Celia Seaton is a governess in a very awkward position. Basically, someone has kidnapped her and stolen all her possessions, including her clothes, and stranded her in the middle of nowhere (Yorkshire?). Why? How? I don't know! Coincidentally traveling through the area is Tarquin Compton, a dandy and leader of the fashionable ton, whom Celia loathes because he insulted her on several occasions, causing her to be rejected by her fiance and forcing her to find a job as a governess. The kidnappers knock him over the head and steal all his possessions, too, leaving him with a case of amnesia. When she discovers him, Celia decides to have a little payback and tells him his name is Terrence Fish, then leads him on a roundabout journey over the moors in search of food, clothing, and shelter. Celia and "Terrence" fall in love, but will Tarquin fall for her again once he regains his memories?
The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton is honestly one of the best historical romance novels I have read in a loooooong time, definitely since the beginning of the year. The main characters are both unique and believable; the plot (although admittedly bizarre) is pretty decent and holds the story together; the story is told in an interesting way; and most importantly, there is a TON of chemistry between Tarquin and Celia. I really wanted these two to get together.
Tarquin is a unique character who is obsessed with fashion and bit of a prig. The reasons why become clear as the story progresses; but when we first meet him, he's pretty unlikable. I did, however, love reading his journey through the book. I also liked how Miranda Neville had him retain a sense of his personality when he had amnesia while forgetting other things--as readers, it really gave us a sense of his essential personality and the fact that he WANTS to be a good person, which makes his more callous and thoughtless moments forgivable.
Celia is not quite as interesting a character as Tarquin, but she is genuinely smart, practical, and independent. It was fabulous to read a romance novel where the heroine was an actual character with a personality, and who didn't drop off to sleep all the time just so the hero could stare at her. Also, all the reasons she had for objecting to Tarquin and his amorous advances (heh) were perfectly valid and understandable, and not just an excuse used to drag out the book.
I LOVED the first half of The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton, where Tarquin and Celia are wandering over the moors; but then I also think I have a particular weakness for "journey" books. I'm not entirely sure, since there aren't a lot of journey books out there (not that I've read, anyway), but I can't remember ever disliking a book where the main characters travel together. Even if I didn't have a weakness for journey books, though, the chemistry between Tarquin and Celia would have drawn me into the story. They don't fall into InstaLust (someone should bottle and market that), and there's actually very little mention of physical attraction between the two; but they definitely share a meeting of the minds and their personalities compliment one another. Plus POETRY IS QUOTED! I love it when characters quote poetry. This scene was probably one of my favorites in the book:
Their gazes met as they held the crude tin vessel between them. Time stopped.Sigh! So romantic!
" 'Drink to me only with thine eyes, And I will pledge with mine,' " he said softly.
" 'Or leave a kiss but in the cup, And I'll not look for wine.' " She capped the quotation in a throaty whisper.
That being said, the story of The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton slowed way the heck down in the middle. As in, "I think I'll stare blankly at my twitter feed instead of reading," kind of slow. Celia and Tarquin meet several characters who are obviously from previous Neville novels; and while I don't have a problem with reintroducing characters, since I haven't read the previous books and this section didn't seem to advance the plot forward at all, I really didn't care.
The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton picks up again after a while, though, and I think by the end the story redeems itself. Overall this book is very entertaining, romantic, well-written, and intelligent, so basically it ticks all my boxes of things I could ever possibly want in a romance. I will definitely be looking into reading more of Neville's work, and if you like historical romances you should check this book out.