on April 26th 2018
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Vivez la vie pleinement…Live life to the fullest.
That’s always been Marie-Anne de Vauteuil’s motto. As a Frenchwoman of highly questionable upbringing, she was shunned by genteel society when her fiancé died years ago, leaving her a penniless, fallen woman. Almost married, almost a widow…She retreated to an isolated village where no one knows or cares about her sordid past. And with no one to answer to, she will do as she pleases, including eating cake until her corset strings pop if she so chooses. But then, an invitation to London on a mission of mercy from the very family that cast her aside lands Marie-Anne back in society—and into the arms of a man who can be nothing but trouble.
When life gives you lemons…Make petit fours.
Wealthy American businessman Mason is a) accidentally engaged, b) desperate to get out of it, and c) neither wealthy nor a businessman. Marriage is the last thing on his mind. Money, however, is always of utmost importance. He’s only in London to gather material for the gossip pamphlets he illustrates, his scheme to make as much money as he can before he’s found out and skips town. But when he meets the irresistible Marie-Anne, she makes him rethink his life as a fraud, and for once consider his true talent as an artist. Her carefree attitude about life in general—and sex in particular—has Mason hoping for something he never believed possible: A proper life with a not-so-proper wife.
~~Reviewed by Monique~~
Marie-Anne de Vauteuil was relatively content to live in her cottage in the little village of Bartle-on-the-Glen. She is miffed that, for the first time, she was not the one to end her latest liaison. To a shoemaker! The affront! But a missive from Lady Shipley, the dreadful mother of Marie-Anne’s late beloved Richard brings her back to London. Lady Shipley’s daughters need Marie-Anne’s help. Odd, that. Still, it will be able to restore some of her tarnished reputation, and it could prove to be a welcome distraction. Oh, and it is provided in the form of American businessman Mason, who is not at all what he seems to be.
If, like me, you find the blurb enticing, do not hesitate for a moment! HOUSE OF CADS delivers on its promise. I must also confess to being a tad masochistic: I expected that some French would appear, and I was wondering how palatable it would be; alas, it is not flawless, but it is excellent and the best I have read so far in any novel written in English. Told in the first person, mainly from Marie-Anne’s point of view, HOUSE OF CADS has a decidedly French flavour. Marie-Anne behaves and thinks like a Frenchwoman and I love how her thoughts and speech reflect this: not in an obvious way, but in the tone, the syntax, and her vocabulary; it is faint, but I could hear her accent, feel her Frenchness. HOUSE OF CADS is also a linguistic and literary delight as Ms. Kingston is an extremely gifted writer; think of this book as if Jane Austen were French, with a sophisticated, lascivious streak.
Marie-Anne is perceptive, irresistible, very strong, and quite pragmatic, and she is not a fool. Mason is a professional charmer, and even though she falls for him, she doesn’t fall for his fabrications. They have a very passionate relationship, and seldom have I read passion so accurately described, where both players are equal participants. The romance is a true love story, the hurdles not quite what we are used to and handled very judiciously, and Marie-Anne and Mason experience an enormous amount of personal growth. HOUSE OF CADS is also a biting satire of Regency society; it is lively, entertaining, captivating, and very smart. The characters are fabulously well drawn and realistically colourful, the dialogues are cleverly written, and Elizabeth Kingston’s prose is effortlessly elegant, lush and sumptuous, effective and far from precious. A few words repeatedly came to mind: richly textured and vibrant, whether thinking of the characters, the surroundings, the writing. HOUSE OF CADS, at first, appears to be a light, fluffy confection, but soon reveals itself as a stunning work of art, which entirely fits the tone and the message of the book.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.