The Potential for Love: A Regency Novel
Just returned from service on the continent, Major Thomas Ferraunt finds himself attracted to Arabella Malvin. But she is the daughter of a viscount, while he is the son of their rector, and despite friendship between the families, the social gap is daunting. Events, however, unfold favorably. He rescues her from drowning in a swollen stream, learns that his financial situation is better than he thought, and is delighted when she accepts his tentative proposal. Then he unexpectedly becomes heir to an earldom.
For her part, Arabella is attracted to her rescuer, but she is constrained by strict conventions: he must take the initiative and secure the approval of her family. Moreover, she wants, if not a love match, one with at least ‘the potential for love’ marked by mutual respect and genuine consideration for each other’s views. Thomas meets this standard; the controlling Lord Henry Danlow does not. He does not take rejection well, however, and he proves increasingly vindictive as well as arrogant.
Social context is more fully developed than in most Regencies, and the author adds to the sense of authenticity by skilfully integrating traditional customs of the era into her story. This focuses upon the problems facing young women in their search for a suitable life partner: how to resolve the conflict between personal needs and social obligations, while reaching a decision based on limited information. The villain’s later conduct is more appropriate to stage melodrama than the novel form, but the heroine is brave and resourceful, the hero gallant and willing to learn, and the insights are perceptive. Very satisfying. And, one might add, the sinister figure of the male who abuses his position of wealth and power to mistreat and control women remains far too common today. Strongly recommended.