Tag: allady

Review: Friendship and Folly by Meredith Allady (2004) [Trad]

Posted June 23, 2020 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

This book is a classic example of how much the author’s choice of approach changes the final result. The novella-length prequel to this series, Letters From Bath, was written (not surprisingly, given the title) in an epistolatory style, so the personality of the letter-writer shone through in every word, every charmingly acerbic phrase. It was sharply witty and I absolutely adored it.

This, on the other hand, was written in a laboured narrative style, complete with direct-to-reader interjections, and even though the wit and rapier-sharp use of language were still there, it felt heavy and (frankly) dull. There were moments when I practically fell off my seat laughing, just as before, but there were also long turgid passages where I almost lost the will to live, and whole lengthy paragraphs that I honestly couldn’t make head or tail of, even though I struggled manfully to disentangle the writhing sentences. But still, I finished it and there were parts I loved.

The story follows the Parry family, an eccentric and quite astonishingly clever family, to London for the season, to bring out the eldest daughter and beauty of the family, Julia. Along too goes Ann Northcott, the letter-writer from the previous book, and so much a friend of the family that she’s almost a Parry herself. They also take all the children and another hanger-on (whose name escapes me, since he was one of a cast of thousands). Now, this may be about the season in 1805, but there’s nothing about clothes (apart from the court dress) or Almack’s or drives in the park or any of the usual settings. The whole book seems to be a backdrop for the oh-so-clever wit of the Parry family and Ann Northcott.

There’s a plethora of side characters, but the principals are Sir Warrington Lenox and his younger brother, Mr Edmund Lenox, from Ireland, who are truly an odd pair. Sir Warrington Lenox is very redolent of Dolph from Georgette Heyer’s Cotillion, in that he appears to be mentally deficient after reportedly being stolen as a child and raised by gypsies. The younger brother actually believed he was an only child and it wasn’t until his father died and he supposedly inherited the baronetcy that he learnt about his older brother. Now Sir Warrington has come to England to find a bride, and his brother has come along too. Sir Warrington develops a liking for Julia and attaches himself to the Parrys, and they are amenable to said attachment. And so the tale meanders along. I almost said plot, but really, there isn’t one, just a series of settings in which the Parrys can show off their terribly clever turns of phrase.

It should be obvious by now that this is very much not your run-of-the-mill Regency romance. There is a romance, but it’s practically offstage and everything about it is interpreted through the biased eyes of Ann. In fact, it’s so low-key you might very well miss it altogether if the narrator hadn’t stopped and pointed it out. As with other elements of the story, it’s completely hemmed in by the perfect selflessness of the main characters, who are just too considerate of other people’s feelings to be totally credible.

I’m going to be honest and say that this book wasn’t really my thing. It’s too long, too wordy, too convoluted and very often too show-offy clever for its own good. But that’s just me. While I struggled with large parts of it, I acknowledge that it’s incredibly well-written, it feels utterly authentic as a Regency novel and if you’re the sort of reader who wants to sink into a warm scented bath of delicious wordsmithery, then this might very well make you squeal with delight. If, on the other hand, you’re like me and want a proper plot and characters who aren’t selfless bundles of virtue, you should probably avoid it. Three stars.


Review: Letters From Bath by Meredith Allady (2012) [Trad]

Posted June 23, 2020 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

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).