Monday, May 27, 2013

ESCAPE TO THE PAST WITH: A Little Folly by Jude Morgan

Finally! I’ve read a book by Jude Morgan. Over the years, I’ve read many reviews of several of his books and the reviews are uniformly glowing. (Not only that, but I have his name slightly mixed up in my head with that of the marvelous Jude Watson.) Confident that I would love Morgan’s writing, I ran out and bought Passion, then let it sit on my shelf. Undaunted, I bought A Taste of Sorrow when it came out. But I haven’t yet managed to read it. Although determined to be a fan, a quick look at the list of Morgan’s bibliography shows me how terribly far behind I’m falling. And then I read a review for A Little Folly.

Although published in 2010, the first US edition came out in March 2013, so it’s new-ish. A Regency  romance, A Little Folly is compared to the works of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer—compelling recommendations indeed! But rather than add it to my shelf of unread books, I borrowed it from the library and cracked it open. It is everything I hoped. Hurray! Now, I should get busy with those others.

The heroine of this charming tale is Louisa Carnell. Along with her brother, Valentine, Louisa has been brought up in a country estate by an overbearing, domineering father (mother long dead), whose nastiness would have crushed the life out of weaker beings. The steadfast mutual support of the siblings may have been the one thing that kept them going, that and the cautiously devoted friendship of a neighbor, Mr. James Tresilian.

One day, in an excess of bad temper, the father dies. After a period of confused mourning, Louisa and Valentine realize they are free to begin to live. They can make their own decisions. They don’t have to fear their father anymore. And so, with baby steps at first, they begin.

Louisa’s first major decision is that she will not marry the man her father has chosen for her, Mr. Pearce Lynley, who is every bit as controlling as her father had been, as soon as she can figure out how to make the insufferably proud man understand that she means what she says.

Shortly, they receive visitors from London, their own dear cousins (on their mother’s side) Tom and Sophie–as well as a guest of Sophie’s, Lady Harriet Eversholt. Harriet has made a disastrous marriage and is suffering the consequences. After a delightful spell of getting to know one another, the whole party removes to London for the end of the season and the celebration of Napoleon’s defeat. It is in London where the heady freedom the young Carnells are enjoying turns to folly. Valentine is smitten with the married Lady Harriet. Louisa is discovering the small tyranny of being a desirable heiress who might make her own choice and who has men to choose from–not that she is comfortable with power over men, only pleased that they do not have power over her–or something like that.

In this Austen-esque comedy-of-manners, there are aptly drawn characters giving us lovely insights into human foibles and a couple of villains to make the conflict threatening enough. Wit abounds–both in the narration and in the bantering of the characters, particularly that of Mr. Tresilian and Louisa. Mr. Lynley does not go away as Louisa bids him to do, and, moreover, he has a younger brother, a wounded war hero, the black sheep of the family. There is enough of convention in this type of book that a particular romantic outcome is expected; however, Morgan plays with convention by keeping a couple of the male leads in the running long enough to confuse expectations.

If you find yourself in the mood for a well-written, thoughtful Regency-era novel, you won’t go wrong with A Little Folly.

As a library book, this fits with the Library Books Reading Challenge hosted by Book Dragons Lair. And, it is my 13th of 25 books for the Historical Fiction Challenge hosted by Historical Tapestry.