Candace Camp’s newest Regency romance is AN AFFAIR WITHOUT END, which stars Vivian Carlyle. Vivian’s twenty-eight, single, and happy to be so as she’s the daughter of a Duke so she’s both richer than most and more able than most women to live alone by choice. Vivian swore off marriage long ago, as most of the married couples around her weren’t happy, and besides, she has no wish for any man to handle her affairs (as once she married, her husband would have full control over her finances as was the custom). However, Vivian likes men a great deal, especially Oliver, the Earl of Stewkesbury. Because she’s helping Oliver get his American nieces settled (“bringing them out,” in Regency parlance), she’s been around him frequently, and has started to realize that Oliver isn’t half the stuffed-shirt he seems to be, plus he’s much more attractive than she’d ever given him credit for, too.
As for Oliver, he’s come to realize over the past few months (as this is the third book in the Willowmere series) that Vivian is not only a very caring woman as she’s done well for three of his four American cousins, but she’s also extremely good-looking and makes his heart race like no one else. But he’s worried; she’s a flamboyant redhead who does her own thing and says whatever she likes, and she’s mostly gotten away with it because her father is a Duke and everyone in the ton knows it. How can he, a predictable, staid Earl, have an affair with her — the affair she wants, the one she approached him over — when it’s just not done?
Despite this somewhat unusual premise, the Regency atmosphere here is excellent; we see the expected balls, walks, outings in carriages, and it’s all quite enjoyable. But the best reason to read AN AFFAIR WITHOUT END is because of dialogue like this, from pages 134-5, between Oliver and Vivian:
“Surely you must realize there can be nothing between us!” He spoke in a fierce whisper, leaning toward her.
“I know nothing of the kind. Why can’t there be?”
“Because you are a woman of genteel birth, a lady.”
“That does not make me any less a woman.”
“It makes you a woman to whom it is offering a grievous insult to kiss as I have kissed you and not marry. And surely it must be obvious we cannot marry.”
Vivian began to chuckle. “You think that I would not be a proper wife to you?”
“Good Gad, no. I cannot think of anyone less suitable to be my wife.”
Note that what Oliver’s objecting to is the idea of a sexual fling between them because he knows Vivian deserves better. But it doesn’t take him long to acquiesce because the passion there is just too great to be stopped.
The secondary romance needs to be mentioned as it’s also quite fine, that being the romance between Vivian’s brother Gregory and Oliver’s American cousin Camellia. Gregory, a Duke’s heir, is tired of being trotted out on the marriage mart; he’s a scholar who loves the quiet countryside and makes no bones about it. But he’s still a young man, and he wants romance like anyone else; when he meets the plain-spoken Camellia, who doesn’t care about titles or precedence or anything save Gregory the man himself, he falls and falls hard, and it’s completely understandable why.
There’s one more plot element that needs to be discussed, that of a ring of jewel thieves who are causing trouble for the ton. Vivian loves jewelry, as her father’s favorite mistress, Kitty, taught her everything she knows. (In our day and age, Kitty and the Duke would’ve married even if Kitty had to divorce her own spouse to do it. But back then, the best the two could do was a somewhat-discreet affair.) So when Kitty’s favorite necklace is stolen, Vivian is incensed and vows to do something about it. This forces Oliver to stay around to make sure Vivian doesn’t get hurt as she’s not known for her discretion, which helps the two figure out a way to communicate without driving each other automatically straight up the wall in the process. This hastens the romance between them, as communication is the key to any relationship, and greatly added to my reading pleasure.
This last plot element about the jewels illustrates two things that were very important. First, Vivian has a caring heart as she knows Kitty really loved her father, which is why she becomes so incensed and vows to do something. Second, Kitty’s presence in Vivian’s life is almost certainly where Vivian learned to successfully flout convention, which is why she would risk an affair with Oliver when she’d never before had congress with a man. (That Vivian refuses to say she’s a virgin only adds to the fun, as she’s smart enough to know Oliver would never have given her a chance if she had.)
This is a very fun Regency romance, and it’s one “affair” I hated to come to an end. I enjoyed every single last bit of AN AFFAIR WITHOUT END and will look forward to anything Ms. Camp writes next as it’s obvious she has her stuff together.
— reviewed by Barb