Pride and Petticoats
Pride and Petticoats is a light Regency-set historical romance featuring an American heroine and an English hero who is a secret agent for the Crown. The cover is one of those generic, Here There Be Hanky Panky In The Past covers we’ve all seen. It’s the one with the shirtless man embracing a wind blown woman wearing a low cut dress with the top falling off and her skirt hiked up to show her leg (and petticoats).
Charlotte Burton is in a bit of a jam. Her father lost a large percentage of the family shipping business while gambling and then he and her brother were killed. Charlotte still owns a small interest in the business but she can’t re-start it herself, so she and her maid Addy sail from Charleston to London to meet an old family friend Cade Pettigru and ask him to go in as a partner.
The reunion between Charlotte and Cade goes well initially, but then a group of men (all Regency spy catchers) bursts into the house, and in the confusion, Cade runs away. The group do manage to capture Charlotte and Addy, and the head agent Lord Freddie Dewhurst explains that Cade has been selling secrets to the French and the Foreign Office would love to have a chat with him. Charlotte, a patriotic American, doesn’t care about British politics, but she’s down to her last penny, so when Freddie offers her a thousand pounds to work with him, she accepts.
The plan is that Charlotte and Freddie will pretend to be married and then swank around ton parties to lure Cade out. When they catch him, they’ll pretend Charlotte has been killed, but instead she’ll sail off to America with the money. Everyone will think Freddie is a widower and things will go back to normal. But first Freddie has to take the bumptious American Charlotte and turn her into a proper English Lady.
I can describe most of the book as a slapstick My Fair Lady. Charlotte is beautiful, but badly dressed – and has no idea how to behave in Society. She zones off as Freddie lectures her on how to address the various members of the nobility. And it’s a good thing too, since he gets it wrong right from the beginning. You do not address a Royal Duke in England as “Your Grace”…that would be “Your Royal Highness.”
Freddie and Charlotte clash often over her American ideas and ways. She refuses to address him as Lord Dewhurst (he’s a baron) and constantly refers to him as Mr. Dewhurst. He keeps calling her Yankee, which irks her southern pride, and colonist, which irks her American pride. There are a couple of running gags all thorough the book. One involves Addy’s feud with Freddie’s foppish and prissy valet. This valet tends to mince, scream and faint a lot and he and Addy clash over who gets the starch first. The second gag involves Freddie’s clothes, which Charlotte manages to ruin. I said she was bumptious, and she has a tendency to spill things and cause accidents. I almost felt sorry for Freddie.
The word is “almost.” Frankly, I thought he was snobbish and a prig. He spends most of the book sneering at Charlotte’s American ways, only to win her heart when he defends the former colonies at a party. Why he would suddenly defend America after all that sneering, I have no idea, but I guess he had to so something to make Charlotte fall in love with him besides standing around looking handsome.
Charlotte struck me as silly. She isn’t dumb or stupid, but she acts flighty for a large part of the book. She is a beautiful woman and Freddie is struck by her charms when he sees her in her shift as she is being fitted for new clothing, but other than her good looks, I was baffled as to why he fell in love with her.
Pride and Petticoats, moves along smoothly and has flashes of charm and real humor, but it soon goes back to silliness and slapstick. It’s a typical Regency-lite historical romance, with nothing to make it stand out from the pack of other Regency-lite historical romances on the shelves. If you enjoy this kind of book – have at it. But I like my historical romances with a bit more darkness and depth to them.