The Chester Charade
Grade : C

The Chester Charade takes place at a house party. The roads were not safe nor reliable during the regency period and large house parties lasting for weeks were a way for people to get together with their friends and relatives for visits and parties. There is a large cast of characters in this book, with several romances and much intrigue going on. There was nothing really to dislike, yet The Chester Charade lacked a certain sparkle that animates the best Regency Romances, and with the large cast of characters, there was so much going on that, at times, the playing field got overcrowded.

Miss Chastity Cummings is unwed at the age of twenty-five and not in the least put out by it. She acts as hostess for her older brother Henry and very much enjoys parties. Every year her brother hosts a large party with many guests and this year is no different. The party in this book allows for a large cast of secondary characters including a number of stock Regency figures. There is the spoiled and flirtacious wife, the toadying social-climbing couple, the rakes and rogues, the shy little companion who blossoms, and the old lover from the past.

The main romance is between Chastity and The Honorable Jeffrey Halston. Six years earlier he had been friends and then a suitor for Chastity but she had turned him down. He married a friend of hers but now he is widowed and Chastity and the other guests at the party can only wonder what his intentions are. He is older and wiser and more subdued from the love-sick young man he was six years ago.

Much of the book is taken up with all details of hosting a large party with all the social pitfalls that can lurk. One sub-plot has Chastity and her friend Lady Merrill playing makover with sweet and shy Miss Paige, a companion to Lady Dabney - a beautiful widow with her eye on Chastity's brother. Chastity's spoiled and petulant sister-in-law Regina causes upheavals at the slightest little thing while Mrs. Webster makes herself at home with her pack of yappy little dogs. There are so many things going on at once that romance takes a back seat for much of the book.

There was one thing about The Chester Charade that just did not sit well with me and that was the names of the two of the characters. Chastity does not have the feel of a regency name. I know that the Puritans often gave women names from virtues - Prudence, Charity etc. - but that was before the regency period. Chastity is a name you encounter now, but it does not sound right for the period. Likewise the name of Chastity's best friend - Lady Merrill Peters practically screams contemporary. Androgynous names for women just were not done back then.

The Chester Charade gives you a good idea of how it must have been to host a large house party of very strong-willed and opinionated people. Plus, we see nearly the entire book from Chastity's point of view and the secondary romances are lost in all the traffic. Come to think of it, the main romance managed to hide for large portions of the book too. While The Chester Charade is engaging enough and gives a good picture of a regency social event it does fall flat as a regency romance.

Reviewed by Ellen Micheletti
Grade : C
Book Type: Regency Romance

Sensuality: Kisses

Review Date : May 4, 1999

Publication Date: 1999

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Recent Comments …

  1. This sounds great. I’ve been reading a lot of historical mysteries lately and loving them, though less Victorian and more…

Ellen Micheletti

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