Nicola and the Viscount
There were times when Nicola Sparks, the heroine of Nicola and the Viscount, reminded me of Jane Austen’s Emma. There were times she resembled Cher from Clueless, and toward the end she was rather like Nancy Drew. I think Nicola would approve of all these comparisons, since she is a lover of poetry and romantic tales and compares herself to several romantic heroines during the course of the book. Not the weepy ones who pine away for love though – our Nicola is a practical sort.
Nicola is an orphan. She never knew her parents, and was raised by the kindly housekeeper and estate manager of Beckwell Abbey. Nicola’s distant cousin Lord Renshaw (AKA the Grouser) inherited the title, but Nicky has the land. When the book starts, Nicky has finished her schooling at Madame Vieuxvincent’s Seminary For Young Ladies, where she has been very popular, and is about to start the Season.
Nicky’s best friend is The Honorable Eleanor Sheridan, whose parents are very fond of her, and Nicky loves them too, even though she’s not so sure about Eleanor’s brother Nathaniel. He is 20, and newly graduated from Oxford. Oh he’s handsome enough, but he’s not like Lord Sebastian Bartholemew (AKA, The God). Sebastian’s parents, Lord and Lady Farelly, have asked Nicky to stay with them during the Season and she is thrilled. Their daughter, Lady Honoria Bartholemew is in serious need of a makeover (her feather trimmed gowns are not at all flattering), and Nicky will be in very close proximity to The God.
Nicky has a wonderful time during the Season’s parties with only a few things to mar her pleasure. Lord Renshaw comes in to London to tell her that a railroad company wants to buy Beckwell Abbey. Even though it would mean a lot of money, the Abbey is home, Nicky loves it and refuses the offer, infuriating Lord Renshaw. Then Lord Renshaw’s silly, foppish son Harold (AKA The Milksop) fancies himself in love with Nicky, putting a serious dent in her plans to ingratiate herself with Sebastian. And, Nathaniel is always around, casting aspersions on Sebastian – he gambles, he’s interested only in horses, he has no purpose in life.
Then out of the blue, Sebastian asks Nicky to marry him, and she is thrilled. But as time goes on and she gets to know him better, she can’t help but remember some of the things that Nathaniel has said about him. Things that begin to tarnish the glow surrounding Sebastian. So she breaks the engagement, and soon afterwards, Nicky finds out that Lord Farelly, Lord Renshaw, and Sebastian wanted her for some reason involving a man named Mr. Pease.
Nicola Sparks is a delight! There were many times I found myself laughing out loud at her remarks and observations. She is far and away the best thing in the book. She is bright, witty, and very resourceful, and lit up the book every time she appeared.
But Nicky was so charming and delightful that she quite overshadowed almost everyone else in the book, particularly the men. Harold the Milksop was funny in a comic relief sort of way, but the rest of the male characters simply did not have the immediacy of Nicky, not even Nathaniel – although he had his moments. I know that this is a young adult book, and I did not expect mature sexual tension, but the relationship between Nicky and Nathaniel was very tepid indeed.
But I’m not going to complain. This is a young adult book after all, and will probably be popular with fans of Meg Cabot’s Princess Diaries. I can recommend Nicola and the Viscount to both young and older teens, and to anyone who enjoys a good story with a delightful heroine.