This book proudly declares itself to be a Regency Romantic Mystery. There was a Regency setting, I agree to that. Romantic? Not to me. Mystery? If mystery means the hero and heroine run about trying to solve a murder, a mystery it was. It is said that two out of three ain’t bad. In this case, it was.
While fishing, neighbors Lydia Trevelyan and Lord Beaumont discover a body in the river. It is a woman called Prissie, mistress of Lydia’s father, Sir John. Why was she murdered, and by whom? Lydia and Beaumont follow the trail to London, where Lydia impersonates Prissie’s sister to be able to question other ladies of the night. Prissie proves to have been involved with a unsavory character called Dooley, who was pressuring her to do forgery for him. Will this revelation hurt Sir John’s political work? Lydia and Beaumont continue their detective work and discover love along the path of the murderer.
Lydia gives the word spoiled new dimensions. Thankfully, she is not loud and bratty. It is painfully clear she is whiling away her time until she can be properly married. She has a half-hearted interest in the newspapers, because she wishes to have something to say to her father once he visits. Even haring about on the murder mystery is just something to do before getting on with her real life. Lydia also suffers from the tendency to ignore sound advice and go rushing into impossible situations. She also indulges in the habit of thinking about things for several pages only to be proven wrong with a few words from the hero.
Poor Beaumont was so insubstantial, I can’t come up with a decent description of him. He runs along with Lydia’s investigations, tries to prevent her from foolishness, and generally reacts rather than acts. I felt no sympathy for the actions and worries of Lydia and Beaumont – they could just return to their cozy homes and forget about it all. They displayed sympathy, but no genuine compassion for the lives of the soiled doves of London. I would say those two richly deserved each other; as both are aristocratic nonentities, they are the perfect match.
The reason Lydia and Beaumont take up the investigation instead of turning to the authorities, is very weak. That no one seems much concerned that they go to London together, is amazing. Overall, the plot was so inane it made me moan. The whole point of the book seems to have been so Beaumont could work up the courage to propose, and for countrified Lydia to have a quick peek at the big bad world outside her safe nook.
The plus in that F is for poor Prissie. In spite of her choice of profession, she comes across as a devoted mother, a pleasant mistress, and generally a kind soul. Halfway through the book, I wondered why she had to die and leave the gentry alive to fritter away their time and mine.
Some books seem to dislike you from the moment you turn the first page. They do their best to keep you from ever getting into their story or feeling anything for the characters. Re-reading Little Coquette to write this review, I sincerely tried to put those reactions behind me, but I’m afraid the book remained so silly I had trouble finishing it. This book might decide to like you; I just can’t see why you would like it.