About the Author: Claudia Harbaugh
Her Grace in Disgrace by Claudia Harbaugh is a historical romance novel that concentrates on Isobel Kennilworth Aiken, the Duchess of Warwick, and the journey that she goes through after she receives a shockin
g revelation as told through her deceased husband’s will. It’s definitely not my usual fare, since I tend to lean towards the steamier types of historical, but I enjoyed this greatly! Her Grace in Disgrace is witty, charming, realistic and thought-provoking while being a light and fun read. How does Ms. Harbaugh do it? I don’t know, but I was laughing and sympathizing with all the characters!
What I Liked: I thought Her Grace in Disgrace was really charming and really fun to read. Reading the Goodreads summary, I thought this was going to be angsty and dark and sad but I was proven wrong! Her Grace in Disgrace, I found, was similar in voice to Julia Quinn but the characters were more introspective. This is probably because the main focus of the book was more on Isobel and Andrew’s realization of what really is important in a person’s life instead of a total focus on the budding yet very frustrating romance between these two.
And that, I thought, was pretty awesome. I don’t have the experience of reading too many “clean romances” just because I like to sully my brain with bedroom scenes after a hard day’s work (:P), but you know, Her Grace in Disgrace made me more curious about the non-bedroom-scene side of things. I greatly enjoyed reading about Isobel’s journey in discovering herself and a purpose in life because I thought she was written very realistically. I loved how Ms. Harbaugh developed Isobel’s character. In the beginning, she was pompous, arrogant and just a little bit of a b-word that rhymes with itch. Throughout the whole novel though, we see Isobel realize the consequences of her actions in the past and her doing something about it. You see, in the past, Isobel used her cunning to trap the Duke into marriage and that changed her whole life. She wasn’t aware of it then, but her actions not only affected her, it also greatly affected a huge number of people around her that she felt she had to go straighten some things out. Yes, she goes through the whole self-discovery thing but she wasn’t changed to unrealistic proportions that she morphed into a completely different character. No, no, Isobel is still very much like her old self, only now she’s quicker to forgive, quicker to help and definitely more understanding and humbler.
I also really loved Isobel because I thought how she reacted to everything that was going on around her was realistic. And I even loved her when she was being a brat and was throwing and smashing priceless tea cups and vases because I felt like this was something new,wonderful and something that someone might do under her circumstances. I don’t think I’ve read many novels where I’ve seen the characters actually rage about being given some major obstacles by life but it definitely made Her Grace in Disgrace more realistic.
This is my first book by Ms. Harbaugh and I am happy to report that her writing was wonderful. There’s a major cast of characters here that helped Isobel (and Andrew, more on him in a bit) throughout her adjustment period and each and every one of them had a distinct voice. The major supporting characters (Joanna, the aunt, Charles, even Joanna’s mom) were characterized well (and I am definitely a fan of Joanna/Charles — that was so cute and so unexpected I kind of want a novella about them). The entire time I was reading, I felt like I was transported to Regency England because of the vivid descriptions of each scene!
One more thing to rave about is that Ms. Harbaugh definitely excels at characterization. For example, I severely disliked Andrew for a good 3/4 of the book. I thought he was too judgmental, too preachy and kind of insincere about his feelings towards Isobel. I thought he was sentimentalizing what they had in the past and wasn’t seeing that things have changed. But at the last quarter of the book, Andrew, thankfully, realizes that he’s been too harsh on Isobel and that he was being mean and unfair to her and then he redeems himself so beautifully.
And just because the main focus was on Isobel trying to be less of a brat doesn’t mean that there was almost no romance whatsoever. The romance between Isobel and Andrew was frustrating because of a lot of misunderstandings and things that were unsaid, but I thought that, regardless of their foibles, they complimented each other perfectly and the way they came to be together was wonderfully romantic.
What I Didn’t Like:
It took me a while to get the hang of figuring out which character’s perspective I was following because the point of view changed kind of abruptly? This mainly happened in the beginning of the novel when the characters and the plot were being set up and with some of the servants and it was rather confusing.
Bottom line is that I seriously enjoyed and loved this book! I thought it was a fun read that actually tackled some pretty serious issues such as humility and forgiveness. There is a bit of a Christian/religious tone to this book, especially with Andrew being a former vicar, but it’s not too overbearing. If you’re looking for a book that is big on characterization and redemption but don’t want something too angsty or overly-serious, I think you should check out Her Grace in Disgrace!
Eirene -- an internet persona for a real-life international relations/East Asian studies undergrad who reads too much, sleeps too much and procrastinates too much. She loves reading romances and reviewing romances and one day hopes to have a solution for world peace and to have her own happily ever after.
You can find more reviews by her and her co-reviewer at their site.