Merely A Mister (An utterly biased review)

Merely A Mister by Sherry Lynn Ferguson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

To begin, let me say that Ms Ferguson penned one of my favourite regency romances a few years ago and so bought my loyalty for all eternity. It was the charming Lord Sidley's Last Season (Avalon Romance) Lord Sidley’s Last Season, which I would recommend to most regency lovers.

In three related but independent books, Ms Ferguson tells us the tales of three men, three brothers who are all descendants of dukes and all very stubbornly different from each other.

In Merely A Mister, the third and possibly final book in this series, we read about Lord Hayden, the eldest son and the heir to the Duke of Braughton.

Through Quiet Meg (Avalon Romance) (Avalon Romance) Quiet Meg (Avalon Romance) and Major Lord David Major Lord David I have known the dutiful, solemn side of the Marquis. I have also seen him come to his brother’s aid in a most unconventional way. It is easy to say that he puts family and honour before all personal happiness – he has sacrificed much – but he isn’t a push over. He challenges his father’s outdated ideas as he advices the Duke on matters of politics and admits to himself that it would take time and a lot of patience to usher in changes through his father. But as perfect a son and Marquis as Lord Hayden is, there are those in the ton who think him too serious, too much given to grim duty. And the same voices dub him ‘His Resplendence’ for certainly one of the duties of the heir to Braughton is to give in to the strict dictatorship of a demanding valet.

And so this elegant, sombre aristocrat is found in a villa by the Lake Camo at the beginning of our story, where he paused with a friend for a few weeks during a post-war tour of the Continent.

But Lord Hayden isn’t well, he suffers, as he has since he was sixteen, from a lung infection that infrequently but for weeks renders him incapacitated. In Camo, despite the balmy weather, he can feel himself sickening again. He knows what comes next and in a bid to keep his family and friends from knowing of his illness he flies back to England and onward to some northern estates that his father had mentioned having some small trouble in some time ago.

But before he could reach the Priory where he’d sent his men and carriage to ahead of himself, he takes an ill-advised ride on an open cart with a tradesman and suffers a sudden relapse. He thought he had time before he was thus pulled under, but the journey had exhausted him and his one attempt at courting adventure landed him in an unconscious pile on the doorsteps of one Anne Whyte.

And so Hayden meets a woman whose education was far from conventional, who is determined and blunt and utterly capable. Anne Whyte eases his suffering and in a few days, Hayden finds himself improving more quickly than he had ever before. He finds himself flirting with her and then being unable to to stop himself from asking too much about her. He finds that the mere idea of another man courting her angers him and that he is extremely reluctant to correct her impression that he was a ‘Mister’ Myles, and not Myles Trent, the Marquis of Hayden.

But as wonderful as those idyllis days in the country were, the Marquis had heard enough as Mister Myles to understand that his father’s worries hadn’t been misguided. He had never before interested himself in the running of Lord Braughton’s many estates, always preferring to guide his father in politics instead, but now his attention was caught. A certain Mr Wenfield, who had rented Hollen Hall from Braughton some years ago was charging its tenants too much and blaming Hayden’s father for the rise in rent. Hayden knows this to be false and decides to investigate. But for that he must leave Anne Whyte and return to his previous life, that of the duty-bound Lord Hayden.

On one hand is the weight of expectations of his family and on the other his heart’s desire. Hayden is fighting hard against his own happiness, but does he really have to?

I have always liked Ms Ferguson’s fictional heroes. They are distinct creatures with realistic demons. In Myles’, Lord Hayden’s, case it was mostly his conviction that as heir he had certain burdens that he would shoulder alone, and if that meant entering a loveless marriage to the daughter of a peer, then that’s what he would do.

Anne Whyte was an intelligent woman with a penchant for the medicinal arts. She is a gentleman’s daughter and a lovely girl. That she was unmarried raised a lot of questions amongst their acquaintances, but if anyone was ill, it was to her they would send them. If some called her witch, she didn’t mind. She laughed it off with her father, who had thoughtfully made provisions to ensure her independence after his demise. It was for him that she worried, and in that worry she turned to Hayden.

Her character was a mix of innocence and practicality. It is an underlying trait in all of Ferguson’s heroines. In the story, she suffers from jealousy, insecurity and hurt, but through it all her introspection shows through. Given time to cool down, she analyses her behaviour and realizes that she never gave him a chance to explain. I think that’s one of my favourite parts. The conclusion. Ferguson does Denouements very, very well. They are never carried through just on drama, but are always softly, sweetly romantic.

Even in her first historical The Honorable Marksley (Avalon Romance) The Honorable Marksley, a book I never enjoyed quite as much as the others, I loved the ending. Not just the resolution, but the conversation, the setting.

It may not seem much to most readers, but for me the ending is everything – it is what leaves that final after taste in my mouth and colours by opinions when I think back on a story. The ending must be treated with respect.

The only reason I deprived this book of a single star was because in its predecessors I had judged Hayden to be a little like another Sidley, and hoped for an indescribable ‘something more’ in his own book. There was something about that character (Lord Sidley) I can’t quite explain, that caught my imagination. But Hayden is his own man and of course his story is very different. It was probably my own expectations that ruined the story a little for me, but I think if I hadn’t read Sidley before this, I would have gladly given it all five stars for the wonderfully smooth reading experience. =D

DISCLAIMER: I have a steady email based friendship with the author, whom I found through goodreads, and when I confided the uncertain state of my finances to her which deprived me of luxuries like buying hardcovers, she sent me a copy of her most recent publication with her regards.

View all my reviews

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11 Responses to Merely A Mister (An utterly biased review)

  1. Anna Sara says:

    Hi there,

    I also really like Sherry Lynn Ferguson’s work, and while checking recently to see if she’d published anything new, ran across what I *think* may have been her obituary. Since you keep up a correspondence with her, do you know if she’s ok?

    Thanks,

    Anna

    • trojanwalls says:

      Hey Anna,

      About a year ago Ms Ferguson abruptly stopped answering my emails. Since we had been corresponding steadily for two years and had never failed to answer each other’s emails, I was convinced that there was something wrong.
      I found the same obituary but I can’t be certain that it’s her. I wrote to her publisher but didn’t get any response. I have her post box address but it was strictly for book related correspondence. I don’t know how to contact her family since she was very circumspect about protecting contact information. All I knew was that she lived in Washington.
      At this point I’m just hoping she’s alright.

      • Anna says:

        I’d seen somewhere an online reference to her living in Virginia, although the blogger or reader didn’t indicate how she knew. The obit we both saw was for a woman who died in Virginia. If Sherry told you Washington, she could have meant DC. The chapter of RWA she’s listed as belonging to is an online chapter, although many people do belong to more than one. She was definitely not a member of either the Seattle or Everett RWA chapters. The RWA link to her page doesn’t work either.

        Given this and what you’ve related, it’s hard not to assume the worst. I have to wonder, though, if the obituary was hers, why there was no mention of her being a writer. But I guess if she were exceptionally private, maybe whoever wrote it either didn’t know or was respecting her wishes by not including it.

        • trojanwalls says:

          I wish it didn’t make sense, but it does. I’ve been hoping that she just tired of our correspondence or something. =\ I’m writing to her publisher again. Maybe they’ll answer this time.

          • Anna Sara says:

            Did she have an agent? You might have more success querying in that quarter.

            For that matter, maybe pinging the RWA chapter she was affiliated with might produce an answer.

            The one thing that does occur to me, and it’s probably a long shot, is if Sherry Lynn Ferguson was a pen name. If she were really private, it’s a little strange she’d be writing under her own name. However, she was publishing at least as far back as 1997, if not earlier, and a persons circumstances can change over the years. Maybe privacy wasn’t a consideration when she started.

            • trojanwalls says:

              You know that’s a completely valid hypothesis. She didn’t even use her picture in her About Author section. And while she’d said some things that made me believe that her first name was real, Ferguson may very well be a pseudonym.

              Could you contact her RWA chapter? I’ll put up whatever response I get from Avalon here. I don’t remember any mention of an agent and I haven’t found any information relating to that in the little there is about her on the net. .

            • Anna Sara says:

              I can certainly ping them to see if they know what’s up. With it being an online chapter, I don’t know how closely they keep tabs on their members, but it’s worth a try.

  2. Anna Sara says:

    I just got an email from the secretary of Sherry’s RWA chapter. She said she couldn’t share member information, but would contact the RWA PAN (Published Author Network) Liaison to see if she knows Sherry. She said she’d contact me once she’d heard something back.

    Pretty much the response I expected, but perhaps something will come of it. Sherry wasn’t particularly high-profile, so I can’t guess the odds the PAN liaison would know her.

  3. Anna says:

    Heard back from the RWA chapter secretary. The Sherry Lynn that died in March is not the author Sherry Lynn. She said she’d pass my email address on, not that I expect to hear back since she wouldn’t know me from Adam. There could still be something going on with her since she does seem to have dropped her profile, however you might try pinging her again if you’re inclined.

    • trojanwalls says:

      I did. I have been trying to contact her through her email and last week I finally sent a letter to the PO box address I had. I don’t expect answers to either, really, given that she must have had good reasons for stopping communications suddenly, but man, am I glad we were wrong about that obituary.
      Anyway, you never know. It’s been a year. Maybe whatever was going on has blown over. There’s a good chance she’ll answer you. After all the first time she answered me (and I wasn’t expecting it) was when I wrote to her complaining about the high price of her hardbacks and shipping to my country (a stupid thing to complain about to the author instead of the publisher I know, but I was less enlightened reader back then).

      • Anna Sara says:

        Probably the reason you didn’t get a response from Avalon is because they technically no longer exist, the imprint having been bought by Amazon in 2012: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avalon_Books

        BTW, I found her FB page – either she never filled out the profile or it’s been wiped, but there was one piece of info that was useful. I followed that info and am 99% sure I know who she is. If I’m right, she’s very, very well connected, both politically and in business. That, I suspect, is why she’s so private and difficult to trace. I don’t feel comfortable posting her name/info on a public blog since she’s obviously taken pains to be discreet. If you want to discuss it further, we should take the convo off the blog and into email.

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