Miss Timothy Perseveres
You’ve got to feel for Persys Timothy. For years she’s served as companion to her spectacularly beautiful cousin, Katherine. But now Katherine’s married (to the man Persys fancies herself in love with), and her aunt informs her – at the wedding breakfast! – that she must find another place to live. An enigmatic guest, the Duke of Eddington, comes to her rescue. His mother is in need of a companion while she recuperates from a nasty fall. As the saying goes, when there’s no alternative, there’s no problem. So off Persys goes with this man, not two days after meeting him.
The dowager duchess and Persys hit if off right away. The only problem is that the knee injury that’s kept the dowager off her feet heals too rapidly. For very different reasons, neither Persys nor the duke looks forward to her departure: she, because she has literally nowhere else to go, and he, because he finds himself strangely attracted to this small, quiet, intelligent woman.
His mother comes up with the inspired idea to open a school for young ladies in the dower house, now empty. Persys can run it. She has her doubts at first, but soon falls in with the scheme, mainly because it will keep her in the neighborhood of the duke, who somehow doesn’t seem quite as remote as he did before. His shiftless cousins, Charlotte and George, come to visit; Charlotte doesn’t bother to hide the fact that she considers Persys a threat to her own matrimonial plans for the duke, while Persys has to fend George off with an umbrella on more than one occasion.
Although the premise for this book was good, there were too many reasons not to like it, such as choppy writing, wooden dialogue, and characterizations that left much – too much – to the imagination. You never get the feeling that the hero and heroine really connect; she interacts more with his mother than with him! The author’s idea of character development is for the duke (that’s how Persys refers to him throughout) to call her “his Persian woman.” Now, I’m living in 1999, not 1815, and even today, if a relative stranger called me his any-kind-of woman, I’d be looking to use that umbrella on his head.
Almost the entire book is told from Persys’s point of view. It might as well have been a first-person account, because when the POV does shift to another character, the result is very jarring. And when we do get into the duke’s head (his name is Harry, in case you’re interested (I think his last name is mentioned somewhere), we don’t know enough about him to really care one way or the other what his thoughts are.
In spite of all these flaws, there’s a tantalizing hint that this could have been a real gem of a story. Its charm breaks through occasionally – not often enough to completely win me over, just often enough to aggravate and frustrate me. I generally tend to like variations on the Cinderella myth, but this one is too much of a pumpkin.