Friday, September 16, 2016

LaVyrle Spencer - November of the Heart

Set at the turn of the century, November of the Heart tells of Lorna Barnett, a young woman from a
wealthy Saint Paul family, and Jens Harken, the ambitious dreamer who works in the kitchen of her family’s summer estate. Lorna’s father, Gideon, an avid sailor, is determined to claim victory for his own White Bear Yacht Club in the next summer regatta. Having recently suffered defeat at the hands of the rival club, Gideon is willing to do almost anything to win back the prize he sees as his.
Jens, pressed into service as a waiter as an elegant family dinner party, overhears Gideon’s lament, and is sure his boatbuilding skills can be put to use on behalf of his employer. Brazenly crossing the boundary between servant and master by offering to design and build a boat that is sure to win the race. Jens incites Gideon’s ire but piques his interest too. With Lorna’s help, he convinces Gideon to finance the project.
Grateful for her intervention yet wary of jeopardizing his chance to build the boat of his dreams, Jens nevertheless is powerless to face of Lorna’s growing interest in the boat and him. He soon finds himself eagerly awaiting her visits to the boatshed, and stars teaching her about the craft of boatbuilding, as well as the craft of love.
Despite the rigid caste system which keeps them apart, Lorna and Jens are drawn inexorably together, and begin an affair as fresh and innocent as the summer itself. But the repercussions of their passionate idyll soon separate them against their shame to endure loneliness where it is always “November of the heart.” 

Comment: This is another of mrs Spencer's books I've had in my TBR list. I'm not very fond of boats as a rule when it comes to their interest or importance in romances and that was why I never felt the need to read this book but this month there it was and I picked it at last.

This is the story of Jens Harken, a young man who dreams of building and racing the fastest boat he can have. He is actually just a kitchen helper at a wealthy family's summer house but he has bright plans for his future. When the opportunity presents itself for him to suggest his employer he can build him a fast boat to win the races in the country club to which mr Barnett, the employer, belongs to, Jens takes it, almost ruining everything.
Somehow, help comes from Lorna Barnett's Jens' employer oldest daughter. She is a free spirit and loves sailing but she knows she won't ever be allowed to race with the men. She helps Jens because she wants to be part of the process even if not directly. But what started as only a shared interest develops into something quite serious between the two of them and their relationships soon escalates and flourishes. But what will happen when Lorna's parents discover the truth? Can Jens and Lorna fight for their relationship, despite the obvious difference in classes?

I ended up enjoying this story, at least I often had to keep reading in wanting to know what would happen next. But yes, some parts were rather slow paced or even lacked interest to me, especially the boat's and race's descriptions.

One of the book's themes is clearly the different classes, because Lorna is rich and Jens is not. This trope is often sued in romances and it can have good or less good outcomes. I'm not a particular fan of this but I confess I don't mind when it's the other way around, I feel the rich element is always the one who has to make more changes, even if it's the poorer one who moves away or who learns or whatever. But I feel a poor male protagonist always battles a lot more to be recognized and he must always become better somehow in order for the story to match what we usually expect of it. When it's a rich man the story doesn't need to develop that way.
In this book, of course Jens wants to be someone better and I applaud that but it almost feels he needs to change more because he's the man and he must provide for the woman, who has always been rich... it just strikes me as a more difficult trope and one I struggle more to believe in.

The romance was good, I liked how things happened, how the author took time to slowly make them become friends, then interested in one another, then falling in love. The obstacles in their path were harsh and almost bordering on the dramatic but in real life it wouldn't have been easy either. The notion that what they were doing wasn't something they should and that society condemned them was heavy in the air, made the story feel more dramatic yes, but also realistic. The readers always has a feel something bad will happen and when it does yes, it's bad and hurts them, but eventually they overcome everything and a HEA happens. I guess I wish it could have been more romantic, as it has happened with other books by the author, but at least it happened.

The secondary characters were interesting, offered the opposition the couple needed to shine but the focus was always too much on them, even if we got glimpses from the others here and there.
Lorna was a captivating character as was Jens and it was good to see them together. When bad things happen and they split before the HEA happens, well, I just think the way things were dealt in that period were weird. I liked Lorna, I felt her hopelessness and her need to believe in something, even if it was guilt but I think Jens' character was too obnoxious in certain situations. Still, this is an historical so some things today would have been solved quickly and at the time weren't.

All in all, this was a good novel, I liked reading but there's something in the pace and eventually in the relationship of the main couple as a whole that made me not always marveled by everything. This is a more than average story but not as wonderful as others by the author.
Grade: 7/10

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