Thoughts After Reading:
The premise for Miss Lacey's Last Fling, by Candice Hern, sounded delightfully amusing - a spinster who takes London by storm under the misguided belief that she will be dying soon. But as I eagerly began reading the traditional Regency novel, I had one niggling doubt: I wondered if the resulting storyline could possibly live up to my vaguely high hopes. Well, it didn't. Not only did the book fail to meet my expectations, it failed them rather spectacularly. I was not impressed with any of the characters, did not enjoy how the plot played out, and the final romantic conflict left a bitter taste in my mouth.
The storyline of Miss Lacey's Last Fling was somewhat of an odd inversion of the wallflower plot. With a normal wallflower storyline, the hero comes to love the heroine inside and out as he slowly becomes acquainted with the personality she hides from the world. In this book, however, the heroine's personality and looks change literally overnight. And - once changed - her suddenly outgoing and carefree personality makes her the most popular on dit of the ton, including to the hero. The reader is told that the heroine has spent the majority of her twenty-six years as a quiet and responsible woman, dressing in drab clothing and taking charge of the family once her mother died. But now that she believes she has the same mysterious illness that killed her mother within a few months, she is determined to live the remainder of her life to the fullest. So the heroine packs up, and goes to visit her infamous aunt in London... writing a bucket list along the way. The hero is a friend of the aunt's, and she confesses to him that she is dreading the heroine's visit. The aunt views the entire family as terribly starchy, and thinks her niece is the worst one out of the bunch. The hero, a rake seeped in debauchery and ennui, takes one look at the heroine upon her arrival and agrees completely. She's too mousy, too quiet, and far too innocent. But when the heroine tells the aunt that she has come for advice on experiencing life, the aunt is delighted. And when the heroine shows up next at a ball, transformed into a beautiful swan and taking childlike wonder in all London has to offer, the hero begins to take note.
There was so much of Miss Lacey's Last Fling that I disliked, perhaps due to my romanticized views of love and sex and life in general. I disliked that the aunt so willingly disparaged her niece, simply because the niece had a much different personality than the aunt. I disliked that the hero was so bored with his hedonistic pursuits that he was contemplating suicide, yet made absolutely zero effort to change his lifestyle. I disliked that the heroine flirts shamelessly, stealing kisses with rakes and using her looks to get what she wants. There is one scene where the heroine bats her eyelashes to one of her infatuated swains so that he will give her the reins to his new curricle, and then races it recklessly. Because she wants to have fun, and anyone else can go screw themselves. I think I felt more sympathy for that suitor than I did for any of the main characters. I disliked that the heroine was so sure of her illness, despite the many objections the doctor raises. The heroine privately sees a well-renowned doctor in London. When she tells him all the details, he very reasonably points out that the heroine never found out what exactly caused her mother's death and casts doubts that the heroine is actually dying. The heroine is furious and ignores him completely. And I certainly disliked the way the conflict was handled, although - in a way - I feel like the conflict itself was the most sensible part of the entire book. When the doctor later confirms that the heroine is not going to die, she is suddenly stricken that she has stirred up so much scandal, that she lost any chance of a respectable marriage by making love to the hero, and acted in a way so unlike herself. So she runs away back to her country house, feeling that - even if the hero thinks he's in love with her - he's in love with a carefree girl that doesn't exist. The remainder of book - the last third - is spent with the hero, aunt, and heroine's father convincing the heroine that she really is that joie de vivre person. Personally, I felt that the heroine kind of had a point. Obviously she does have that ability to enthusiastically live life, but - judging by the amount of time she has spent in a quieter existence - it seems like both aspects are part of her personality. So for the hero to only love the heroine when she is the type of woman he wants her to be - a fun-loving, devil-may-care woman - it didn't really seem like he loved her at all. And he never alters his perspective of the heroine. Instead, he lightheartedly tricks her into marrying him. The end.
Despite the interesting premise, Candice Hern's Miss Lacey's Last Fling was decidedly not my cup of tea. I really didn't like the way any of the characters were portrayed, nor how they acted. Throw in an uninspiring conflict resolution, and the result is a Regency traditional romance I wish I had never read.