Miss Woodley's Experiment
Yes, I like historical accuracy. No, there isn’t much accuracy in Miss Woodley’s Experiment. Yes, I normally would grouse about that. No, I’m not going to in this case. Why, because this is a comedy, and a darn funny one too. If a book is a comedy, a good comedy but it’s history lite, I just kick back and enjoy. I started reading this book in a public place, but had to retreat to somewhere private when my snickers began to turn into guffaws. People will stare, don’t you know.
Caroline Woodley’s mother was considered mad – she left her family, ran off with a gypsy and died when Caro was very young. Since then, Caro has been her scientist father’s assistant, has run the estate and cultivated a bluestocking image to distance herself from her mother’s reputation. At the beginning of the book, Caro is in London for the Season. She does not need to find a husband, since she has been promised in marriage to their neighbor Harry, a childhood friend. When Caro proposes that Harry kiss her, purely as an experiment, she finds the results icky (not to mention wet) so she socks Harry in the nose, climbs a tree, enters a window and meets Geoffrey Rathburn.
Geoffrey Rathburn, Earl of Tallis is in town to find an heiress. His father has left him debts, and he has had to use his sister’s dowry to make some pressing payments, so Geoffrey has resigned himself to trading title for money on the Marriage Mart. When Caro crawls through the window, he is taken with this unconventional miss, so as a favor to her, he gives her a kiss which results in mutual tingles.
Caro’s aunt wants her niece to enjoy herself, and she knows that Harry is not the man who will make her happy, so she asks Geoffrey, who has a reputation as a Man About Town to take Caro under his wing and introduce her to Society. Pretty soon Caro is quite the toast, and Geoffrey is falling in love with her, but alas – she is not an heiress.
Miss Woodley’s Experiment is quite farcial. Leave all your notions about how a proper young regency woman would act at the door, because Caroline Woodley breaks them all. Purely as an experiment, she waylays several gentleman and gets them to kiss her. She also runs all over the countryside, visits Geoffrey’s mistress, and acts quite the eccentric. In real regency society, Caro would be out in the cold, but in this story she is quite the Original. There is only the tiniest touch of angst, when Caro worries if she is mad like her mother, that keeps the book from going completely over the top.
Geoffrey is so fine, decent and filled with worries, he begins by being a bit stiff. But as soon as he meets Caro, he begins to loosen up (how could he not?). Their first love scene stands the standard love scene on its head. Caroline is the agressor. Noble Geoffrey swears that he will not take her innocence, but Caro is having none of that and takes matters into her own hand, so to speak. Geoffrey reminded me a bit of Cary Grant’s character in Arsenic and Old Lace – a normal man surrounded by madcaps.
Miss Woodley’s Experiment is just the ticket for anyone who wants to kick back and relax. It certainly kept me entertained for several hours and made me want to check out Katherine Greyle’s backlist. Any excuse for a trip to the bookstore.