Confessions of a Little Black Gown
Sometimes I’m in the mood for something light and fluffy – preferably light and fluffy with smart dialogue and/or a ripping good adventure involved. Confessions of a Little Black Gown sounded like it had to potential to hit just that spot – plus it has a gorgeous cover. I tore into the book hoping to lose myself in a fun read. Sadly, the fun stopped relatively early in this book, and the result was a rather ordinary read.
Tally Langley’s twin sister has succeeded in marrying a duke and has now decided to become a celebrated matchmaker. To this end, she is determined to throw a successful house party – successful meaning that matches will be made. And she definitely intends to start with a match for Tally.
Tally feels no end of unenthusiasm for her sister’s plan, but she has little choice in the matter. So it’s off to the country for a party. And that’s where it all starts to get a little crazy. Somehow Tally’s trunk is switched for another at an inn, and Tally finds herself with all manner of interesting items – including a barely decent black gown. Tally catches the attention of the man who turns out to be our hero while wearing the dress, though things become complicated because: (1) Our hero isn’t exactly who Tally thinks he is; (2) Tally and her cousin are up to something; (3) the hero is actually on government business attempting to find an escaped criminal who may or may not be at the house party; (4) the hero isn’t quite sure what to make of a young lady who shows up at dinner in a scandalous black dress; and (5) there are all kinds of antics involving people skulking about, writing plays, and all manner of other foolishness (including the obligatory street criminal with a heart of gold, naturally), none of which rang terribly true.
And therein lies the problem. While this novel has some very fun moments, including a bit with Fordyce’s book of sermons that made me chuckle, too few of the details passed the smell test and the story, therefore, lacks a certain kind of emotional reality. There are many stories out there, both in literary and in genre fiction, that contain historical or geographical details that are far from accurate, but which have a certain emotional authenticity and relatability that makes the story connect with the reader. I find that in these types of stories, the work transcends the veneer of anachronistic setting and reaches the reader on an internal level, attaching the reader to it. That just does not happen here. At the best moments, I watched the characters with a distant sort of amusement and at worst, they annoyed me.
While this book is a Regency-set historical, I would use that term loosely. There are certain obligatory mentions of France throughout the text and there are even French spies in the story. However, the main characters tend to have rather short memories when it comes to current events of their time. One even suggests a honeymoon in Paris (perhaps they’re into adventure travel?). In reality, there is little here beyond some of the spy plot details to make the book specific to the Regency, and, given the behavior of the characters, it could have been set in just about any time period. This is fine if you just want to fantasize about pretty Regency dresses, but if you want a deep sense of place, you will find it lacking.
At her best, Elizabeth Boyle writes some very fun screwball comedy. However, in this book, plotting went a little too far over the top, too much of the repartee failed to sparkle, and the wallpaper of the setting looked a little shabby. It was rather like attending a overacted production in a theatre that had seen better days. Not breathtakingly hideous, but definitely somewhat blah. For good dialogue and madcap antics, I think I’ll stick to some of Boyle’s earlier works, such as Something About Emmaline.
I enjoy spending as much time as I can between the covers of a book, traveling through time and around the world. When I'm not having adventures with fictional characters, I'm an attorney in Virginia and I love just hanging out with my husband, little man, and the cat who rules our house.
|Review Date:||April 4, 2009|
|Book Type:||European Historical Romance|