Katherine Penn, daughter of a scholar, was fascinated by the theatre. She wrote plays which she longed to see performed, even if that went against her father’s strictures. Lord Ramsey was willing to help her make her stage dreams come true—but make-believe love had a surprising way of turning to reality… Regency Romance by Emily Hendrickson; originally published by Signet as A Perfect Performance
A very kind Reg. Reader recommended Emily Hendrickson for her dearth of traditional (ie clean) Regencies, and always happy to sample a new reader I selected The Roguish Miss Penn. I can’t remember exactly what drew me this particular novel, other than the titillating title (I can never resist a good rogue), but after my initiation into Emily Hendrickson I came away with mixed feelings.
First, prochronistic tendencies are abound. Not only with the cadence of language, but also some of the unbelievable character motivations. Hendrickson seems to operate under the assumption that if she has the characters emphasize many times over how forward-looking their behaviors/thoughts/actions are, that it absolves it from actually being historically inaccurate. Personally, it’s the emphasis that drives me crazier than the inaccuracy.
Second, is the plot focuses on the production of a satire on gothic dramas. Hendrickson uses the opening of the novel, introducing the heroine in the shade of the Gothic Tower, as a framing device for inspiration to the heroine playwright. However, towards the “third act” of the book, the novel plot itself becomes gothic. The introduction of a villain with crazy homicidal tendencies suddenly shifts the tone and resolution of the novel. I felt really confused by the last pages, not sure if this was supposed to be an intentional twist, a humorous tweak of the characters, or simply a devolution of writing.
These flaws aside (which granted, may make the more tender-hearted Reg. purist refrain) it was generally a likeable book, with interesting characters, lots of delightful supporting character foils, and a sexy hero.
The setting in Cambridge among the University Dons is also a novel approach, one which we don’t see often and which lends an air of realism to the heroine’s almost spinster status. I also like the portrait drawn of her Aunt/chaperone who I think is probably the novel’s most interesting character–at least the one I would most like to have lunch with.
4 out of 6, novel setting, some funny scenes, generally likeable H/h but the ending lands indelicately over the gothic edge, and it’s definitely prochronistic.
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