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On a scale of ‘mildly pleasant’ to ‘need to stop everything and enjoy an immediate bit of Me Time’, Rachel de Vine’s The Gardener
totally delivers at the ‘me time’ end of the scale. This book is ridiculously
Not in a graphic x-rated explicit way, you understand, just in a ‘fulfils my every fantasy’ way. I could barely get through a chapter without coming over all hot and bothered and in need of some kind of relief. I’d advise against reading on public transport for that reason. Bus drivers frown on that sort of thing. (It makes the seats sticky.) It’s also probably best to avoid thinking about the book while operating heavy machinery as well – just to be on the safe side.
The gardener from the book’s title is Will Barnes who works for the heroine Kate Winters’ aunt and uncle. We can see what an irresistibly sexy charmer he is from the first scene in the book which involves Kate spying on Barnes through the bushes as he enjoys a 19th
century style ‘Diet Coke’ moment. She knows her surreptitious stalking has not been as been discreet as she hoped when he tells her: “You can come out now, Miss. Your aunt has left.” I fell in love with him at that point, I reckon. Even before he asked Kate whether she liked what she saw and threatened her with a spanking for fibbing. Although that helped too, obviously.
|This sort of thing. But 200 years ago.
I have no idea where Barnes trained to become a servant but, frankly, the man hasn’t got a clue. He clearly has no time at all for the traditional rules for servants like ‘never beginning a conversation with one’s employers nor ever expressing an opinion’. Instead he favours starting multiple conversations with the master of the house’s niece, making flirty suggestive comments, being caught swimming naked in the grounds, spanking her naked backside and giving her several earth-shattering orgasms.
Personally, as an approach to service, I’m all for it.
|Not on Barnes’s bookshelf.
Unfortunately, well-brought up ladies of the nineteenth century can’t just going running off with one of the servants no matter how good looking, well-muscled and prone to flipping you over their laps for a spanking they are. Poor Kate has no choice but to go along with her Aunt and Uncle’s plans to find her a suitable husband, regardless of her growing feelings for Barnes.
It would have been nice if the heroine was just a bit less passive with regards to her situation, to be honest. She never comes across as master of her own destiny, relying on instruction and help from other people and the occasional bit of startling good fortune. It’s the ‘Cinderella’ approach to finding your happy ever after.
Actually, the more I think about it, the more the Cinderella comparison totally holds up for this book. All the characters are here. We have Cinderella (Kate), the wicked stepmother (her Aunt Miranda], the fairy godmother (friend and neighbour, Lady Fitzwilliam) and the handsome-ish prince (the Earl of Beechdale who becomes Kate’s husband).
There’s even a role for Barnes the gardener if you include Buttons
, the pantomime charcater who works as a servant for Cinderella’s father and is completely in love with Cinderella. (Note to our American readership: pantomimes are theatre productions put on in every theatre in the UK around Christmas time. They combine minor celebrities, thinly veiled penis jokes, song and dance numbers and men dressed – hilariously – as women. It’s odd but it’s necessary.)
I always want Cinderella to marry Buttons instead of the prince because he’s funny and nice and usually played by a more famous celebrity than the prince. But, of course, Cinderella goes off with the prince and poor Buttons is forever friendzoned.
|Back in the kitchen with you, Buttons
The Gardener is the retelling of Cinderella where Buttons (eventually) gets the girl. Of course, the pantomimes I’ve seen haven’t included scenes where Cinderella and Buttons give one another hand jobs in the potting shed but maybe they would if Rachel de Vine wrote them.
The secret assignations between Kate and Barnes are all as hot as hell and given the nature of the story, almost all their interactions have to be secret assignations. Rachel de Vine masterfully constructs a believable relationship between the two of them both in terms of their physical relationship and their emotional attachment to one another. Every time the heroes met it was hotter, lovelier and usually more heart-breaking than the last time.
This is the second book I’ve read by Rachel de Vine – the first was One Wife, Three Husbands
. Much as I enjoyed that one, The Gardener
knocks it out of the water both in terms of storytelling and in creating a delicious near-perfect hero in Will Barnes. He really does have a way about him, you know. I can’t wait to read whatever Rachel de Vine writes next. Meanwhile, I think I might give The Gardener a re-read.
If you need me, I’ll be in my bunk.
Edited to add: This book has been republished under Rachel De Vine’s other writing name Juliette Banks. It is available as part of the “Historical Heroes” box set. It is still ridiculously hot and you should still check it out.