One Perfect Afternoon
If anyones looking
for a steamy read for steamy days of August, pick up local writer Jane Dawkins
bodice-ripper One Perfect Afternoon and take it to hammock at
Fort Zach or simply install yourself under a fan with a pitcher of something
Dawkins knows all the
rules of the genre: that it should be sexy but not pornographic, that sexual
episodes should happen with believable regularity, hat the main man should
be handsome but sensitive, the heroine beautiful and spirited. She knows that
girls who love horses also like sex and that country matters go
better in the country. Shes updated the genre to include feminist aspirations
and gives her heroine, Davina, an enthusiastic ability to take the initiative:
She removed the sheet that covered him and replaced it with languorous
kisses across his broad, beautiful chest. As well, she gives the recipient
of the kisses a manly sensitivity: Rupert quivered with motion.
In short, its all good fun. The plot gallops along like a coach and
four, we know Davina is going to get everything she wants, bad Sir Henry Broadlea
is ousted and good Rupert, his younger brother, is set to inherit the estate.
Money always underpins
romance in novels set in Regency England, and Jane Austen, while never providing
overtly sexual moments, always lets you know exactly how much money everyone
has, or expects to have. You cant be permanently poor to be romantically
successful but you can have the attractive appearance of poverty. Rupert and
Davina, when they first meet, are disguised respectively as groom and governess,
thereby hiding their class from each other and so being allowed
to make love in the hay. Theres a Lawrentian raunchiness about stables,
hay, the smell of horses, the groom in his dirty breeches, the clothes taken
off to dry before the fire.
In fact, they both manage
to get wet satisfactorily often, going riding in the rain, finding empty cottages
in which to light fires and -yes-take off their wet clothes. Davinas
complicated hair falls down at just the right moment too, and her bodice is
ripped several times-not by courtly Rupert but by lecherous, careless Sir
Henry. The class thing is settled by the end, so that nobody has to be either
a groom or a governess in reality.
Grand houses are to be
had all across the south of England; Davinas fathers is in Hampshire,
home of Jane Austen herself, the Broadlea estate in Somerset. Anyone who comes
from the north is bound to be in manufacturing and not attractive at all,
and wicked Henry ends up with a plain bride from the north whose father has
left all his money in her name, thus thwarting him in the areas of both sex
and money although as his plain-spoken new wife points out, he is not much
good in the sack either. So the old rules are quietly subverted here by a
feminist consciousness, and suddenly we can have our cake and eat it too.
The inherent masochism of the bodice-ripping romance is gone, and in its place
is a tough, amused feminine feistiness about sex. Whos ripping what,
Jane Dawkins has also
written a couple of quieter books based on Austens Pride and Prejudice
in which Elizabeth Darcy, newly-married to Mr. D., writes to her sister Jane
about life at Pemberley during the first year of her marriage. Her 19th-century
prose is convincing, her entry into Elizabeths mind impressive; but
this is always a risky venture, to set oneself beside one of the prose stylists
and wits of all time. I felt that she was enjoying herself more in the rambunctious
One Perfect Afternoon -whose cover, by the way, presents two Key
Westers in considerable dishabille, clothes from Consigning Adults
slipping off their perfect shoulders and manly chest
Solares Hill Newspaper, Key West
August 6, 2004
Book Review: Romance
There is a sadness about the young woman the parties, balls, and afternoon
teas of the season cannot ever dispel. Lady Davina Woodburn feels totally
uprooted, and adrift among her Aunt Levertons society friends. She
hides it well though. She has beauty, poise, intelligence, and an education
that surpasses most of the belles of the ton, and as such, should get
along quite swimmingly. She is a diamond of the first water, a prize of
great value, but she is not at all happy to be in these circumstances.
She left behind her beloved Eddie, the beautiful Hampshire countryside,
and the father that she adores, and for what? To flounder around in a
jaded society where she is expected to find a husband is not her idea
of a grand time. She finds little of interest in London, and the events
of the season. She only finds them filled with a multitude of jaded matriarchs
trying to pass their daughters off to wealthy husbands, which is not at
all to her liking. Why she cannot go home to those who really care for
her is a true thorn in her side. Davina feels no need to be here, and
in spite of her aunts warm welcome, homesickness reigns.
She is a country girl at heart, can outride any of the young bucks that
vie for her hand, and is a better judge of horse-flesh than most of them.
She enjoys the wild freedom of her country life, raising and training
hounds, caring for her livestock, riding the Hunt, and she is not afraid
to attend the births of the animals under her care, or patch up a wound
in either man or animal. Nineteen-year old Davina feels quite out of place
in London, quite out of place in the ton. She has an intimate knowledge
of animals and clean country living, and finds great comfort in her mundane
everyday life there. She prefers the peace of that life, and high London
society, in all their decadent and gaudy splendor, cannot hope to compare.
She wishes to be back where she feels she belongs, happily back in the
country, and definitely not on the London marriage mart. She would not
be here if not for her aunt pushing her father into letting her
have a proper Season, and finding her a husband. Well, she has no
use for one, especially if she would be stuck in London, away from her
beloved Hampshire, and Eddie
The odor of dirt and filth in London is so different from the clean earthy
smells of the open and luxurious Somerset countryside. The dinginess within
the city cant compare to the sunny open countryside, and even the
parks are cramped, packed, and far less desirable. Rupert Broadlea, second
son of the Earl of Enningham is not happy about being here. His elder
brother, Henry, asked for his presence to inquire about the health of
the family estate, but Rupert is not fooled. The only reason that Henry
cares is to ascertain his allowance will not be cut by any shortfalls
in profits. On that score, Henry doesnt have to worry, the estates
are doing quite well, and Rupert knows of what he speaks. He also recognizes
this as another attempt to draw him into his brothers decadent city
life, but it will not succeed. Rupert is happiest in the country, the
Society life too jaded and crass for him by far. He would much rather
take a trip to the mews, he needs to check to see that the new horses
have settled in well.
The sight that greets him when he gets there is startling. One of the
grays is down, and a wisp of a girl is struggling frantically to get him
on his feet. Desperation is etched in her face, her plain gown soiled
from her frantic efforts. She is pulling and tugging on Romulus
halter, muttering about poison, and begging the grooms to aid her. The
name slipped from his mouth as he introduced himself, but it was better
that way. The girl was beautiful, and Rupert has never seen her equal.
She is special. Intelligent, and quick witted, she knows horses and their
ailments, she saves the life of Romulus, and for that he is grateful.
At least if he has to be stuck in the city for a fortnight or so, the
afternoons to which he could now look forward might offer some respite.
Why he used the name Andrew Lomax, he would never know, but he didnt
want her to defer to him because of his rank. His misconception is that
she is the childrens governess, an assumption that she left stand.
Well, that was before he found out she is to be engaged to his brother.
That particular jab hurts worst of all. How she could play with his affections
like this is quite plain. He is a second son, not worth the time nor the
trouble. She is societys darling, the top of the seasons crop.
The dalliance seems to mean nothing, but the news he hears leads him to
In a tale sparkling with the glitter of the Bon Ton, Jane Dawkins writes
of how two soul mates find each other. In Regency England, in an era of
decadent indulgence, the pair of country loving aristocrats are uncomfortably
forced into society. Davina and Rupert are ripped apart by misunderstanding
and jealousy, and the unfortunate incidents at Henrys ball. The
question soon becomes one of what will happen, and when, and will these
two be forever separate, or will they again find happiness in each others
arms? From the gem-studded parlors and ballrooms of the Regency Bon Ton,
to the quiet country-sides of Hampshire and Somerset, Jane tells of the
wonderful and yet unlikely meeting, its consequences and rewards.
One Perfect Afternoon is a wonderfully told story that will touch your
heart, and will find favor with the readers and lovers of Regency Romance.
Jane has again, brought style and grace into the telling, along with vivid
scenery and lush costuming. Rich in character, you cannot help reliving
in your mind the love and joy in One Perfect Afternoon. Join the memorable
story of the trials and joys as Davina and Rupert struggle to overcome
past hurts, to live, love, and find happiness amid the green sun-drenched
hills of the English countryside. After all, they have something to remember,
One Perfect Afternoon
Watch for this coming this month from iUniverse.com.
It is one Regency Romance you wont want to miss. Don't forget to
look for it at Barnes and Noble and also at Amazon.com as well as your
Yours in good reading,