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Review: The Social Tutor (Branches of Love #1) by Sally Britton

In this Regency-Era romance, we follow the lives of Christine Devon and Thomas Gilbert. Thomas has just returned from Italy where he studied horse breeding and collected three prize mares he hopes will be the beginnings of his horse farm. Unfortunately, due to a few bad years’ harvests and his father’s care for their tenants, the Gilbert estate is failing financially. The Gilbert fortune is at stake and Thomas must find a way to save his family’s finances without also giving up his dream of a horse farm.

Christine Devon is preparing for her first season and the expectations of her father weight heavily on her shoulders. His disappointment with her older sister Julia’s “failed” season is tangible in the home, devoid of much love and laughter since their mother’s death many years ago. Christine wants nothing more than to please her father, but her conversation and interactions with young men leave her seeing herself as lacking.

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What is The Social Tutor about?

The Social Tutor is actually at its bones about marrying for love rather than other reasons. For various reasons, the main protagonists (it’s hardly a spoiler for a romance novel to point out they are love interests) can’t be together. Thomas is in no position to seek a wife with his family’s finances precarious, and Christine is being guided by her father to make very specific choices regarding her future husband. Thomas Gilbert does not make a good match for her prospects. Still, the two have more in common with one another than they could expect to find, and a growing connection that overshadows the unfortunate truths of their situations.

Genre: Regency Romance

Pretty self explanatory here. This book is set in the Regency Era and adapts many of the tropes and hallmarks of writing based on that time period. It is also absolutely a romance novel.

Tropes: Social Ineptitude is Charming

One of the biggest tropish themes in this book concerns a dynamic between Christine and Thomas. Christine, with little feminine guidance in her life, has been taught to converse in a way that adds intelligence into the conversation. Unfortunately, she often says rather unladylike things in her pursuit of doing so. Though this is viewed negatively by other conversation partners, this character flaw is seen as charming by Thomas Gilbert, who respects many of Christine’s opinions.

Plot: A little Romeo and Juliet esc

There is very much an air of the doomed relationship in this book. Christine and Thomas quickly grow close and have much in common conversationally, as well as a degree of immediate attraction to one another. But there is always a reminder in the back of both minds that social and financial situations are not in their favor as a match.

The Good

I thought this was a cute novel with some interesting protagonists. I was immediately fascinated by Christine’s family consisting of three daughters who seemingly can do nothing to please their father. Christine herself is bewildered by the stubborn and rebellious behaviors she sees in her older sister Julia, whose season was by all accounts a failure that left her a spinster in their father’s care. Though Christine is ultimately the product of her environment, she also has a spirit of independence in her. She has many opinions and sees polite conversation as boring, unnecessary, and stagnant. I enjoyed her relationship with Thomas, as from the beginning they saw one another as equals due to the mutual love of horses that has connected them for longer than they realize. I also enjoyed Thomas’s mother, who plays a bit of a hilarious role in their early relationship.

The Okay

God I hated Christine’s father. You’re absolutely supposed to, but I hated him so much that any scene he was in I very much wanted to skip. Christine was definitely the product of her environment for a little while, which was…a whole thing. While some of the things she says, especially to her sisters, were frustrating she at least realizes they were wrong later.

The Bad

I’m not a huge fan of the trope in which a couple doesn’t realize they’re in love with one another until somebody else tells them. Though there was sufficient evidence of attraction on both sides, I found it frustrating that Christine in particular didn’t “understand” her feelings. It just seemed unrealistic, and uncharacteristically dumb of them both.

Final Thoughts

This was a pretty low stakes read all things considered, but one I definitely enjoyed! Christine’s intelligence was fun to read about, even if her father was not. Thomas is also an interesting and intelligent character and their mutual connection over horses was a great way to demonstrate what they have in common and how they fall in love. I also loved the way they end up resolving the barriers keeping them apart (no spoilers though). This book did a good job with the “acquaintances to friends to lovers” trope and additionally painted a convincing picture of the love between Christine and Thomas.

Recommendations

Article, “History in Color: A Black American Romance Roundtable”

Goodreads List: Black Heroines in Historical Romance

Article, “Fifty Shades of White: the long fight against racism in romance novels”

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By Catherine

I'm a lover of books, coffee, wine, and bees. Happy to join the ranks of book bloggers everywhere!

One reply on “Review: The Social Tutor (Branches of Love #1) by Sally Britton”

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