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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5 Responses

  1. K.A.Mitchell is one of my favorite writers. This is her first historical (that I know of), so I was not sure how she’d do with it. I’m glad to see that Erastes liked it so much because I highly respect her opinions. I really enjoyed reading this too.

    If you like police procedurals, I recommend Ms. Mitchell’s story, “Chasing Smoke.”

  2. Thanks again, Erastes. Ian and I are both thrilled with any comparsion to a master storyteller like Scheherazade. I’m glad I was able to entertain without any major anachronisms pulling you out of the story.

  3. I liked this book as well, as I have most stories by this author. I found the ending rather abrupt and pat considering all the previous angst expressed but didn’t feel that it hindered my enjoyment at all.

  4. I just finished reading this book and really liked it. I agree with Erastes: it is a true Regency. The language was spot on for the period. That is one of my pet peeves. I hate it when historical characters speak as if they just stepped out of the 21st century. My only complaint is that it was too short. Please give us another one K.A. (preferably a sequel: I’d love to see how Ian and Nicky handle their future).

  5. I spent the afternoon with my nose buried in this book and I loved, loved, loved it! Although I wanted more, I think it was the perfect length and had just the right ending. I was sort of hoping for a little more smexxin’ in the hunting lodge, but maybe that will come later. :-)

    I’ve read two contemporaries by this author (Diving in Deep and Regularly Scheduled Life). They were good and I enjoyed them but this novella was so much better. KA — if you are reading this — more historicals, please!

    L

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