by Jude Morgan
This is my third Jude Morgan book this year; I enjoyed this one more than An Accomplished Woman but still not as well as Indiscretion, which I think I’m going to purchase with my birthday money. :-D But this story has the same lighthearted and delightful dialogue and fun characters as the other of Morgan’s books I’ve read. While I liked the heroine much better than the one in An Accomplished Woman, Louisa still aggravated me a great deal at times.
Louisa and her brother Valentine have grown up under the (very) heavy hand of their domineering father. When he dies, at the beginning of the book, they are suddenly free to do as they like. Comfortably off, upper-class adults, they can go to London, entertain visitors, or even just simply get rid of furniture they don’t like. That’s how it begins – by removing a fire screen they’ve both hated for years but their father insisted remain in the drawing room. As they pair of siblings begin to explore life and encounter adventures, they learn that making your own decisions isn’t always as much fun as it sounds.
For me, the main problem with this book was that it felt as though Morgan wasn’t sure what the ‘lesson’ should be. Every good story has a lesson, even if it’s a trite, simplistic one like “love conquers all” or a completely wrong one like “being sneaky always pays off.” This story waffled a good deal. Was the lesson “growing up is tough”? “It’s easier to have a domineering person make your decisions so you aren’t responsible for them”? “Your parents always know what’s best even when they’re jerks”? “Never listen to advice”? “Follow your heart”? I never could quite decide what point the author was making.
Another problem was that Louisa and Valentine supposedly had this super close relationship growing up, their difficult parent drawing them together. But because part of the story was how they grew apart during the course of all these changes, it was hard to understand many of the decisions Louisa made to protect/defend her brother, because I didn’t really like him, and I didn’t have the solid background of knowing that Valentine really loved his sister.
Louisa spends much of the book dithering because she knows that Valentine is making some very stupid decisions, but she doesn’t want to interfere with him for fear of appearing to try and run his life as their father had done. That was another one of the lessons that were never quite clear – are we supposed to walk away with the conviction that we should always, never, or sometimes interfere? At the end of the story, I never felt that Louisa had learned any kind of balance in that area – that if Valentine did something else dumb, she would spend just as much time dithering as she had the first time.
And then their are Louisa’s love interests. From the beginning, we learn of this one fellow (whose name I can’t remember) – he’s the fellow that Louisa’s father intended her to marry. But Louisa doesn’t like this fellow because he’s just as bossy and domineering as her father. So he shows up, and he is a bit of a jerk, but then suddenly in the middle of the book, he’s not a jerk any more – I never knew if I was supposed to like him or not. There was no real revelation of whether something had happened to make the fellow be nicer, or if Louisa had always just perceived him as more of a jerk than he really was? Or what? His character development was haphazard and confusing.
So while this book was fun and enjoyable, it still had an undercurrent of randomness that subtly irritated me throughout. Another 3/5 for a book with a lot of potential that it didn’t quite reach.