A bookish young woman tries to convince her mother she’s just not marriage material in this Regency romance inspired by Much Ado About Nothing, but her mother has the last laugh.
Bowman (The Accidental Countess, 2014, etc.) offers another installment in her Playful Brides series with the story of confirmed spinster and bluestocking Jane Lowndes. Jane is attempting to convince her mother to stop trying to find her an advantageous match. She dusts off her friend Cassandra’s old ruse, inventing a chaperone named Mrs. Bunbury in order to gain permission to attend a house party without her mother. But while at the house party, the unchaperoned Jane finds herself spending more and more time with Lord Garrett Upton, the cousin of one of her closest friends. Garrett and Jane can barely tolerate each other, but when Jane dresses with unwonted care for a masquerade and they spend time together without knowing each other’s identities, the sparks fly. When their mutual friends realize what’s going on, they take a page from Shakespeare’s book, telling Jane that Garrett is in love with her and telling Garrett that Jane is in love with him. Both of them begin looking for signs of affection in the other, and as a result, affection naturally grows. This comedy of errors is an enjoyable read even though the old trope of extreme annoyance being the flip side of love and sexual attraction is a bit boring. The villain in the piece, a manipulative war widow preying on Garrett’s survivor’s guilt, is also crudely drawn and predictable.
But overall, Bowman keeps her prose and characters fresh and interesting; her book is an entertaining renewal of a classic plotline and well worth reading.