Book: The Viscount and the Vixen by Ava Devlin (2019)
Age/Genre: Regency Romance
Reading Accoutrements: It takes place in England, so tea and cake is the obvious choice here…but I don’t like tea, so I’ll take wine instead…
Content Notes: Unplanned Pregnancy, Women as Property
I did a thing.
I broke down and got a promotional Kindle Unlimited membership, just to try it out. The cool thing about it is that I can read a whole series on Kindle Unlimited without paying for it (with the exception of my monthly membership fee, of course), which means I have been reading a lot more romance series than I used to do. The first romance series I stumbled upon on Kindle Unlimited was The Somerton Scandals series by Ava Devlin.
The Viscount and the Vixen kicks off the series (with the exception of an optional novella that is not necessary to read to understand the rest of the books) with the story of Rose d’Aubrey and Gideon Somers, Viscount Somers. The two were friends during Rose’s first Season, but Gideon ghosted when Rose became engaged to someone else. When her fiance died, Rose mourned and then, at the urging of her mother, went back to London for another Season. She became engaged again, and again her fiance died, at which point she became a joke and none of the eligible men would marry her. Rose determined that she would not partake of another Season in London, but her mother suggests that Rose have one more Season to help ease her cousin, Gloriana, into the life of the debutante.
Gideon was in love with Rose and planned to ask her to marry him until one of his closest friends asked her first. Instead, he buried himself in a quest to improve the family’s image and avoided Rose. His father had soiled the family name (and allowed the family’s fortune to dwindle) with his scandalous behavior. Gideon fully intended to improve his family’s reputation and financial situation as Viscount Somers. So, when Gideon receives a note from his sister, informing him that she is pregnant out of wedlock, his first thought is to protect the family name.
Gideon digs up an old betrothal contract that his father, drunk after a night of gambling, drew up between Gideon and a friend’s daughter, named Gloriana. His intention is to marry quickly and take the child as his own so that his sister’s reputation won’t be ruined and the child can stay within the family. He arrives at the girl’s family residence the week before her first Season in London and asks to be married to the girl as soon as possible. Gloriana immediately flew into a fit. She was excited for her first Season and wants to enjoy it without the specter of a husband to prevent her flirting and having a good time. Rose is sent to try to convince Gideon to wait until the end of the Season to marry, but Gideon explains his need to marry quickly (in very vague terms).
When Gideon realizes that Rose is the cousin of his betrothed, he is horrified. He can’t accept that he would have to live close to the one woman he always wanted but couldn’t have. Rose, realizing that Gideon is in need of a quick marriage that he won’t get with her cousin, offers herself instead. The two run to Scotland to elope. Of course, the road from London to Scotland is long. Especially when travelling by coach.
You are probably suspicious about the efficacy of Gideon’s plan to marry quickly and pass the child off as his own. I was! Consider: by the time his sister knew she was pregnant, ran away from school, and sent a letter to Gideon, she had been pregnant for at least one month (probably more). Then, Gideon had to find a potential bride, get married, and convince the bride to accept a child – and a secret – that weren’t hers. At best, society would have speculated that Gideon had fathered the child before the two were forced to the altar (the timing of delivery being something that can’t be delayed, after all). At worst, society would have speculated that Gideon’s and his bride married hastily to give a name to a child who wasn’t Gideon’s. Not a well thought-through plan, although I admire his desire to protect his sister and her child. It’s a good thing there are other options the family has.
As with many regency romance novels, the main conflict in this book arises from trouble communicating. Gideon has spent his entire adult life trying to be responsible, bottling his feelings and keeping his opinion to himself. He rebuilt the family finances by making quick and decisive decisions and then acting on them. So, he makes his decision about marrying in much the same way. Rose has tried to be practical about marriage, but making the practical decisions made her an untouchable joke. Now, she wants to enter this marriage as a partner who can be an asset to Gideon. And she wants to loosen him up a little, too. Although Gideon rarely smiles, Rose seems to be able to coax him into full laughs more frequently than anyone else. She wants to help him be happy because she loves him (which takes her some time to reason through, but she gets there). Though the two have widely varying experiences and outlooks, and different opinions about love and marriage, they are clearly adorable together.
A lot of the misunderstandings that arise between Rose and Gideon center around Gideon’s need for society’s approval. He has wanted, for as long as he can remember, to return “honor” to their family name. His family has made that exceedingly difficult for him: his mother ran away to America; his father got drunk, slept around, and gambled away the family fortune; his brother won’t stay at Oxford for a full semester without abandoning his classes for extended periods of time; and his sister is a hellion whose behavior tends to shock and/or scandalize members of society regularly. Rose’s reputation is less-than-stellar because of her two failed courtships; while the deaths of her fiances aren’t her fault, anyone who shows an interest in her becomes a joke in society. Gideon’s desire to overcome an even bigger scandal isn’t the only reason he agrees to elope with Rose, but that is what she believes is his motive when they first run away. Rose would like to have more than a courteous relationship with her new husband, but Gideon seems to constantly fight against her desire to make him as happy as he makes her.
Rose just needs to convince Gideon that she’s right 😉
The family relationships in this series are one of the primary reasons that I engaged with this series so quickly. Gideon’s relationships with his siblings are relatable and all of the characters’ relationships with their parents are unique and realistic. The family relationships also drive the plot naturally and create realistic drama that didn’t make me cringe or think, “This would never happen.” For example, Gideon’s sister, Heloise, is described as a “hellion,” primarily because she is quick-witted, sharp-tongued, and tends to question the rules that restrict women from doing something men are allowed to do. While her behavior frustrates Gideon (mostly because he wants to improve the family’s reputation, not because he thinks the rules have merit), he prefers that his sister is happy, rather than stifled. It leads to a lot of good-natured frustration for Gideon, but the love in their relationship is easily apparent. I really appreciated how well the plot flowed, both as individual books and as a series.
As I mentioned before, the conflict in this book is entirely internal and based on communication. I want to reiterate that fact because I misinterpreted a few of the events early in the book and was a little disappointed to realise that there is no suspense. Rose’s previous fiances both die in ways that make it clear foul play is not to blame. Her second fiance dies of old age! I will say that the book didn’t need suspense to be engaging and enjoyable.
If you are looking for a book to give you the warm fuzzies, you should try the Somerton Scandals series. One warning: do not pick up The Viscount and the Vixen unless you have time to read the whole series. You’ll want to read them all!