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A Radical Arrangement

by Jane Ashford

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486430,583 (3.27)15
Classic Regency romance from beloved author Jane Ashford Brash and Handsome Sir Justin Keighley is all wrong for a proper young lady like Margaret Mayfield. Everyone knows he is shocking in his opinions, arrogant in his manner, and completely without respect for the common decencies of civilized society. Margaret absolutely will not marry him-no matter what her parents say. Beautiful and Shy Margaret was everything Sir Justin detested in a woman-timid, sheltered, and obedient to a fault. It's not until she runs away from him that he finds he must give chase. Margaret is discovering she can be bold and rebellious-intrepid enough to do what she must, and more exciting than Justin ever imagined possible. She's the last woman he would have expected to lead them both into uncharted territory...… (more)

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Margaret and Justin are not your everyday couple. Bold and boisterous Justin is a man of action. He is used to shocking and is not afraid to do so. Margaret is used to following rules and staying in the shadows. Not wanting to draw attention to herself, she does what is expected of her. What neither realizes is that they are each playing a role. Used to playing out the script that has always been written but yearning for more. In some areas this story comes across dated and aggravating. However as I continued to read A Radical Arrangement, I found a story of two people that bring out in each other all of qualities that they lack in themselves. Jane Ashford's story of acceptance, love and growth is beautifully written, all you have to do is read between the lines. I received an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  Lashea677 | Feb 16, 2019 |
This book has to have one of the most ludicrous setups I've ever encountered. Margaret Mayfield, the shy and unassuming (and very pale) daughter of the local gentry family attends a dinner party one July evening at her family's country home in Cornwall. This is an annual event, and they invite all of the local notables - including Sir Justin Keighley, who is too important to be snubbed. He is massively disliked by the Mayfields, however, because they consider him a political radical. They have warned Margaret about him to the point where she's afraid of his very presence.

After this dinner, the local squire insists on tromping down to Lord Mayfield's barn to inspect his new cow, and Sir Justin suggests they all go, because he enjoys the scandal his words stir up. Margaret doesn't want to go, so she basically slips behind the group and decides not to ruin her dress by going all the way down to the muck of the barn; she'll just wait for the others to come back and slip back into their party. Sir Justin notices her, though, and stays behind as well, and teases her for being so reticent. She doesn't respond, and just when he figures that it's not worth even trying to draw her out, she basically goes insane, beating him away without provocation and launching herself into a locked summerhouse on the property. She's in such a rage that she knocks herself out, and of course the party troops back from the barn to find him kneeling over her.

Lord and Lady Mayfield go beserk (obvs Margaret comes by it honestly) and insist that he's completely and totally ruined her and thus, must marry her. He refuses. When she comes around, Margaret is horrified by the idea of marrying him, and she refuses as well. Her protestations fall on deaf ears, so she decides to run away. She has to get out of town, but she doesn't dare go to London, knowing the scandal it will create. The only other place she knows is Penzance, in Cornwall, so she sets off by herself.

Meanwhile, Lady Mayfield has marched herself over to Justin's property to bend him to her will. Margaret's sudden disappearance is her trump card; she plays like she and her husband have disowned their daughter, leaving her to her fate. She's guessed Margaret's direction, and tells Justin that his refusal of her has driven her away, and if he cares an ounce for her, he'll go after her himself, because they aren't going to.

Justin hesitates; he sees the trap Lady Mayfield has set for him, but staunchly refuses to find himself boxed into a marriage he doesn't want. He decides to go after Margaret, figuring she couldn't have gotten too far; he'll bring her back to her parents' door and make it clear to one and all he'll have nothing to do with her.

So, yes - ridiculous. I got this far into the book and was just kinda rolling my eyes. Margaret truly was too stupid to live. She'd never done anything for herself and was terrified at the idea of striking off on her own, but she was even more terrified of going home and being forced into a union with a man she believed was a monster, thanks to her mother's ridiculous tales. She'd described as being very blonde and pale and malleable, and indeed, she has no personality to speak of.

But obviously I am such a sucker for Cornwall that I carried on, wondering if we'd get any scenery porn as we did in The Bride Insists and The Marriage Wager.

So Justin catches up with Margaret and starts berating her - so she turns around and shoots him in the shoulder, and suddenly things get interesting.

She didn't mean to shoot him, she only wanted to scare him, but he immediately collapses in the middle of the road, and she panics. She manages to pull herself together, and tells the approaching villager that Justin is her brother and that they were robbed by highwaymen. She's astounded at how easy it is to lie to these people, because she's never lied in her life, but they take her at her word and help her bring Justin to their village to recover.

They set up house at the Red Fern inn, with the Appleby family. The local midwife, Mrs. Dowling, removes the bullet from Justin's shoulder, and Margaret feels so guilty about shooting him (not to mention she'd told everyone that he's her brother) that she stays and nurses him. She alternates dealing with him and walking along the shores of the sea in the village, and she slowly turns into her own person, realizing that she can make decisions and deal with things without anyone's help.

Justin is furious when he wakes up, but he's also constrained by his wounded shoulder, so he eventually makes nice with Margaret, basically because he has nothing better to do. He's noticed the color in her cheeks and the fullness of her figure, and is impressed when she talks back to him. Turns out a Margaret Mayfield with a personality is rather pleasant to be around.

She discovers that he's not a monster, and that her parents have greatly overstated his foibles. They eventually start talking politics and family, and he tells her about how he grew up, and why he's as passionate about his causes as he is. He even takes her into the village and shows her that yes, poverty is a real thing, and it's really, really terrible, and she is duly affected by this realization.

They are becoming attached to one another, but they each fight it. We follow Margaret as she struggles to come to terms with her new assertiveness, and the stirrings this man is causing in her heart and in her mind. Mrs. Dowling is the one who basically tells her that it's obvious to one and all that they're in love with each other, and that Margaret needs to bring it to a head. If she wants to marry Justin, she's the one who's going to have to speak up - which is exactly what she does one evening, only to have her father burst in - again, at just the wrong moment - and basically ruin everything.

Everyone's irate, and Justin blurts out that he'd never marry Margaret no matter how much her father wishes he could make him. This breaks Margaret's heart, but she is not suddenly cowed by her father's appearance. She takes Justin's rejection in stride, but will not be bullied into leaving just to save face. Only when Justin disappears does Lord Mayfield finally convince his daughter to go home with him, after making sure that any word she leaves with the Applebys is swiftly destroyed, so that Keighley will not be able to find her if he ever comes back.

Justin was in a boating accident, re-injures his shoulder, and is truly on the brink of death by the time the Applebys find him again. Mrs. Dowling sends the youngest Appleby in search of Margaret; upon learning that nobody knows who she really is or where she went, she basically tells him to just ask along the way to discover her route.

Margaret returns home, but she stands up to her family and forces them to leave her be. She'll tell whatever story they want to tell to chase away the scandal, but she truly doesn't care what the neighbors think. She knows herself, and what happened with Justin in Cornwall, and all that matters to her are her own thoughts and feelings on the matter.

It takes the Appleby boy a week to find her, but she immediately sets off to return with him to his village, walking away even when her parents threaten to disown her. She returns to Cornwall and sits with Justin until his fever breaks and he comes out of his delirium, and is more than happy to accept the proposal he freely offers her.

The was a really sweet book. Once the pair made it to Cornwall, and realized they were stuck together (a bit of forced proximity), they started to really get to know each other, past their preconceived notions. Both love the Cornish countryside and have an inescapable pull with the sea, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and their time together is very sweet and gentle. Margaret basically grows up once she realizes there is a world beyond the one her parents have carefully curated for her, and grows a backbone. She faces up to both Justin and her father, and in the end discovers what is truly important to her.

Justin doesn't have quite as far to go, but his deepening regard for Margaret is written quite nicely. Mrs. Dowling was a hoot, and the Applebys were the sort of warm and friendly family Margaret never had.

This is a straight up traditional Regency romance, so the romantic relationship is written very opaquely. It basically takes these two 200 pages to kiss (in a 247-page novel), and they celebrate their engagement in the final chapter with even more kisses. It's very sweet and gentle and a sort of comfort read, exactly what I needed right now.

If you can get past the ridiculous setup, it'd definitely worth reading. I'd recommend reading in one sitting, though, because stopping and starting with a plot that doesn't really move very quickly would probably be incredibly frustrating. ( )
  eurohackie | Nov 22, 2018 |
Full review posted on Bambi Unbridled.

[b:A Radical Arrangement|3733398|A Radical Arrangement|Jane Ashford|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1329430083s/3733398.jpg|3777199] is a re-release from [a:Jane Ashford|842700|Jane Ashford|https://s.gr-assets.com/assets/nophoto/user/f_50x66-6a03a5c12233c941481992b82eea8d23.png], having originally been published in 1983. It looks like Ms. Ashford is releasing a good number of her books with new covers - though I am not sure if any re-writing is being done. I do like the new cover - its much more visually appealing than the first edition. And while Ms. Ashford has been writing for a long time, she is a new-to-me author.

I enjoyed this book, but it dragged for me and felt much longer than its 288-ish pages. I just couldn't connect with the characters for some reason. I think its because I am so unlike Margaret Mayfield, the heroine. Margaret starts off the story as a painfully naive and uninformed dishwater miss - she has no opinions of her own and believes everything her parents tell her. I never connect with this type of heroine, so from the beginning I found myself wanting to thump Margaret in the head in the hopes that her brain would wake up.

Margaret's mother, who does not agree with Sir Justin Keighley's radical political views, has instilled the ridiculous opinion on Margaret that a radical is a evil blackguard. This causes Margaret to act like an utter fool by running away from Justin like he was going to ravish her - and when she trips over her feet and knocks herself unconscious, it looks like he has done just that. So of course the ridiculous Mayfields try to force a marriage on the pair.

When Margaret runs away, Justin feels he must go after her and this leads to the main story plot. I won't discuss that part here so I don't give any spoilers. But, over the course of the adventure, away from the stifling influence of her parents, Margaret does come into her own and becomes a more tolerable heroine.

As for our hero, I liked Justin but I would have liked to know more about him. The only aspect we learn of his nature/character is that he has what were consider radical political views by his contemporaries in London. These views were the underlying premise or moral of the book, and involved the plight of the poor and laborers who were seeking a voice/vote in the government. While we are made aware of the issue, we don't see either Margaret or Justin doing anything about it. So it's just kind of floating out there with no attempt at resolution. I would have liked to see either of them take a more active role in the social issues.

I received an free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I recommend it to fans of clean and sweet historical romance. 3 stars / 1 flame.
  Bambi_Unbridled | Mar 19, 2016 |
I received a copy of this novel from the publisher through NetGalley.

19 year-old Margaret is engaged to Philip, who shares her parents' Conservative political views. Margaret is very naive and timid and largely ignorant of the world. At a dinner to which they feel obliged to invite their Radical neighbour, Sir Justin Keighley, an incident occurs (largely through Margaret's stupidity) and Justin arguably compromises Margaret. Arguably as in Justin points out that he has done nothing wrong and refuses to marry Margaret, Philip breaks off the engagement and Margaret refuses to marry Justin (whom her parents have always portrayed to her as the devil incarnate). Margaret decides to run away so she won't have to marry Justin, her mother tells Justin that she has done so because he won't marry her and that she and her husband wash their hands of her and intend to do nothing. Justin feels obliged to go after Margaret, whereupon she accidentally shoots him with the pistol she brought from home. For most of the rest of the story she and Justin are staying at an inn while he recovers from his wound and Margaret is attempting to pass him off as her brother.

I note from the blurb at the back that the author loves Georgette Heyer; so do I. Sadly this novel is nowhere near as well-plotted as a Heyer and contains no trace of humour. I found it pretty dull and the characters flat and unlikeable. Margaret's parents were such baddies it was incredible. Justin (allegedly a gambling womanizer) spent the novel patronizing Margaret and making her read political text books. Exactly how old was he supposed to be? (As in how much older than Margaret?) Margaret herself was supposed to develop in a sort of coming of age way during the story and this seemed to mean becoming more curvy and having dull conversations with the midwife where they danced around the subject of sex (repeatedly). Then there was Jem and the boring boat sections and the part where Justin took Margaret to see some "real poor people" (shades of Elizabeth Gaskell here) and Margaret become politicized and decided to devote her life to the poor, despite having no money of her own and no relevant skills. Justin just couldn't make up his mind about how he felt about Margaret and at one point seemed to have decided to let her go off on her own and make her way in the world (really?) I just wanted some one to knock their heads together. Justin would have been more fun if he had indeed been a gambling womanizer and what was he doing that was so helpful to the poor anyway, apart from voting on half-hearted Acts of Parliament? ( )
  pgchuis | Aug 21, 2015 |
...delightfully engaging!

Miss Margaret Mayfield--beautiful and shy? More like inept. When I started to read this I was appalled as Margaret seemed to bumble from one inane set of circumstances to another. How I thought could this be the heroine?
I was definitely seeing things through Sir Justin Keighley's eyes. Having been found in a ludicrously compromised position with Margaret, confirmed bachelor and rumoured rake, Sir Justin finds himself fending off Margaret's father's declaration that they must marry and her mother's snide attempts to bring this 'coup' about.
Margaret gathering some courage from somewhere decides to solve the problem by running away. And from there the story develops in a star crossed, misunderstood sort of way as Margaret grows into herself, becomes surer and more confident, and Sir Justin fights his attractions for her. Along the way Margaret is helped by a fairy godmother archetype in the form of the local midwife, Mrs Dowling. However, as we all know, the road to a happy life and true love is not a smoothly golden pathway. For Margaret and Sir Justin it is paved with painful gravel bumps, with good intentions and failed opportunities.
When finally discovered by her father, Margaret's put on weight, gained energy and awareness, has embraced decidedly politically radical leanings and has grown towards becoming her own person. The timid, mindless Cinderella becomes more politically informed, composed and adult, in charge of her own destiny.
Jem Appleby, ten year old son of the inn owners is an absolutely delightful character and almost stole the show, with his easy acquiescence and mad keen love of sailing.
Very enjoyable all round!

A NetGalley ARC ( )
  eyes.2c | Aug 4, 2015 |
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Classic Regency romance from beloved author Jane Ashford Brash and Handsome Sir Justin Keighley is all wrong for a proper young lady like Margaret Mayfield. Everyone knows he is shocking in his opinions, arrogant in his manner, and completely without respect for the common decencies of civilized society. Margaret absolutely will not marry him-no matter what her parents say. Beautiful and Shy Margaret was everything Sir Justin detested in a woman-timid, sheltered, and obedient to a fault. It's not until she runs away from him that he finds he must give chase. Margaret is discovering she can be bold and rebellious-intrepid enough to do what she must, and more exciting than Justin ever imagined possible. She's the last woman he would have expected to lead them both into uncharted territory...

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Sir Justin Keighley was everything that repelled Margaret Mayfield in a man. He was shocking in his opinions, arrogant in his manner, rude in his actions, and completely without respect for the common decencies of civilized society.
Margaret was everything that Sir Justin detested in a woman. She was shy, retiring, obedient to her parents, almost embarrassed by her own beauty, and ignorant of virtually every phase of real life in the real world.
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