Laura Kinsale's For My Lady's Heart
was one of the first romance novels I read that showed me how good the genre could really be. Since then, a new Kinsale, or even a new-to-me Kinsale, has been cause for rejoicing. Sourcebooks not only has been bringing back into print some older Kinsale titles, but they've also just released a brand new book from her, Lessons in French
This isn't one of Laura Kinsale's dark, angsty, tortured romances. Instead, it's a rather frothy confection filled with clever banter, vivid descriptive passages, and delightful characters. And a bull named Hubert.
Trev and Callie were childhood sweethearts, but have been separated for the past nine years. In that time, Callie has been engaged to and jilted by three suitors and has recently lost her father. Her father's heir and his wife have made Callie feel very unwelcome in the home she grew up in and Callie believes the only solution is to find a husband for her sister and go live with them.
And then Hubert, Callie's beloved bull, Hubert, gets sold. Hijinks ensue. Bulls and their owners are reunited. Lovers are reunited. Happily-Ever-Afters all around!
Seriously, though, this was not a book with a terribly original plot or even an original approach to an overused plot. Callie and Trev could have surmounted a lot of the obstacles in their way if they had just sat down and had a conversation early in the book.
But, but, but…
Lessons in French is still a worthwhile and fulfilling reading experience. I want to re-read it just to have more time with Hubert. Kinsale, much like Jennifer Crusie, has a flair for writing animal characters who are, occasionally, more human than the humans around them. Kinsale also has a flair for supporting characters who are more than just recycled stereotypes or cardboard cutouts — they are real, living, breathing people with faults and foibles and skills and charms all their own. And, Kinsale has a gift for description that is nothing short of magical. When I was reading the scenes set at the Hereford Fair I could practically smell the livestock and hear the babble of farmers' voices and feel the sun on my skin, the descriptions were so evocative.
Is Lessons in French Laura Kinsale's best novel? No, of course not. But it is miles better than most historical romances on the market and well worth spending a few hours with.
Say "Hello" to Hubert for me.