grown up to be an attractive young man, not sickly as one would imagine. He now wants to be out and about, exploring the world, sightseeing and doing whatever he wants to do. But will that day ever come in his lifetime?
The opportunity falls on his lap or in front of him one early morning, when he went out alone to have a walk, as the form of a comely young woman who introduces herself only as ‘Tamsin’. Marc is struck by her uncommon beauty; wild red hair and sparkly eyes. Most of all, Marc is entranced by her vivaciousness. She’s like everything he has never known! When they are getting to know each-other, Marc makes an impromptu decision. It was clear that Tamsin doesn’t have a good impression of the ‘recluse and haughty Duke who doesn’t want to mingle with people’. But Marc really wants to impress her. So he goes for the semi-truth, hiding his true identity, thinking this would be such fun! And apparently, when he’s only ‘Mr. Winston’, Marc feels more confident because he doesn’t feel like the recluse Duke with a negative reputation or the once sickly boy, someone still under the reign of his mother.
Honestly, Marc’s ‘plan’ was almost as bad as Tamsin saying unkind stuff about the Duke she has never met before, accusing him of things based on heard-tell. As I read forward, I begin to feel premonitions too, of this story not being what I expected it to be. For one, the more I read of Tamsin, the less I felt impressed. She apparently possessed no grace at all. She was rather loud, reckless, thoughtless... and many other things that I NEVER once associated with her when she was introduced in book 1. Maybe I had some false impression but that wasn’t THIS Tamsin! I decidedly begin to dislike her at one point and eye-rolling in almost everything she did after that.
Marc and Tamsin’s rather auspicious introduction creates much pointless drama and trouble. Marc had to hide himself because Tamsin’s uncle being a prominent lord of the area was invited frequently at his estate, as was Elizabeth and Tamsin. He begins to find or invent silly ways to cover things up with Jason’s help, who was rather having fun doing it. I’m not very fond of the theme of hidden identity and with all that have been going on, I began to lose interest.
Then there was this unnecessary love triangle between Tamsin, Jason and Marc. Tamsin has already become fond of Marc in the few times they met here and there, still under the impression that he’s the Duke’s cousin. At that point, some debutantes and their parents were invited at Marc’s by his meddling mother. We knew that the woman likes to run his life. This time, she had taken it to a new height by deciding it’s time he marries and settles down. She already had a candidate in mind, adamant that that girl will be the next Duchess. Marc, though found the girl attractive, wasn’t interested in the least. Yet he was sure he’s going to marry where his mother wants him to- until he met Tamsin.
Jason, on the other hand, suddenly found someone he wants to marry and settle down with when he had no interest when we first met him. Yep, it was Tamsin. Since Marc was being a wuss and won’t tell the truth, now fearing her reaction, Jason is willing to take the chance. He even tries to charm Tamsin with his usual rakish stuff, but she’s not impressed. That was one thing about her I always loved, not caring for rakes all that much. Though she likes Jason, and their banters were much more interesting than that of hers with Marc, Tamsin has no interest in Jason beyond friendship. That gets the young rake going, and creates tension between Marc and him, threatening their long standing friendship.
The drama goes on until one day Marc and Tamsin end up having sex. Another down moment for me, intimacy under false identity. Marc was going to tell Tamsin everything because he had suddenly made up his mind of marrying her. He has fallen in love and wants to be with Tamsin, to hell with what the world and his mother thinks. I would find his efforts noteworthy if, 1. I felt the chemistry between him and Tamsin, and 2. if their feelings for each-other felt anything close to real. Unfortunately, I didn’t. And he never revealed his true identity to Tamsin.
Now, after the sex, Marc promises Tamsin that he’s going to propose to her and make it official, but the next day something happens. I was already annoyed that she, STILL, had no idea who Marc was and the author took the worse possible time to reveal this to her. One of Marc’s asthma bouts strikes just as Tamsin came to meet him the next morning. As Tamsin didn’t know about his illness either, she’s scared witless. She runs for the Marc’s mansion, quite far away if I might add, for help. In the process, she falls and sprains her ankle rather bad. If that wasn’t horrid enough, when she reaches there, Marc’s mother takes this opportunity to tell Tamsin that Marc is the Duke and he’s going to marry that other chit everyone has been expecting him to.
Way to go. *sigh*
Tamsin knew of the rumor like everyone else but how was she to know it was about Marc? She didn’t even care for the Duke! No one, except for Jason, linked her with Marc until, just a day before when Marc made it clear to his mother that he’s marrying Tamsin. The woman doesn’t lose one minute to insinuate negative things and ask her to leave her son alone. After all, a Duke with a noble bloodline can’t marry a girl who has already ruined her name!
Now you’d think, when Marc came to, he’d run to Tamsin, apologizing to her for this mess, to convince her that his intentions were honorable. And... you’d be wrong. A couple of months pass by and the story just jumps forward. Seriously? You gotta be kidding me! What the hell was Marc doing in between? After leading us to believe that he doesn’t care what the society or his pain-in-the-arse mother thought, he got cowed by her and decided not to pursue Tamsin? He went as far as to confirm his betrothal to that other girl? Oh....... My........ Gawd! I was like... utterly speechless, in shock and by the overall ridiculousness of this part of the plot twist. And Marc’s ‘excuses’ weren’t even that much of an excuse to me. I’m not sure why Tamsin even forgave him! I’d rather give him my back and move on. Would’ve been the perfect thing to do.
By then all hope for me was lost where this book was concerned. I just couldn’t bring myself to care about what happens next. Even though I’m always suspicious of rakes, Jason, throughout, proved to be the most sensible character of this book. This is why I want to see who is going to be his heroine, because the ending indicated that the next installment is going to feature him. I’m guessing the last Tisdale sister, Rose?
For Taming Miss Tisdale, 3.5 stars but barely made it.
I received a review copy from Goddess Fish Promotions in exchange of an honest review as a part of a review tour, July 2014.