The Best Laid Plans
The title of this book sounds an awful lot like that of one of my favorite Regencies, Emma Jensen’s The Best Laid Schemes, but the similarities end right there. The Best Laid Plans features characters ranging from uninteresting to actively irritating, and the writing is sub-par, to say the least.
Miss Catherine Prescott D’Eauville (if you don’t catch all three names the first time, don’t worry; they are repeated often) has come to England to catch a titled husband. Her father will accept nothing less than an earl, and she wants to make Daddy happy. She doesn’t particularly want to get married, but it’s the only way Miss Catherine Prescott D’Eauville will ever get what she really wants, which is freedom and the opportunity to travel. She expects to take England by storm, find a biddable man swimming in debt who is willing to marry an American heiress, and then go to Africa to see the elephants.
As she’s out for a ride with her long-suffering companion, she decides to get out and explore the countryside. Along comes a handsome man who owns the property, and in a scene likely to cause a dropped jaw for any Regency purist, Catherine proceeds to interrogate the stranger about his prospects to see if he’s worthy of her consideration. It’s actually way more vulgar and tacky than I can possibly make it sound, and it would be completely inappropriate in any era. The man subjected to this treatment is Lord Weyland, who is immediately discounted because he has more than enough money of his own, and he’s only a baron.
Fortunately for Miss Catherine Prescott D’Eauville, there are several men in Regency England who desperately want to be married to gauche, irritating social climbers, and Catherine’s cousin has gathered them all together for a house party so they can dance attendance on her. But as you may have guessed, Catherine finds herself unable to focus on any of her matrimonial prospects because she can’t seem to forget the too-rich-but-not-titled-enough Lord Weyland. As the book progresses, Catherine reaches an amazing level of self-awareness; she decides that it might be nicer to marry someone marginally attractive. Someone she likes. But there are further complications when Catherine’s annoyingly brash father (the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree) arrives. He wants a title for his little princess, so he can thumb his nose at everyone in his homeland who wouldn’t give him the time of day because he was a younger son.
This is not the worst Regency ever written (that would be The Dangerous Baron Leigh by Emily Hendrickson), but it’s definitely a big waste of time for any real Regency fan. I suspect that Catherine’s character would not really work in any setting, but she is particularly annoying in this one. The very idea that men would be chomping at the bit to marry someone so self-centered and entirely unaware of even the simplest etiquette is simply ludicrous. None of the other characters is as bad, and the hero in particular would be fine in another book. In this one, I had to question his judgment in falling in love with Catherine in the first place. Other than her looks, she had nothing whatsover to recommend her.
There are also two secondary love stories. One of them involves Catherine’s companion (a woman who makes Job look impatient by comparison) and one of Catherine’s would-be suitors. This was probably the one bright spot in the book. Lord knows the poor woman deserved something after putting up with Catherine for years. The other involves Catherine’s father and Lord Weyland’s aunt. This one is portrayed like some kind of “big secret,” but it’s so obvious that even the most obtuse reader would see it coming a mile away.
The writing itself is often awkward, which makes the book that much harder to get through. Bishop piles on the sappy metaphors in the romantic scenes (when Catherine kisses Lord Weyland it’s “the sun on her face, the scent of rain on spring violets, the joy of the morning, the lingering caress of…” – well, you get the idea). In one too-vivid sentence, the author also lets us know that Catherine’s chamber pot hasn’t been emptied yet, which is a mental picture I’d as soon live without.
When I pick up a Regency by a new author, I am always particularly hopeful. As a big fan of the sub-genre, I’m afraid it’s dying on the vine, and with good writers like Diane Farr and Andrea Pickens pursuing single title opportunities, any new blood is welcome. Unfortunately, I’d advise readers to steer clear of this one. On the recommendation of one of Ellen’s reviews, I picked up Elena Greene’s book (The Redwyk Charm) this month (she’s previously published by Zebra, (but is new to Signet). I would suggest that other Regency fans do likewise.