RITA Reader Challenge Review

Worth: Lord of Reckoning by Grace Burrowes

This RITA® Reader Challenge 2015 review was written by Phyllis Laatsch. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Long Historical category.

The summary:

Consummate man of business and rake at large, Worth Kettering repairs to his country estate to sort out his familial situation, trusting the ever efficient (though as yet unmet) housekeeper, Jacaranda Wyeth, will provide his family a pleasant summer retreat. To his surprise, his household is manage by a quick-witted, violet-eyed Amazon who’s his match in many regards.

As Jacaranda and Worth become enamored, the family she’s kept hidden from him, the financial clients Worth feels singularly protective of, and the ragged state of affairs between Worth and his estranged older brother, Hessian, all conspire to keep Worth and Jacaranda apart. Worth must choose between love and profit, and Jacaranda must decide between loyalty to her family and the love of a man who values her above all others.

Here is Phyllis Laatsch's review:

This is my favorite of Burrowes’ books that I’ve read, not least because it doesn’t rely on my knowing twenty other family members and all their personality quirks. I’m a casual fan and have read only some of them and in a fairly scattershot order. I get confused and overwhelmed with the dozens of characters who pop up and put their oar in.

I liked the mirroring of Jacaranda’s and Worth’s pasts – both are mostly estranged from their families and for the same reasons. Not to get too spoilery, but each was disappointed in love because their families were stupid/mean.

They also each expect the other to be old and decrepit. I don’t know why no one has ever mentioned to Worth that his housekeeper is a hot, young woman, but you’d think that someone would have mentioned to her that the house’s owner was a young guy. It’s never quite clear how Jacaranda got the job in the first place. I can understand why, since she was running her brother’s household and got fed up and decided to get paid, but who gave her a letter of reference?

I think I felt the most for Worth’s teenage half-sister, whom he rescues from her boarding school, where the other girls (and the headmistress) were evil hags. Unfortunately, she and their niece (daughter of their dead sister) become plot moppets.

The story unrolled a bit slowly after the attraction which proceeded quickly to bed. I felt “Jack” (she hates being called that) kept her secrets a bit too long, which dragged the book into Big Misunderstanding territory.

I got confused about the ship that was thought to be lost at sea, but wasn’t, then it was, then it wasn’t. Sounded like insider trading to me, the way he bought back the shares of people who were convinced the boat had sunk.

Burrowes has done the secret hot housekeeper who’s really a lady trope before, but she does it really well here. Likewise, the surprise illegitimate sibling/child whom we love dearly. And young person goes missing so we all have to search for him/her. And all my brothers will threaten to beat you up. Burrowes reuses a lot of tropes, but she does it well.


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Worth: Lord of Reckoning by Grace Burrowes

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  1. 1
    Mara B. says:

    Wait is the brother’s name really Hessian? Like the boots that get mentioned in so many regencies? Or the German soldiers that Britain hired? I think I’ll be skipping this book because as shallow as it makes me having a character significant enough to be mentioned on the back of the book be named after a style of boots would toss me right out of the story everytime it came up.

  2. 2
    Samanda says:

    @Mara B: I completely agree with you! I’m a historian by training and nothing dumps me out of an historical novel like a character given a cutesy modern-style name.

    Up till the 20th century, people gave their children traditional names. Boys might be given family surnames as their forenames–it’s how names like Worth, Keith and Shirley became forenames. (And yes, Shirley was originally a surname and then a male name before Charlotte Bronte used it for a heroine.)

    Girls were never given male names. Neither gender would have been given geographical names–no Brittany or Caledonia. Girls could be given flower names, although Jacarandas wouldn’t have been widely known in Britain during the Regency period.

    I agree that I couldn’t read this book without the character names making me grit my teeth.

  3. 3

    I agree 100%. I saw that name “Hessian” and it bothered me all the way through the review. While I can appreciate that an author would like to use unique names that are not being used by every other author, I really believe they owe it to their readers to use names that are representative of the period.

    Having said that, I have read books where authors have successfully carried off giving their characters names eccentric for the period by establishing the family as convincingly eccentric.

    I googled ” jacaranda tree” and apparently the word was first used in 1753. They grow in Portugal, southern Spain, parts of Italy, elsewhere so could well have been known to people in Britain.

    But “Hessian?” I can’t swallow that.

  4. 4
    Samanda says:

    Not to belabour the point too much, but Jacarandas are tropical. The only way they could be grown successfully in Britain would have been in glass houses. From the blurb and the review we aren’t told much about Jacaranda-the-character’s family, so we don’t know if they might have had tropicals under glass or known people who might have done so.

    They are beautiful trees in flower, so it’s conceivable that J’s parents might have seen one in a conservatory somewhere and wanted to name their daughter after something so rare and lovely. That point, made somewhere in the book, would fit nicely with the point Gloriamarie made about providing a convincing family reason for the unconventional name.

  5. 5

    They also have a wonderful scent. San Diego has avenues lined with jacaranda trees and the aroma is divine. Is this a Regency or a Victorian? Until 1845, only the very wealthy could afford to pay the exorbitant glass tax to build greenhouses and conservatories. Once that glass tax was repealed, the Victorians went nutty over growing tropical plants indoors. But well-traveled could well have seen these trees in Mediterranean European countries where they grow.

  6. 6
    jcscot says:

    Re: the names in Burrowes books, I’ve read her first series (the one about the children of the Duke of Moreland) and mostly enjoyed them although the names weren’t too outrageous. I then started on her Lonely Lords series and I’m afraid I gave up on her there.

    Too many Americanisms (baking muffins for example – muffins in England are a yeast based savoury item, not the sweetish breakfast thing she protrays them as), names getting too weird (Beckman?) – Jacaranda and Hessian sound like she jumped the shark!

    The last book of hers I read was the first of her Scottish-set ones and frankly, her portrayal of Scotland and the dialect was laughable. It was a DNF for me.

    I can accept a certain amount of “wallpaper” in my historicals, especially if other aspects are good but Burrowes, while not a bad writer, seems to hit too many of my sore spots – heroes and heroines who are increasingly modern in their outlook and behaviour, bad naming tendencies and poor historical reasearch coupled with Americanisms and my especial pet peeve – an attempt to render Scottish dialect on the page.

    I also got really tired of trying to remember all the connections between her books. When an author has all these connected books, one should still be able to read them without having to look back at previous books or having to plough through masses of infodump from the author. Liz Carlyle’s books are all connected but you don’t have to have read and remembered every single one to jump between them.

  7. 7

    Oh!! The Scottish accent!!! I really hate what authors do to that. I’ve actually been to Scotland and I never met a single person who spoke like that.

    I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again. If an author is going to set a book within an historical setting, the historical details ***must*** be accurate. It’s a shame because Burrowes otherwise knows how to write, that she takes the lazy way out like this.

    In a newsletter I recently received from Sabrina Jeffries which I have previously quoted she says she goes for an “historical feel.” I asked her about that on her FB page and she said I misunderstood her and that she couldn’t actually write using the words as used in the Regency because the meaning of words have changed, I challenged that pointing out that on a daily basis people are reading authors who wrote during the Regency or even before: Austen, Shelley, Walter Scott, Frankenstein, Shakespeare. Jefferies did not respond to that. Unless she deleted it, you can see the conversation on her FB page.

    I am beginning to wonder two things: (1) Do writers of romance set in historical settings think their readers are too stupid to notice when the authors get the details incorrect or when they use anachronisms; (2) or do the authors think we don’t care?

    I have also noticed an increasing tendency to inflict, I can really use no other term, modern jargon into the mouths of characters in historical settings and I flinch when I come across this. To me this represents either the height of laziness on the part of the author to do the research to find out how people actually spoke during that period or the author is really kind stupid if the author really thinks people spoke then the way we speak now. We used slang when I was a child that is never used now, for instance. This kind of research is not hard to do. Novels written in these time periods are readily available and surely if an author likes words enough to write, an author likes words well enough to read, I should think.

    All this attention to detail became really a pet peeve of mine when I was reading a Harlequin in the early 1990s by an author for whom I would guess the assassination of President Kennedy was not even a blip on her radar. She set her story in NYC of the 1950s and had her heroine strolling through JFK airport. I screeched in outrage. How could she possibly imagine that the airport could have been named for him while he was still alive? That lack of thought, that lack of attention to the details, and those sorts of failures on the parts of the editors really seriously annoy me.

    At that time, I had a friend who worked at Houghton, Mifflin and I asked him how could such a thing happen and he said publishing companies aren’t paying for editors they way they used to, authors have to do it and unless authors do the fact-checking or pay the editors to do it, those kinds of errors were going to get published.

    He also told me that the errors really had to get caught before the galley was produced because the publishing companies don’t like making corrections to the gallies any longer because that is too expensive so they wait for second editions, if that happens.

    I believe it because there is a knitting book that floated around for many years famously known as “Folk Mitens.”

  8. 8
    jcscot says:

    I am Scottish, speak with a (strong) accent and can use dialect when required and live in Scotland. I’ve never heard dilaect the way it’s written in some of these novels. I get that writers are trying to depict patterns of speech but often they’re so off-base that it’s unreal.

    Also, Scotland as portrayed by most of these writers appears to have barely left the Dark Ages. The Scotland of the late 1700s/early 1800s was the country of the Enlightenment, with five universities to England’s two, a basic universal public education system and a vibrant literary and philosophical scene.

    It was the time of the Tobacco Lords in Glasgow, progressive mill owners like Robert Owen in Lanark, Sir Walter Scott, Rabbie Burns etc, David Hume and Adam Smith, Frances Hutcheson and Joseph Black.

    By 1840, Edinburgh University was the premier place to study medecine in Europe.

    Kilts and tartans were banned in the wake of the ’45 and large meetings were frowned upon.

    However in Romancelandia, Scots are still living in a feudal vague clan system with outright clan warfare and absolute monarchism (Scotland had a Parliament from as early as 1235 – earliest written record – until the Act of Union of 1707) full of kilts and plaids and dirks and other tosh.

    Bitter? Moi? 😉

  9. 9

    jcscot, how did you vote in the referendum? Not that it is any of my business, but I was all in favor of the split and was so sorry that som many voters listened to the Tories. There’s my unsolicited opinion gratuitously offered for all to see! LOL

  10. 10
    jcscot says:

    I was a Yes voter. The margin between the vote was much narrower than expected (historically polling has only ever shown 25-35% in favour of Independence) and the recent election which saw the SNP win 56 of 59 seats in Westminster (up from 6 MPs in the previous Parliament) in an unprecedented swing of voting has shown that the political landscape is changing.

    What that will mean in the long run, is open to speculation but I hope to live in an independent Scotland one day.

  11. 11

    I very much hope you do too! In all my studies of Scottish and British history, I’ve always hated the avaricious way British kings would attempt to conquer Scotland just because it was there. Which I suppose is where we USAians derived the idea of Manifest Destiny in the nineteenth century when it was our turn. Yet another one of my unsolicited opinions gratuitously offered!! I am so full of them!! LOL

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