by Jude Morgan
A while back, I read my first Jude Morgan book – Indiscretion. I LOVED it. And so it was with a mixture of anticipation and trepidation that I approached a second of his novels… one never knows if it will be as delightful as the first or perhaps the first was just a fluke. While I didn’t love An Accomplished Woman as much as Indiscretion, it was still a fun and lighthearted read.
For me, the main problem was that I didn’t really like the heroine. I found Lydia to be arrogant and far too self-confident for my taste. Actually, she reminded me a great deal of Austen’s Emma, another literary character I have always yearned to slap. Lydia is confident that she knows best about EVERYTHING and everyone. Several years before this book opens, she has turned down a marriage proposal from the neighborhood’s most eligible bachelor, Mr. Durrant. In the intervening years, their friendship has continued (since they are from the same country neighborhood), and Lydia finds him just as infuriating as she ever did. Determined to be independent, Lydia comes off (to me) as selfish and a rather flat character who mouths feministic platitudes that don’t really add much to the story.
Still, parts of the tale were quite enjoyable, and this book did make me laugh out loud more than once. Morgan can often write the perfect line for the scenario, with an almost Wodehouse-like precision:
Lydia – as so often with Mr. Durrant – was precisely divided between agreement with what he said, and disgust at the arrogance with which he said it: emotionally the effect was like of those sneezes that do not quite come.
And we all know how frustrating THAT sensation is!
Or this classic –
“My appearance on this occasion, I fear, must have been an unpleasant surprise for you.”
It was in Lydia’s mind to say that Mr. Beck’s appearance on any occasion would be an unpleasant surprise for her, even if she were at the bottom of a well and he were at the top with a rope; but she held her peace.
Throughout the story, Lydia is a companion to a younger girl, Phoebe, who, as a rich, orphaned heiress, has plenty of options for marriage open to her. Unfortunately, Morgan doesn’t really seem to be able to decide which of her suitors we should like. I realize that part of the ploy is that we are seeing them through Lydia’s eyes, and so she is naturally biased for one and against the other, but still – the suitor with whom Phoebe ultimately joins still seems just as selfish and inconsiderate as he was when we first met him. I was never really given an opportunity to like him, and so I ended the book feeling a bit distressed about Phoebe, and not at all confident in her ultimate happiness.
And so I ended this book with mixed feelings, and think I can probably only give a 3/5. Still, I haven’t given up on Morgan – A Little Folly is on my TBR shelf at this very moment!