Thoughts After Reading:
The traditional Regency His Lordship’s Chaperone, by Shirley Marks, had an extremely entertaining premise: The hero hires a chaperone of his own in order to escape the clutches of matchmaking mothers. Unfortunately, the premise was essentially the only entertaining part of the entire novel. The book tries for a steady flow of goofy, nonsensical humor, severely neglecting all other parts of the novel in the process. The protagonists are lackluster, the romantic development is virtually nonexistent, and the final conflicts painfully drawn out. Even the comedy wasn’t very appealing.
In one of the many attempts at humor, the hero is written as an irresistible specimen of manhood. He is heir to a dukedom, wealthy as Croesus, and is beautiful beyond compare. Married ladies attempt to ambush him, debutante mothers try to have their daughters compromised by him, and – at the end of the book – there is literally a symphony of crying and wailing as his engagement is publically announced. From a realistic standpoint, however, the hero’s persona leaves much to be desired. The most noticeable aspect about his character is that he has become spoiled by his status, wealth, and the inability of a single soul to dislike him. He is not so much conceited as he is very self-centered and oblivious to anyone else’s concerns. He had an affair with a widow and then left her, even though he knew she was looking for marriage. He doesn’t want to be trapped into marriage, but enjoys the attention of women whenever he has it. And the hero’s attitude does not change much over the course of the novel. The heroine comes into play when the hero comes upon his self-proclaimed brilliant idea to hire a chaperone, to prevent those occurrences when a young lady “forgets” to bring hers to a private room. The hero’s mother sees it as the perfect opportunity to set up a match for her son, and hires a governess who is a family friend. This, of course, is the heroine. The heroine does not ever come across as significantly more interesting than the hero, with her most appealing attributes seemingly being that she can sit in quiet companionship and that she’s pretty.
The entire first half of the novel is dedicated to the setup of the story. The hero comes up with his idea, the heroine is hired, the heroine does her expected job of preventing compromising positions, and… not much else happens. The hero completely ignores the heroine as they travel together or work in mutual silence. He constantly calls her by the wrong name, and cannot remember a single distinguishing feature about her. He is also on uncomfortably close terms with his old mistress. The heroine, of course, immediately falls in love with this paragon of a man. Something about his childlike demeanor endears him to her, apparently. And then – quite suddenly – the hero’s whole view of the heroine changes at the midpoint of the novel. His friends point out her beauty, his mother throws out hints to get him interested, and he even has a conversation or two with the heroine. Then the hero kisses the heroine, shaming the heroine into moving out of the house and leaving her position. The hero is abruptly lost without her. He works to show his worth by finally remembering her name, and - *gasp* - even remembering when she told him what her favorite flower was. At no point is any significant development demonstrated in the relationship between the hero and heroine. The story jumps straight from the setup to a major conflict. I thought the storyline couldn’t possibly get worse, but I was incorrect. The last twenty percent of the novel is drawn out with silly misunderstandings such as the hero dancing attendance on another girl for his brother’s benefit or the angry ex-mistress shutting the heroine in a closet. It was miserable.