Miss Cheney’s Charade
Poor Emma Cheney! She is much too sweet and unassuming a girl to be saddled with such dreadful writing. Even worse, her hero, Peter, played her like a fiddle. All she wanted was to see a mummy and do a little drawing and she ends up exhausted, confused and used. The pity I felt for Emma is the only driving point I can find in this thoroughly lackluster Traditional Regency.
Emma Cheney is a young debutante on the outskirts of society. So far, she has yet to make a splash in the ton, much to her mother’s chagrin. Weary of the balls and teas, Emma spots an invitation to her brother George to attend a mummy unrolling. Being quite the bluestocking, Emma wants nothing more than to attend, but it would be way too scandalous to show up at the bachelor quarters of Sir Peter Dancy and be surrounded by all men. Plus the invite was to George, not her. Feeling restless, Emma decides to take her chances and borrow a few articles of clothing from the absent George and hide away in a corner to join the mummy party. She figures she can slip in, do some sketches and slip out without anyone the wiser.
As soon as Emma arrives at Sir Peter’s home, she is introduced to the man and he instantly knows that “George” is most assuredly a woman. With a little deducing, he figures this is George’s sister. He plays along with her at the mummy exhibition and notices her talent for drawing, hoping to enlist her aid to catalog his findings. This will throw them together much more often, and Emma is extremely uncomfortable with her charade. Goaded on by Sir Peter’s wily aunt, who convinces Emma that Peter doesn’t suspect a thing, Emma continues on as George. Meanwhile the smitten Sir Peter starts escorting Emma around when she is back in skirts. Emma would enjoy this much more if she wasn’t always waiting to be found out.
Sounds pleasant, right? I know, I know. That’s what I thought. Emma is a sweet girl, who I would have liked to get to know better when she wasn’t constantly confused by all the lying and scheming. She herself is not much of a schemer. Many times during the course of the story did Emma question the intelligence of Sir Peter because he couldn’t see through such a flimsy disguise. I questioned it, too. Especially when he knowingly puts the woman he loves into danger. His motives never made much sense and left me more than a bit befuddled.
The danger that Emma is in brings us to the real crux of the problem: a thoroughly boring and transparent mystery that does nothing for the plot but boost page count. Maybe, just maybe if Miss Cheney’s Charade was a simple chick-in-pants, house party sort of regency, things might have panned out. But no. The author had to throw in a plot of stolen jewels with a member of the ton suddenly becoming a great spy. It was almost enough to make one laugh. And not in the she’s-a-great-comedic-writer kind of way, either.
It’s rare to find a book labeled as a traditional regency on our list of books to review. Needless to say, I jumped on Miss Cheney’s Charade without doing much research on the writer. If I had, I might have had to foresight to pass on this dud. Poor Emma, indeed!