A Game of Patience is Elisabeth’s Fairchild’s latest Regency. And patience is exactly what this book requires of its readers. I’ve found that I usually like Fairchild’s novels. Unfortunately, I ran out of patience long before this one concluded.
The author’s introductory note explains: “The game we call Solitaire in the United States has been known in England for many years as Patience, the virtue most required for successful play.” The game begins when Patience Ballard goes to London to find Philip Yorke (nicknamed Pip), Viscount Royston, a childhood friend she has always wanted to marry. Patience is a tomboy who has grown up to become very beautiful. Once in London, she enlists the help of another close childhood friend, Richard. We learn early in the book that Pip is a charming and restless womanizer and that Richard loves Patience and has done so for years.
Although variations of this plot are common, I thought the idea held promise . . . at first. Fairchild sets up the love triangle fairly well, and Patience and Richard (the real hero) definitely have chemistry.
Therein lies the problem. Usually chemistry isn’t problematic, but Patience spends so much time in the book rhapsodizing about “Dearest Pip” that Richard seems to be an afterthought. And even when Patience and Richard are together, they spend much of their conversation speaking at cross-purposes, with Richard speaking obliquely about the woman he loves and Patience being amazingly obtuse about who he means. I’m not surprised to see these elements in the book since they seem standard for the plot. I was surprised to see them continue for chapter after chapter, combined with endless unnecessary plot twists. This is where the need for patience began.
Speaking of which, let’s talk about the heroine. I always admire writers who don’t write about stereotypical women. Patience isn’t your typical Regency heroine. She’s young and vivacious without being insipid, but I can’t say that I like her. In fact, I couldn’t relate to her because it takes her so long to acknowledge Pip’s shallowness. Her thoughts toward the hero are no better - she muses about “Dear Richard” so often that the phrase seems condescending. “You would lose patience with your Patience?” she asks Richard at one point. In a word: yes.
Even without the plot and character shortcomings, I had problems with this book’s abrupt conclusion. By all definitions, good romances include a strong conclusion. A Game of Patience doesn’t provide one. Yes, there’s the requisite scene of happily-ever-after, but the events that precede it make it difficult to believe or rejoice in it.
I finished the book feeling very unsatisfied. I couldn’t stop thinking that things would have been nicely (and easily) resolved if Patience and Richard had just talked openly to each other. Romances use dramatic tension, but the tension generated by this plot simply wasn’t enough to sustain the novel.
A Game of Patience made a good start, but sadly, my patience was not rewarded. Eight pages simply weren’t enough to make the conclusion work. My advice? Look to one of Fairchild’s earlier books, such as The Counterfeit Coachman or Captain Cupid Calls the Shots, if you want a Regency with likable characters and a satisfying conclusion. You won’t find those things here.