Thoughts After Reading:
The first half of Margaret Bennett’s The Hopeless Hoyden served as a strong reminder of what I enjoy about traditional Regency romance. Well written characterizations, recognition of the proprieties for the time period, and just a bit of humorous undertones featured prominently within the story. Personalities played the dominant role in the gently progressing romance, with physical attraction being only a secondary player. The author seemed to use a considerable amount of Regency lingo – possibly to excess – but I enjoyed it anyway. My complete enjoyment of the novel was impeded by a familiar barrier: I became frustrated with the romantic conflicts that dominate the second half of the novel.
The heroine is indeed a hopeless hoyden, but not in negative or overwhelming way. She is simply a spirited young woman who tries to take life in stride, and is more at home riding through the countryside or fishing on a river than in any sophisticated parlor. Part of the plot focuses on her trying to straddle the line between what society wants her to be and her innate personality. The heroine runs into the hero at the beginning of the novel – literally – as she tries to escape two men who she overheard plotting the murder of the hero. Despite the fact that that heroine almost unmans the hero with a stick, mistaking him for one of the criminals, he is immediately charmed by her vibrant enthusiasm and pretty looks. It isn’t long before he is inviting the heroine to his unexpected country house party, certain that her presence will make it more enjoyable. The hero’s personality is a bit less obvious than the heroine’s. He seems to be a man of strong character, but he is also quite a push-over whenever the heroine is concerned. Antics abound as the hero and heroine endure the house party, try to find evidence incriminating an attempted murderer, and fall in love along the way.
Poorly developed conflicts are often the bane of my existence as a romance reader, and this certainly holds true in The Hopeless Hoyden. The romance is built up until about half way through the novel. It is at this point that the hero and heroine are found in a compromising position and become engaged. Therefore, the remaining half of the book largely comprises of the romantic conflicts and mystery plot… dragging out misunderstandings until everything can be resolved in a grand finale. The first romantic conflict thoroughly insulted my intelligence as a reader. The hero recognizes that someone is attempting to kill him, but he continues to belittle the heroine when she reaches the same conclusion. He does this in a misguided notion that by ignoring the topic, the heroine will not investigate and therefore not put her life in danger. And it just seems so ridiculous, because he does this time after time and it just encourages the heroine repeatedly to try to prove herself, endangering herself in the process.
The second romantic conflict relates to the engagement. The hero proposes immediately after they are caught in a passionate kiss, and so it was not at all surprising that the heroine fears that he is marrying her out of duty. Yet it takes the hero an entire half of the book to understand where her fears are stemming from, and finally put them to rest. The two conflicts are brought to the forefront of the plot repeatedly over this length as the heroine lives in a cloud of uncertainly. With all that being said, the final resolutions did lead to a rather satisfying HEA.
Margaret Bennett’s The Hopeless Hoyden is largely a charming traditional Regency novel, emphasizing a realistic romance and multi-dimensional characters. Much of the content seemed to strive for historical accuracy. At the same time, the book does not take itself too seriously – it is lighthearted enough to insert the occasional bit of humor and allow the characters to knowingly defy convention from time to time. The disappointing romantic conflicts limited my enjoyment of the story, but overall it was a novel worth reading.