Friday, November 27, 2020

BOOK REVIEW: Flirtation and Folly (A Season in London: Book 1) by Elizabeth Rasche

Flirtation and Folly (A Season in London: Book 1) by Elizabeth Rasche is an enjoyable and unusual Regency Romance. 

The bare bones of the plot seem fairly commonplace. Marianne Mowbrey, the eldest daughter of the large brood of a country rector and his ineffectual wife, is given the opportunity for a London Season and is determined to make the most of it. (The companion of her exceptionally wealthy Aunt Harriet is away and ailing, and Harriet has requested the company of one of her nieces for a while.) After some missteps and flirtations with the wrong men, Marianne realizes the right man has been there all along.

Nothing new there. But Marianne is not your usual Romance heroine. She isn’t looking for a good match to rescue her family but rather to escape them. She’s tired of taking care of her younger siblings and having to be the family drudge. In fact, her thoughts of them are full of  resentment, not fondness. Her nearest sister, Belinda, is also the recipient of an invitation to London by a wealthy benefactress, and Marianne resents that, too. Belinda is the carefree, charming beauty of the family, and Marianne’s jealousy of her has simmered for so long that it frequently boils over.

Marianne is not a particularly good judge of character. She’s smart but not clever. And her looks are merely average. All she has going for her, really, is that she’s nice, which in vicious ton circles is more of a handicap than an asset.

Marianne’s provincial worldview has been knocked off kilter by the novels she’s read. (She seems particularly addicted to romances.) She is convinced that her true self is that of a romance heroine. (Cute bit of self-referential theme.) Given the opportunity, she expects she will marvelously, miraculously, rise to the occasion and become the toast of the ton.

This doesn’t happen. The weird thing about this novel is that it is unexpectedly realistic. It’s more of a story of a girl coming to grips with her true self than it is a fluffy romance.

There is, of course, a romance embedded in the story. The identity of the hero becomes clear pretty quickly, though not to Marianne. He, too, seems a bit too ordinary to play the role of male protagonist in a storybook. He’s rich, but  he worked for his money. He’s attractive enough but doesn’t turn heads. And his charm lies in his niceness rather than in witty flirtation. He’s not in London looking for a wife, but rather to reclaim, somehow, the family estate that slipped through his father’s fingers. And he has some personality flaws of his own.

Like all good Romances, there is a happily-ever-after ending that the reader can see coming. But on the way to it, this novel has more than the usual depth.

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