Listen to the Moon, by Rose Lerner

>> Wednesday, September 26, 2018

TITLE: Listen to the Moon
AUTHOR: Rose Lerner

COPYRIGHT: 2016
PAGES: 316
PUBLISHER: Self-published

SETTING: 19th century England
TYPE: Romance
SERIES: 3rd in the Lively St. Lemeston series

She’s a maid-of-all-work, and he’s a valet of no play...

John Toogood always prided himself on being the perfect gentleman’s gentleman: skilled, discreet, and professional. But now he finds himself laid off and blacklisted, stuck in tiny Lively St. Lemeston until he can find a new job. Any job.

His instant attraction to his happy-go-lucky maid Sukey Grimes couldn’t come at a worse time. Her manners are provincial, her respect for authority nonexistent, and her outdated cleaning methods...well, the less said about them, the better.

Sukey can tell that John’s impeccably impassive facade hides a lonely man with a gift for laughter—and kissing. But she also knows he’ll leave her sleepy little town behind the moment he gets the chance, and she has no intention of giving him her heart to take with him.

John learns that the town vicar needs a butler—but the job is only for a respectable married man. Against both their better judgments, John and Sukey tie the knot. The ring isn’t on her finger long before Sukey realizes she underestimated just how vexing being married to the boss can be...
Listen to the Moon is part of the Lively St. Lemeston series. In the first book in the series, Sweet Disorder, John Toogood was the hero's valet and helped him marry someone his mother thought was an unsuitable woman (mostly, he didn't rat the hero out to his mother). Unfortunately, it was mum who actually employed John, and he was let go and blacklisted from working in the sorts of high society households he'd been used to being part of.

Temporarily living in a boarding house while he searches for a job, John meets Sukey Grimes and is very surprised by just how much he finds himself attracted to her. She's in her early 20s to his 40, and just a not particularly well-trained maid-of-all-work. There's definitely a class system below stairs, and John and Sukey are as far apart on it as a duke and a pauper.

But when the only good job John can find requires a married man, suddenly he has a very good, logical reason to take things further with Sukey (not an excuse to give in to the attraction, not at all).

I enjoyed this very much. I really liked having the two main characters really being servants, and not some sort of nonsense like one of them being from the nobility but in hiding or in desperately reduced circumstances (which would, of course, have been reversed by the end of the book). No, both John and Sukey are perfectly normal people, with backgrounds that are perfectly normal for their jobs, and who see domestic service as a perfectly respectable and good, even satisfying, career.

It was challenging to read, though. I'm a bit of a control freak, so insecurity really disturbs me. And the life of a servant is full of insecurity. They can be in a job with a master or mistress that they trust, where they feel they're set for life, but then this person dies, and who knows what the next master will be like? Or a master who they thought they could trust might turn on them unexpectedly. And then they lose their livelihood, at a time where safety nets were pretty threadbare, and what if the master blacklists them (as his former mistress did John), and even finding another job is super difficult? Even by the end of the book I worried for John and Sukey, although Lerner did the best to reassure her readers.

I also really liked that both John and Sukey are flawed, complex people. Like how John struggled with his first impulses, which in some cases were to be unkind, even to the people he loves. Or how Sukey is not particularly good at the 'technical' aspects of her job. And they're each aware of each other's flaws. They love each other even though they don't like everything about the other. Their relationship felt more real for it.

The one aspect of the book that didn't quite work for me was that the sex felt a bit off, like Lerner was making it explicit in a way that didn't fit well with the rest of the book. Sukey (who is a virgin, even though she's done a bit of experimenting) is oddly shamelessly adventurous, and we don't really get told where that is coming from. I mean adventurous in ways that would feel pretty daring even today. At one point she and John are making love and she starts going on about whether he'd find it sexy to see her fucked by another man, or to see another woman licking her pussy. And John is not even surprised, he just takes it in his stride. I didn't buy it, and it felt unnecessary.

Other than that, though, this was great.

MY GRADE: A B+.

3 comments:

Sun,  26 September 2018 at 03:06  

Thanks for the review. It sounds very interesting and reminds me of Courtney Milan's servant romance. I've heard good things about Rose Lerner but haven''t tried her works. Is it a good book to start?

btw, what happened with the cover!

meljean brook 26 September 2018 at 18:05  

I really liked this one, too, and I agree about the oddness of some of the sexual aspects. I think it's this one, too, that has a deleted scene on the author's site where they actually do have an encounter with another woman while traveling. While it was well written, I'm glad it was deleted, because although it might have fit the way the characters were written, it didn't seem to really fit the story at all (like, I feel like it would have added emotional conflict that should/could have been addressed but that would have basically come out of nowhere in reference to the rest of the book.)

Rose Lerner is pretty solid all over, though. I haven't read everything of hers, but everything I have read, I've enjoyed.

Rosario 14 October 2018 at 15:54  

Sorry for the lack of response, both! I've been on holiday and have only just returned.

Sun: I think you should be fine. The hero's situation is a direct result of what happened in the previous book of the series, but I read that one a long time ago and remembered only the vaguest details myself, so it's not necessary to read that one first.

And yeah, the cover is REALLY not great!

Meljean: Oh, yeah, I'm glad that wasn't there as well. There was plenty enough conflict here, and of the character-driven type, which is my favourite. I think introducing that sort of sexual adventure would probably have distracted from the stuff about them adjusting to each other, which was great. Lerner is a solid author for me as well. Not quite on my autobuy list, but I think I have all her backlist.

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