An Accomplished Woman

“The Allegro was in B flat major, with a subsidiary theme is the relative dominant. Because I know this, does it mean I don’t enjoy it? Head not heart. Listening to those shimmering complex sounds it seemed to her that both were present. Surely that was the ideal. Surely one should not have to sacrifice one for the other.”

When I attended the talk on the Regency template last fall, one of the books mentioned was An Accomplished Woman, by Jude Morgan. I must say it fits the pattern very well.

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At thirty years of age Lydia Templeton is quite happy in her single state. It allows her independence and the ability to revel in her reputation as a most intelligent woman, as well as the pleasure of sparring with her friend and former suitor Lewis Durrant. She is still surprised however, to be deemed an eligible chaperon for her godmother’s niece in insipid Bath. Charming, sheltered Phoebe Rae has managed to fall in love with both Mr. Allardyce and Mr. Beck and must decide which, if either, is the man of her heart. Meanwhile, Mr. Durrant descends upon Bath seeking a wife to cut out his spendthrift nephew and heir Hugh Hanley. Lydia soon realizes that despite all her accomplishments, she may not be as sage in matchmaking as she had hoped.

The outcome may not be much of a surprise, but it plays out at a believable pace with sufficient development throughout. Mr. Morgan also has a well-rounded cast and creates suspense in the secondary romances. We are treated to no less than three deliciously obnoxious characters, as well as a rogue. An Accomplished Woman is far from a retelling but at times feels like a nod to Austen, as if he blended Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Persuasion with fresh ingredients. The first scene alone is delightful and sets the stage for the novel in many ways. The tone, however, is a bit more modern despite accurate references and slang. We are often privy to Lydia’s private thoughts and internal dialogue, and her famed wit is usually at the expense of others:

“However, Mrs. Allardyce was now commander of the expedition, and there was nothing for it but to troop after her, listen to her being strong-minded and incorrigible, and perhaps, if you were Lydia, reflect on what a fine target she would present for a marksman with a reliable gun and a sense of philanthropy.”

I love the Regency era, I really do, but so often it seems that if a woman is intelligent and sharp-witted she must as a necessity reject marriage or forfeit her mind. Lydia frequently professes against it, while Phoebe’s tendency for sentiment rather than sense makes her a prime candidate. Perhaps Juliet Allardyce is the only character who represents a happy medium. I consider myself much more of a romantic than a feminist, but I cannot deny that there is likely a grain of truth, for Jane Austen herself remained single. The distinction seems to be marriage as meeting of hearts and minds, opposed to marriage as setting up a household. The real toll on women of the time seems to be the presumption that they are best fit for raising children, a future which I can’t imagine for Lydia. It all depends on the sources in which one finds fulfillment. I was actually surprised after all this reflection to find that Jude Morgan is definitely a male author.

He is not quite Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer, but An Accomplished Woman is an enjoyable read for those who have exhausted the canon of the former two and are looking for more.

Published in: on June 26, 2010 at 2:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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