A comedy of manners set in Regency England, which sees Jude Morgan at his witty and stylish best. As a young woman, clever, self-reliant Lydia Templeton scandalised society by rejecting Lewis Durrant, the county’s most eligible bachelor. Ten years later, having concluded that matters of the heart need no longer trouble her, Lydia is quite happy to remain unwed. But others still seek Lydia’s advice on their love lives, and when her godmother implores her to sort out her young ward Phoebe’s accidental double-engagement, it’s hard to refuse, although the prospect fills Lydia with horror – especially as she must go to Bath of all places to do it. However, finding a solution to Phoebe’s dilemma proves far trickier than anyone imagined and, as affairs become increasingly tangled, Lydia finds that her own heart is not quite the closed book she thought it was…
Heat Rating = 1 (“sweet”)
REVIEW RATING 4 stars
REVIEW by CAZ:
|I felt that the book was a little slow to start, and the opening chapter was somewhat of an irrelevance. But once the story got going, I found myself eager to find out what happened next – even though it was fairly obvious how things were going to turn out!|
Lydia Templeton bears many similarities to Emma Woodhouse, in that she lives with her father (thankfully, Dr Templeton seems to be rather more sensible than Mr Woodhouse!) and is a woman of independent means, with a good position in society who does not mean to marry. Unlike Emma, Lydia is thirty and regards herself as being firmly “on the shelf”. She had rejected a proposal from neighbour and family friend Mr Lewis Durrant some years before the events of the book, but despite that, they have remained firm friends. Durrant is somewhat waspish at times, and although he can come across as rather grumpy, I can forgive him that for the way he handles the atrocious Mrs Vawser.
I loved the writing and the characterisation; the grotesque Mrs Allardyce and Mrs Vawser; the charming but ultimately selfish Hugh Hanley and the young, beautiful Phoebe, who can’t make up her mind and choose between her suitors – are all very well drawn. Lydia is gradually revealed to be somewhat of an unreliable narrator; although she appears to be less sure of herself and her ability to guide a younger woman than Emma does – Lydia really doesn’t want to bear the responsibility of introducing Phoebe into society, which she disguises to herself as self-doubt – she nonetheless has a wilful, selfish streak, although that doesn’t detract from her appeal, because it makes her less than perfect.
If I have a complaint about the characterisation it’s that Mr Durrant – rather like Mr Knightley – seems to reside mostly in the background, and I would have liked to have known more of him. And thus, the element of romance between the hero and heroine takes a back seat to the comedy of manners being played out among all the other characters, which is why this gets four stars rather than five. If you’re looking for a book in which the romance takes centre-stage, then this might not be the book for you. But if you want something that’s well-written, with sparkling dialogue and wit, good characterisation and plenty of nods towards the Great Jane, then look no further.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
I’m a musician, teacher and mother of two girls and have always been an avid reader. I was introduced to the novels of Jean Plaidy at the age of eleven and have never looked back! I love good, meaty, well-researched historical fiction – whether it’s about real figures (Sharon Penman) or fictional ones (Dorothy Dunnett), but I’m a sucker for a well-written historical romance, too. Current favourite authors include Meredith Duran, Sherry Thomas and Cecilia Grant.