The Redemption of Philip Thane
The Redemption of Philip Thane is Groundhog Day meets historical romance, and brings a supernatural element to the established Penhallow series.
Philip Thane is your average rake. He’s an unrepentant gambler, drinker, and wencher, with no money to call his own. In the past, Philip has called upon his high connections to various aristocrats to fill his pockets, but now, he has finally reached the end of the line. This brings Philip to visit his distant relation, the indomitable Henrietta Penhallow, hoping she is in a charitable mood. Henrietta offers him a deal – represent her at a local festival in a sleepy hamlet called Whittlesey and give a speech on her behalf, or leave empty-handed. It’s only once Philip arrives in Whittlesey that things begin to become more complicated.
Miss Margaret Allen encounters Philip when she and her aunt nearly get stranded on their way to Whittlesey, and naturally he makes a bad first impression. Margaret, a bookish folklore scholar, comes from a family of academics. She finds little to impress her in Philip, the scion of a few noble families who appears to be a thoughtless cad, and looks forward to attending the Plough Day celebrations and seeing the local traditions.
Once Philip has given his speech, he gets out of town fast, only to find that the expected snow storm is worsening and a fallen tree blocks the path of his barouche. Forced to return to Whittlesey, Philip goes to sleep, only to be awoken to give his speech. Again. Because it’s Plough Day, again. Philip is horrified to find that, no matter what course of action he takes, he still ends up stuck in Whittlesey. Without any prospect of escape, Philip has to live through Plough Day after Plough Day, all the same, every day, forever. Fortunately, the lovely Margaret Allen is around, and with an eternity to try, Philip might be able to get into her good graces.
There is a lot to love about this book – the premise is a great one, based on a great film. A redemption arc is always a fun read, and Philip isn’t so heinous that the reader hates him. He’s just kind of an unpleasant guy, inconsiderate and irresponsible, but not necessarily cruel. There are definitely moments where he is hateable, but given that the other characters don’t take his bullshit, it works. The secondary characters are intriguing and provide a realistic background for the main action. The story is also delightfully romantic, though it takes a while to get there. Philip’s turn for the better is not a rapid one; he has to hit rock-bottom before he can rebuild himself. That’s satisfying, and his redemption doesn’t feel feigned. It is an earned change, one which fundamentally reforms him.
There is one big problem with this book however: the points of view. Philip is the main PoV character, but the reader spends nearly as much time with Margaret, who is mostly unaware that Plough Day is every day. This leads to an unfortunate amount of redundant prose, as Margaret has the same thoughts, over and over again, with minor variation. This is very annoying to read, and made me want to skim her sections. It would have been more effective if Margaret’s point of view had only been included when she had a new experience. My only other issue with the story is the logic around the time-loop, which is both too broad and not broad enough. The explanation given for Philip’s ordeal is really not necessary; the story works perfectly well without it, especially as it’s now a very familiar premise. However, a justification is offered, and it’s not really enough, nor does it really make sense.
The Redemption of Philip Thane is certainly a new direction for this series, and a fun story that mostly lives up to its premise.