Simply Anna: A Regency Romance, by Jennifer Moore
Having read two books by the author now, I think I have some idea about what she is about and the way that she deals with romance novels, and I have to admit I like it. My biggest problem with most contemporary regency novels that I have read, and I must admit to having read quite a few, is that most of them are anachronistic with the morals so that they would suit our own times and not the demanding standards of the time, even if those demanding standards were somewhat double standards. In this book, and in the author’s works as a whole, one can see heroes and heroines who behave in a proper way as they struggle to deal with the complexities of life and communication of what is inside of the partner appears to be a consistent concern of the author, and certainly one I can relate too all too well given my own awkwardness as a person. In this particular case it is a strong case of amnesia on the part of one of the main characters that complicates matters, as one cannot carry on a courtship with someone who does not know who they are and if they are married or anything like that, and the experience ends up ultimately being a good one for most of the people involved.
This novel is a short one that runs about 200 pages or so and happens to include a story that is based around Jamaica. Anna Wheeler is a young orphan who has signed up to be a servant in the house of the Lockwoods, one of the most wealthy families in Jamaica, and is on her way to their plantation in Jamaica when she is cast overboard after trying to get Nico, her charge, his play sword back in a small boat. When Anna is found by the handsome but heartbroken Lord Philip Hamilton on the beach she is near death and remembers nothing of her life and becomes a guest of somewhat ambiguous and unknown status in a place where the threat of racial war and the vengeful plans of a former overseer make life tense and threaten the goal of Philip to make money on his venture and to survive the toughening process that Jamaica provides. Here it is obvious that Anna is a gorgeous and decent and clever young woman and that Philip is a decent and deserving man, the only barrier being the fact that no one knows who Anna is and therefore she does not have a place even as she turns the world around through her observations and insight.
By and large this is the sort of romance novel that is easy to get behind. And while the morals of the characters can be appreciated, there is still one area of this book that remains anachronistic and likely always will be. In our contemporary age, we cannot view someone who casually owns slaves and exploits them for economic profit to be a good person, or anything other than a villainous sort of figure, even though a great many people behaved in such a way in the past. We simply cannot–and probably should not–recover a mindset that would allow us to see such treatment as the brutal exploitation of slave labor as a normal aspect of life that was praiseworthy if it allowed one to have wealth and status, but it does represent an anachronism nonetheless, and the author even acknowledges the difficulty it provided her in the book’s afterwards, so perhaps we should not be too hard on an author who finds it necessary to make her characters be on the extreme of humanitarian and radical when it comes to racial ideas simply to be possible to see them as decent and upstanding characters in our own time. The past is truly another country.