Review: An Improper Holiday by K A Mitchell

As second son to an earl, Ian Stanton has always done the proper thing. Obeyed his elders, studied diligently, and dutifully accepted the commission his father purchased for him in the Fifty-Second Infantry Division. The one glaring, shameful, marvelous exception: Nicholas Chatham, heir to the Marquess of Carleigh.

Before Ian took his position in His Majesty’s army, he and Nicky consummated two years of physical and emotional discovery. Their inexperience created painful consequences that led Ian to the conviction that their unnatural desires were never meant to be indulged.

Five years later, wounded in body and plagued by memories of what happened between them, Ian is sent to carry out his older brother’s plans for a political alliance with Nicky’s father. Their sister Charlotte is the bargaining piece.

Nicky never believed that what he and Ian felt for each other was wrong and he has a plan to make things right. Getting Ian to Carleigh is but the first step. Now Nicky has only twelve nights to convince Ian that happiness is not the price of honor and duty, but its reward.

Review by Erastes

At last–a Regency that reads like a Regency!  K A Mitchell was not an author known to me, so I was pleasantly surprised to be drawn in immediately with dialogue that was perfectly formal and with a real sense of time and place.

It’s quite nicely researched, and I wish I had that to say more often.  Usage of the word “marquisate” for example which is entirely correct, a journey by carriage to Derbyshire over vile, rutted roads which took days–and extended further because of the inconvenience of Ian’s sister–rather than hours.  It’s touches like this which really bring a book to life. (See my recent rant on horses!!)

It’s good too, to see an disabled hero.  So many books have entirely whole officers returning from the war, and dealing with an amputee is realistic and refreshing in this genre.  In fact Ian is quite a delight, having:

gone from reading classics in his purple robes to the buff and scarlet of a second lieutenant, with no time at all to learn how to converse with a lady. What did one say in such a case?

I love the way he fills in the backstory between himself and Nicholas in deft, episodic touches which pull the reader along like Scheredzhade did with her murderous husband, so we never feel we are being dumped with the backstory, or pulled out of the present narrative with a break in the action, as if often the case with “Parted Lover” stories.

The language is perfectly apt for the period, not so olde -worlde as to be inaccessible, but a great balance of formal narrative and speech and some really lush description, so well painted that you can really see exactly what’s being described, like this section which makes me feel very sorry for the poor servants.

Lacy clumps of snow still fell, yet slowly enough that the cobblestone path was well-cleared by servants wielding stable brooms. Hundreds of candles in the chapel threw enough light to gild the small drifts with a gold luster. Such a view coupled with the light scent of horses from the brooms made Ian fancy the sight and smells recaptured the Nativity.

He’s emo, yes, but it works very well, and that surprised me, as so many times I find an emo protag to be annoying as hell. But Ian is not whining; he’s realistic and fatalistic.  He thinks he’s seeing it clearly. Nicholas has responsibilities now he’s the Marquess, and their youthful love affair, however torrid, cannot possibility resume, however much Ian would want it to.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, and there’s much more to the plot, and more character involved–all beautifully fleshed out, and none of them just wallpaper, than the blurb or my clumsy review shows. But I’m not going to spoil it for you, and if you enjoy a regency with a strong flavour of the time, well-researched history that layers itself onto the page without you even noticing it’s there and a protagonists that you will be crossing your fingers for–hoping that they will get their well-deserved happiness, then you are going to love this.

The cover is quite silly, of course, but you can’t have everything.

Author’s website

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