HistoricalNovels.info reviewed May 1812… (and shocked the heck out of me)

May 1812 by M.M. Bennetts

Reviewed by Margaret Donsbach

May 1812 is a novel for Jane Austen fans. An intelligent romance set amid English fears of an invasion by Napoleon, it throws obstacle after obstacle in the paths of its hero and heroine as they traverse the rocky course toward true love. Much longer than an Austen novel, it alludes to sex in a way Austen probably would not, though without explicit sex scenes, and features a heroine so beautiful and virtuous some of Austen’s characters would have wanted to poke her with a hat pin. But the wit, psychological and sociological insight, and Regency flair of Austen are here in ample measure.

The Earl of Myddelton is a translator and code specialist in England’s Foreign Office who enjoys horse-racing and, more ambivalently, the attentions of women in his rare free time. Marriage is the last thing he has the time or inclination for when he belatedly learns that he must, before her eighteenth birthday, marry a young woman chosen by his late father or lose his inherited fortune. Jane Heron is not the “brass-faced chit of a bloody social-climbing Nabob” Myddleton first assumes she must be. Gracious and accomplished, she has been raised by an uncle to the exacting standards that will fit her to preside over an aristocratic household. Alas, misunderstandings, gossip-mongers, Myddelton’s hasty temper, and the demands of government service – including a risky mission into France after the Prime Minister’s assassination – conspire to keep husband and wife from realizing how near their hearts are to beating as one.

Laced with archaic slang and lines of English, French and German poetry in their original languages (with translations), May 1812 will present hurdles for some readers, but will be all the more delicious for those who enjoy a period writing style. The servants’ unmitigated adoration for their new mistress may require some suspension of disbelief; otherwise, the characters are drawn with psychological depth and insight.



11 comments on “HistoricalNovels.info reviewed May 1812… (and shocked the heck out of me)

  1. Jenni James says:

    *sigh* This IS an amazing book. I’m loving the reviews that have been coming in! Brilliant!

  2. “A novel for Jane Austen fans.” YES! Maybe that’s why I love it so much. I have it in queue for reading again as soon as I finish with what I’m currently reading.

    “Poke her with a hat pin.” HAHA HAHAHAHAHAHHAAA!

    • M M Bennetts says:

      Considering that my singlemost emotion toward Lizzie Bennet is the strong desire to slap her smug little know-all face, perhaps we’re even.

  3. Piotr says:

    see, Jane Austin bored the crap out of me. Last time I tried reading anything written by her made me want to gag or hurl… reading May 1812 was ten times more fun to read

  4. cavalrytales says:

    Intrigue? Politicking? Intelligence? Espionage? Deceit? Patriotism? Er…no. The ‘R’ word.

    Wonder if they know ‘Being born in a stable doesn’t make one a horse.’

    • M M Bennetts says:

      Well, I didn’t think it particularly romantic, but then I’m not particularly romantic, so I probably wouldn’t recognise it if it kicked me in the knee. I did think there was a love story in it–I’ve blogged about this.

      And given the number of pages at the centre of the book spent on the assassination and its effect on Myddelton and on the country, to find that hardly merited a mention…but I reckon people focus most on the bits of a book which appeal to them most.

      Still, I was dead chuffed by this review. Truly.

  5. cavalrytales says:

    Hey – there should always be a love story, even if a fleeting romance. Damn and blast: I’ve used that word.
    And it’s good to get a review there: I gather it’s one of the highest rated HN sites so here’s to more sales!
    Now back to Wm. Tomkinson’s ‘Diary of a Cavalry Officer in the Peninsular and Waterloo Campaigns.’ Marvellous.

    • M M Bennetts says:

      Well, though few of us are honest enough to admit it, most of us read for the love story…we like it. And it is, after all, an affirmation of life, which in the case of war stories, is more than usually necessary. I mean who wasn’t gutted when Prince Andrei died in War and Peace–his intended nuptials with Natasha would have been a statement of life and continuity in the midst of Napoleon’s destruction of Europe.

      I think what this review reaffirmed for me is that everyone reads their own book and takes away from it what they’re looking for. I may have thought it wasn’t at all romantic–Myddelton hardly conforms to any model of romantic hero-ness–he’s a workaholic among other things. And I always saw it as ‘the obstacles’ thrown in their path were just normal daily life stuff for a bloke, because I wanted to explore life in the sense of a ‘slice of life’ novel a bit. But other people will see other things. And that’s a good thing.

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