Reluctant Guardian

Written by Jo Manning
Review by Nan Curnutt

Colonel Sir Isaac Rebow, a war veteran, country gentleman, and budding politician, is vexed by a missive from his manipulating mother. She commands Isaac to curtail his carefree bachelor existence and apply himself to caring for his cousins, Mary and Sally Martin. Mary and Sally’s absent-minded father has taken them to town and deserted them on Isaac’s doorstep. Isaac reluctantly attempts to bring these two young women from the country to the notice of London society.

Although only nineteen, Mary had run her father’s household competently ever since her governess left three years earlier, and she has no intention of letting Isaac wrest control from her hands. Mary had worshipped Isaac as a child, while at the time he scarcely noticed her. She now resents his sudden interference in her family’s affairs after months of neglect. When Mary’s father resurfaces, relief gives way to dismay as the family learns he has married a fallen woman. This is only the first of many obstacles the headstrong heroine and duty-bound hero must overcome as they work through these family difficulties.

Many of Ms. Manning’s characters are taken from the letters of Mary Martin Rebow, an 18th century gentlewoman. Ms. Manning has moved the characters to the Regency period, infused them with life and charm and constructed her engaging tale around them. The fast-paced plot is full of twists and turns, and the dialogue is lively. Although she is a published author and reviewer, this is Jo Manning’s first full-length novel. Fortunately for us, she is already working on two other Regency period novels.