The Lady Most Likely by Julia Quinn, Eloisa James and Connie Brockway
|The Lady Most Likely by Julia Quinn, Eloisa James and Connie Brockway|
|Genre: Historical Fiction|
|Reviewer: Sue Fairhead|
|Summary: A historical novel, created from three connected novellas by different authors, with unconvincing characters and a predictable plot.|
|Buy? No||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 372||Date: May 2012|
Hugh, the Earl of Briarly, has acknowledged his mortality after a nasty accident, and has decided to take a wife. Not being a very sociable person - he likes horses better than people - he asks his married sister Carolyn to produce a list of eligible young ladies. She does so, and then invites them and various other friends to a house party.
So far so good... well, mostly. This novel takes place in 1817, which makes it a little unlikely that a woman in her 20s would be called Carolyn, a name which did not exist until later in the 19th century. Oddly enough, her name changes to the much older variant 'Caroline' a few times in the later part of the book.
Had this been the only anachronism, I wouldn't have worried about it. Unfortunately, it isn't. This book, supposedly set in a British stately home, has rather a muddle of old and new slang. There are even a few Americanisms thrown in which would not matter in a book set in today's multi-cultural society, but jar in a historical romance. I was mildly irritated, too, by the failure of the authors to understand the difference, in that era, between the formal main meal ('dinner') and a lighter snack ('supper').
Still, that's me being a pedant.
And yes, this book has not one but three authors. It's advertised as 'a novel in three parts', although it took me until about half-way through to notice that one of the author's names is at the top of the pages for each section. It's an interesting idea, but effectively means that, rather than being a complete novel, it's three related novellas. The first two feature the two young women on Hugh's list falling in love with other men, and the final one shows Hugh realising who he has been in love with all along. Predictable, but that doesn't matter; historical romances in this genre usually are.
Unfortunately, none of the characters are particularly developed or interesting, and the three plots are somewhat dull. Perhaps this is inevitable with each novella being less than 150 pages in length; whatever the reason, there was little to make me care much about anyone. Novels usually have some form of conflict, but there's almost none in this book - a few mild misunderstandings, a few expressions of outrage, but nothing serious; nothing that ever made me wonder if the couples in question might not get together after all. Hugh didn't even seem to mind that the two young ladies on his list were in love with other people.
Of the three, the best-written, in my view, was the middle section by Connie Brockway. She has a feel for the style of writing and language of this period, and her story flows well. The final section (by Eloisa James) starts out nicely, too, merging seamlessly in, so that I had read a couple of chapters of it before realising that another story had begun, and that the author's name at the top had changed. Unfortunately the final pages of this final novella became rather too explicitly raunchy for the genre, in a scene which seemed most unlikely between the two characters concerned, given their past history. It didn't even add anything to the story.
As for the first novella (by Julia Quinn), which starts after the introduction, I mention that last because I found it the least interesting. The style of writing did not feel authentic, and the plot was even milder than that of the others. I quite liked the heroine - shy Gwendolyn - at first (despite the fact that she also has a name that did not appear in England until the 19th century) but I couldn't quite believe in her as events unfolded. And there were so many other people in this first section that I rather lost track of who was who. Thankfully most of them did not re-appear in the other two novellas.
That all probably sounds rather negative.. and yet, overall, it's not a bad book, if you want something light and undemanding, set in a slower-paced era. Looking at reviews of the book elsewhere, it clearly has plenty of fans - and it's an easy read which I finished in just a few days. It's the kind of thing you could take on holiday to read at random intervals on the beach.
My personal favourite historical novelist is Georgette Heyer, whose research was excellent and whose characters usually behave much more circumspectly. If you want something lighter in this genre, Lady Farquhar's Butterfly by Beverley Eikli isn't a bad read - and if you like a raunchy romping style, there's a series including Duchess by Night by Eloisa James who wrote the final section of 'The Lady Most Likely'.
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