Review: The Unlikely Chaperone by Dorothy Mack

Posted June 11, 2020 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 8 Comments

This book was first published in 1991, according to Goodreads, one of a whole swathe of the author’s books now being re-released in Kindle versions. Not surprisingly, it’s a very traditional style of story, focusing on the London season, Almack’s, drives through Hyde Park, morning calls and so forth. For anyone looking longingly for a Georgette Heyer substitute, this is a very good alternative, featuring many of the same types of characters, setpiece scenes and witty dialogue. In fact, there are echoes of Frederica, Black Sheep, Venetia and Arabella along the way.

Here’s the premise: Alexandra Farrish has been forced to take on the responsibility of raising her young siblings after the death of their mother. Now they’ve all come to London for the season to find husbands for three of the girls, incomparable beauty Didi, and identical twins Cassie and Arie. And amongst the hordes of admirers drawn to Didi, comes one of London’s most eligible bachelors, the Marquess of Malvern. Can Didi bring him to a proposal, or will he decide he’s looking for more than mere beauty?The story has a somewhat rocky start for an otherwise frivolous Regency, for the opening is Lord Malvern rushing to the bedside of his dying sister, who tells him just who has brought her to this pass — unrequited love for one Lee Farrish. Malvern then spends some time tracking down Farrish, and storming into his first encounter with the Farrish family, and Alexandra’s robust style of dialogue. He comes to realise that it’s not Lee’s fault, and is then drawn into Didi’s orbit.

Now, at first sight this is a peculiar response to the death of his sister, but the author makes a good case for a man who is emotionally unbalanced and makes an irrational decision on the spot to marry and settle down to home and family. I won’t spoil the surprise by spelling out how this odd courtship progresses, but suffice it to say that there is an ample sufficiency of marriages and betrothals by the end of the book, and each one of them very appropriate for the couple concerned.

There are some plot oddities, like the girl rescued from likely prostitution by the heroine and never mentioned again, and the brother, Lee, whose only purpose seemed to be to draw Lord Malvern into the Farrish’s circle, since he was largely forgotten thereafter. This won’t suit anyone looking for a modern style of story, with an independent heroine and a respectful-of-women hero. This is the old-fashioned kind, where the women are all aiming to make good marriages and the men are strong and borderline domineering, while remaining terribly gentlemanlike, but it’s an excellent example of the type, very Heyer-esque, and well written with only a light sprinkle of Americanisms. Five stars.

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8 responses to “Review: The Unlikely Chaperone by Dorothy Mack

  1. ealasaid

    As an aside, I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t care for most of the Regencies where the hero or heroine is already engaged to or gets engaged to somebody else during the story. Then it’s always about how to get the character out of the engagement without making him or her behave too badly, which is a tricky maneuver to pull off. Dorothy Mack’s The Substitute Bride was one of those.

    • Mary Kingswood

      Yes, it’s very tricky. I don’t think I’ve ever written a situation like that (for a main character; there’s a minor character in The Orphan who is trapped into an engagement and goes to great lengths to wriggle out of it, but that’s probably justified!). I’ve had the odd fake engagement that turns into a real one, though.

  2. Cecilia

    I enjoyed your review of The Unlikely Chaperone. I recently read it and every other book by Dorothy Mack that I could find (while waiting for The Orphan!). I’m tremendously enjoying your Silver Linings series, by the way. I’m excited to begin The Orphan as soon as I finish this note.
    You are a wonderful, talented writer, and your books are a delight and a joy to read.

  3. Ealasaid

    I recently finished most of these. They are reliably well written. This one did have a few plot points that struck me as odd, as you mentioned. My least favorite of her books are those that involve some deception/trickery/imposture on the part of the heroine. Those where the development of the characters and the relationship takes center stage are the best. My favorite was The Awakening Heart.

    • Mary Kingswood

      Thanks for the recommendation. She has so many books out now that it’s hard to know where to start!

  4. Cathy

    I always trust you to recommend a good read. There are many faux-Regency writers out there who have great story lines and well developed characters, but who can’t punctuate, or their use of adjectives leave one swearing off desserts forever.

    You’re an amazing writer, Mary. Thanks for all the stories and little escape hatches in these Covid days.

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