This book is so funny! I laughed so hard sometimes that I actually had to stop reading for a while. It’s beautifully written in a very credible Austen-esque epistolatory style, with the same biting wit, but be warned: it’s nothing like an adjusted-for-modern-readers regular Regency. A number of reviews complain about wordiness and dense prose, so it won’t suit everyone, but anyone who enjoys that style will be rewarded with a gentle and very nuanced tale.
The other main complaint is that there is no plot, and while that’s not quite true, I understand why readers would feel that. This is not a romance, and it’s a very undramatic story, to put it mildly. In fact, the entire plot can be summarised in this sentence from the blurb: “Ann Northcott reluctantly accompanies her mother to [Bath], and there finds what entertainment she can by plotting various subtle ways in which to be disobliging, indulging in unskilled matchmaking, and writing accounts of it all to her best friend Julia.” That’s it. But within those letters to Julia are gloriously funny descriptions of the various characters Ann meets, of her machinations on their behalf and of her own gloom at her enforced stay in Bath. She dislikes the city so much that she fantasises about inviting the French to come and destroy it, although she would also invite the English troops to get rid of the French again after this was done.
Yes, it’s a lightweight little story, and rather short, but it’s very, very clever for those who can stomach the authentically Regency writing style. I absolutely loved it. Five stars.
Another warning: this is a prequel to the Merriweather Chronicles, but a number of reviewers suggest that it’s actually better to read book 1 of that series (Friendship and Folly) first. I haven’t done that, but I’m going straight on to F&F, and may come back and reread this one afterwards (it’s short enough and funny enough that it would be no chore).