Quite honestly, my chief reaction to this book is puzzlement as to why such a …well, ordinary book merits a big hardcover push from a major American publisher.
Without knowing anything about the author, I picked this book to review on the basis of Amazon buzz raining with comparisons to Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer. Well, to quote Cher from the movie Clueless (far more deserving of those Jane Austen comparisons, by the way), as if!
Don’t get me wrong, Indiscretion is competent – sometimes very competent. But it doesn’t sparkle as books by both Ms. Austen and Ms. Heyer do and anybody who’s ever read one of those Regencies from the “wise” school will recognize just who is going to betray whom before the book is done.
Caroline Fortune is the daughter of one of those familiar Regency characters, the feckless father. Tired of dodging creditors and moving to lodgings ever more seedy, Caroline takes a position as a companion to a widow living in Brighton. Of course, the widow is another one of those familiar Regency characters – the capricious, cruel, and selfish mistress. In addition to manipulating her servants and tormenting her niece and nephew with the promise of inheriting her fortune, her callous treatment of Caroline culminates with her dismissal after she requests leave to attend to matters following her father’s death.
The loss of her father, however, leads to happier circumstances for Caroline when her aunt and uncle from her long-dead mother’s estranged family (yes, I forgot to mention that her mother was another of those familiar Regency characters: a woman from a good family deserted by them for marrying a wastrel) take her in. The fly in the ointment, however, is the presence of Stephen Milner, a neighbor whom Caroline seems to find endlessly annoying. (Another of those familiar Regency plot devices rears its head.)
While happily living in the family vicarage, Caroline runs into her former mistresses’ niece and nephew, as well as her own version of the callous wastrel who wronged her while in Brighton now – disturbingly enough – engaged to Stephen’s sweet and loving sister.
Frankly, the biggest problem here is that this book lacks any real sense of momentum to keep the reader turning pages. What kept me doing just that was my commitment to review this book and some enjoyment of the dialogue between Stephen and Caroline. The author writes in what feels like pitch-perfect Regency speak (with a notable exception that I will mention in a moment) and both characters display a pleasing wit.
But for those considering this book for the sheer pleasure of immersing themselves in the Regency experience, there is a moment so jarring on page 374 that I have to warn you about it. In response to a character dramatically declaring that he is a “flattened man” following a betrayal, Stephen Milner, Regency gentleman, intones: “I hate it when that happens.” And that, ladies and gentleman, perfectly defines your classic “pulling a reader out of the story” moment.
But back to my puzzlement. Could this major hardcover push have anything to do with the fact that “Jude Morgan” is really British writer Tim Wilson? Well, who knows, but that just might explain some of it. As it is, I remain mystified.