The Lady from Lisbon
Any time it takes me almost a week to read a two hundred page book, I know I’m in trouble. When I’m actually cleaning my house because I find that more interesting than opening the book in question, then I’m sure it’s not a book I can recommend to anyone. Unfortunately, The Lady from Lisbon is such a book.
The lady of the title is Cressida Merriton, a young woman who has been living in Lisbon while her military father fights Napoleon. As the war comes to a close, Cressida is sent home to England to stay with her godmother. Her godmother has a nephew, Alastair, who is the Earl of Langley. Alastair finds Cressida attractive, but he thinks she is entirely too pushy and full of herself.
In case you think from the above paragraph that this book is actually about Cressida and Alastair, think again. They share a few conversations, and somewhere in the middle of it they supposedly fall in love with each other, although I’m sure I never saw that happening. Most of the time they are too busy to spend much time together. Cressida has to cure her godmother’s agoraphobia, and help nurse a victim of domestic violence. Then she has to go to Vienna with her father and his snobby, annoying mistress. Eventually Alastair goes to Vienna too, arriving at the crucial moment and dealing with the villain. Then they profess their love and the book is over.
I liked the idea of the Vienna trip, but that’s about all I liked about this book. The characters are completely unexciting. Alastair is an ill-disguised rip-off of Georgette Heyer’s Marquis of Alverstoke from Frederica, but he lacks Alverstoke’s charm and urbanity. Walsh often tells us that Alastair is saying something “urbanely,” but the remarks he makes are never actually urbane. Cressida has a little life to her, but she uses most of her energy thinking about everyone but Alastair.
The writing itself is uninspired, repetitive, and convoluted. Awkward sentences abound, and there are several continuity problems. Scenes are frequently padded with detailed descriptions of Cressida’s clothes, and Walsh mentions the name of the dressmaker so often it reads like a product placement.
I thought things might pick up when Cressida and her father went to Vienna, but it’s difficult to get past the fact that Cressida’s father took his mistress along and lived with her – in the same house as his unmarried daughter. Perhaps Cressida did know a little more about life than most young women her age, but I doubt society would look kindly on such an arrangement, and I’m sure I’ve never seen it in a Regency before.
I like to read at least one new Regency a month, but I’m sorry I wasted almost a week of my life on this one. I would recommend that Regency fans get their fix elsewhere.