Title: The Counterfeit Husband
Author: Elizabeth Mansfield
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 219 pages
List Price: Out-of-Print
Reviewed: August 13, 2009
Rating: 5 stars (4.5)
Synopsis: Camilla, the widow of an earl, is under the thumb of her domineering sister-in-law. To escape, she moves to London where she finds it necessary to fabricate a husband to fool her late husband's family. To play the part of her husband is her unorthodox footman, an escaped press-gang victim.
My two cents: I loved this story from the first sentence. The story opens with our hero and his best friend, a fellow shipmate. They are set upon by a press-gang, which was a rather unpleasant feature of the early 1800s in Britain. It was the middle of the war with Napoleon and many of the British were not willing volunteers of his majesty's navy due to the inhumane conditions experienced by those who enlisted. Hence, the press-gangs.
The hero Thomas and his friend Daniel escape. After collecting Daniel's wife Betsy, they enter domestic service, hoping to hide from the authorities. Thomas and Camilla do not start off with a great impression of each other as he mistakes her for a servant.
I really liked Thomas. He was strong, loyal, funny, and charming. I thought he was a well-rounded character, believable and lovable.
Camilla was a little weak but she gradually grew a spine. She seemed to rely a little too much on the sage advice of her ten-year-old daughter. I suppose this was believable behavior when one considers her life up to that point. And I have no problem with a Regency heroine who does not fit the “strong” perception of what a woman should be. It was 200 years ago, after all.
The daughter Philippa was an amusing delight but far too intelligent and wise for believability. This doesn't mean I didn't like her. It was actually hard not to. Especially after she made friends with Sybil Sturtevant.
My favorite line:
Thomas, in reply to Camilla's request that he masquerade as her husband: “...there's no role in the world I'd rather play than that of your husband.”
In closing, if you are against a heroine who is meek and submissive to nearly everyone around her, avoid this book. If you just love a good star-crossed romance, try this squeaky-clean Regency tale. This book is tied to Passing Fancies which is the love story of Camilla's daughter Philippa.