Monday, January 27, 2014

ESCAPE TO THE PAST WITH: An Accomplished Woman by Jude Morgan

I needed something light and fun to read next, so I grabbed An Accomplished Woman by Jude Morgan. I’ve become quite a Jude Morgan fan since reading Passion and A Little Folly. I still have a couple more of his books on my shelf, waiting to be read, but I bought this one recently because I wanted to read another of his Austen-esque romances.

The accomplished woman at the center of this novel is Lydia Templeton. Lydia is an independent-minded bluestocking who, at thirty, is on the shelf and quite content to be so. In her youth, she rejected the marriage proposal of her neighbor and friend of the family, Mr. Lewis Durrant. He was not only a very eligible suitor but also a man she genuinely liked even if she often found him insufferable. Since then, she has not seriously considered the matter of marriage except to consider herself contentedly unwed. She and Mr. Durrant are still neighbors and continue to see a good deal of one another. They still find each other sometimes tolerable, sometimes oddly charming, and often insufferable.

Lydia has such a reputation for being sensible that she is tasked by her godmother with chaperoning a naive young girl as she summers in Bath. The girl, Phoebe, a beautiful heiress newly introduced to society, was too successful in London. Two men, equally eligible, have fallen in love with her. The problem is that Phoebe cannot choose between them. She needs the advice of a steady, mature companion. Against her better judgment, Lydia is compelled to play that role.

In Bath, Lydia tries to be neutral and let Phoebe’s courtship(s) take a natural course, but the choice seems so obvious to Lydia, it’s difficult to remain impartial. As an added complication, Mr. Durrant is also in Bath. Determined not to leave his fortune to a wastrel of a nephew, Mr. Durrant has decided it’s time he found himself a wife. Lydia is subjected to the spectacle of his courting someone else and finds it not as amusing as she anticipated.

In true romance fashion, it’s pretty easy to guess how the relationships will all work out, but it’s fun seeing the characters bumble their way there. Morgan is a master at witty dialogue. The verbal sparring between Lydia and Lewis is delightful because it is so clever and even when they are trying to one-up one another, they are never truly malicious. (I can’t enjoy Romances where the characters are truly ugly to one another.)

Still, although I enjoyed this, I can’t count it among my favorites. It has a very slow start. It takes a long while to set up the premise, which isn’t as complicated as all that, but Morgan works in a lot of Lydia’s angst and reluctance and personal backstory before the plot can get off the ground. I like books with character development, but so much of it takes place in Lydia’s head that the story feels stalled.

It does get going when Lydia and Phoebe arrive in Bath. There are balls, entertainments, misunderstandings, bold confrontations and finally, satisfying resolutions. It’s very much what I expected for a book set in Bath styled after Jane Austen’s romances. But I think my next Jude Morgan book will be something more substantial.

I've had a good month for historical fiction! This is my sixth book for the historical fiction challenge hosted by Historical Tapestry.

1 comment:

  1. I actually really love this one-I thought the similarities to Emma made this one a near perfect read for me. I hope you find more titles from Morgan to love soon!