Review: Lessons in French by Laura Kinsale

Lessons in French

“It was quite settled by now. She was born to be a spinster. The gentlemen would have to declare their undying devotion to other ladies. Callie would be too much occupied with developing a delicate constitution and a dependable recipe for tapioca-jelly.”
She is, after all, Lady Callista Taillefaire, jilted three times in spite of her fortune and her father’s best efforts to find her a husband. Now her greatest desire is to win the silver cup at the agricultural fair with her gigantic prize bull, Hubert. But when Callie’s only old flame returns from his long and mysterious absence in France, her quiet spinster life turns upside down.
Dark-eyed, elegant and a magnet for trouble, Trevelyan d’Augustin has given Callie lessons in more than his language in the past. Her father put a harsh and humiliating end to any dreams of romance with a French émigré scoundrel, however, and Callie never thought to see him again. Swallowing his pride, Trev has finally come home to care for his failing mother, but his secrets and misdeeds follow him.
Callie soon remembers that nothing is ever peaceful with Trev around. The enormous Hubert vanishes into thin air, one of her former jilts comes back to woo her in a most determined manner–and her bull takes the town by storm! In the midst of these misadventures, Callie finds herself falling in love again with the worst possible man for her…

Lessons in French by Laura Kinsale
February 1, 2010
Historical Romance
Paperback, 480 Pages
Sourcebooks Casablanca
Reviewed by Kati

Laura Kinsale is widely considered to be among the brightest, most talented romance writers publishing today. She is adept at writing both dark, angsty tales and writing light and sweet romance. And here’s the truth, she’s only written one book that really worked for me. So I asked Mandi whether I could review Lessons in French with some trepidation.

Lady Callista Taillefaire is firmly on the shelf. She’s been left at the altar three times, with three different me, and she truly believes that the only thing left to recommend her is her tremendous fortune. And yet, Callie is content. She’s content to be a wallflower, and to breed her prize bulls that are renowned for their form and to move in with her younger sister Hermione upon her marriage. One night, while at a gathering, she is shocked to see Trevelyan Davis D’Augustin stride through the doors. Trev was Callie’s childhood sweetheart. Someone she loved wholeheartedly until the night her father caught them in a most compromising position and ran Trevelyan off. Trev escaped to France, where he’s been for years, amassing a fortune and restoring his familial home and family honor.

Except not really.

In point of fact, Trevelyan has been engaged in all sorts of different not quite nefarious plots from acting as a prison translator to a boxing promoter, which is where he made his fortune on top of that he’s been told that he can never come back to England, or suffer the hangman’s noose. Now he is home because his dear mother is on her deathbed. He’s come home to see her and to comfort her in her final days. Trev hasn’t changed much from his youth. He’s a bit of a scallywag, and trouble seems to follow him around. And yet, he’s still completely charmed by Callie, and definitely still has feelings for her. He goes about showing her by stealing back her prize bull, which her cousin lost in a gambling match. And he gets into fisticuffs with one of Callie’s former suitors who has come back to attempt to win her hand. Callie is mystified and charmed by Trev’s antics, and never seems to be quite sure of his motives, yet she allows him to draw her into his escapades over and over. And Trev is constantly walking a fine line between legality, propriety and his wilder nature. Will Callie and Trevelyan ever find a way to come together?

I’m at a loss about how I feel about this book. It’s charmingly written, full of scenes that I believe were supposed to evoke a smile, or laugh from me. But I never seemed to engage fully in the story. The book almost felt like it was going over my head. Like I was missing some crucial element that others would understand but I missed. The truth is that the story is beautifully crafted, the language is evocative and the dialogue is smart and sparkling. And yet, I found that I didn’t really understand either character’s motivations or why they had such a hard time coming together. That being said, I think that the book will work for most romance readers who enjoy quiet romances, but for me, the book fell flat. I’ll continue to try Laura Kinsale because so many readers enjoy her work. But this wasn’t the book that got me on the bandwagon. I’d imagine there will be a number of readers who disagree with me.

Rating: 3.5/5

Recent Reviews:
Dear Author – B+
Babbling About Books and More – B+
Gossamer Obsessions – A

Laura Kinsale Website and Twitter

Reviewer: Kati from Katidom.


  1. inthehammockblog says

    Great review! I've felt that way about books before, I see your point. I've never read anything by this author before, but this book has been getting so much buzz, I'll probably check it out. Thanks for the honest review!

  2. The Queen B says

    Great review! I've been there with books before. Honestly, I'm not a huge Laura Kinsale fan myself. I liked one book and even then I had issues with it.

  3. Lisa Dale says

    I love Laura Kinsale and am going to check out this book. Her voice is gorgeous. It's funny – I've never really thought of her as quiet before – but I guess maybe I'm into quiet romance since some readers think that about what I write! Anyway, thanks for posting this. Am putting it on my TBR.


    Lisa Dale

  4. Danielle87 says

    I have got to check out Laura Kinsale. I haven't read anything of hers and I feel behind the romantic times.
    Nice review.

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