A Little Folly, by Jude Morgan

A Little Folly
Some might say that Louisa and Valentine Carnell have had an easy upbringing: their father told them what to do, think, and say every day of their lives. It's oppressive, but they lead sheltered lives. After Sir Clement gives himself an apoplexy being angry with a groom, Louisa and Valentine hardly know what to do with themselves in Jude Morgan's delightful A Little Folly. Valentine proposes that they live. But first, they have to learn how to live for themselves.

The young Carnells' scheme begins simply enough. They get rid of their father's ugly fire screen. Then they do a little redecorating. Louisa starts speaking her mind to the man her father intended for her, Mr. Lynley, and lets him know that she doesn't like him at all. Then Valentine invites their cousins to stay. Even when they accept the cousins' invitation to stay—indefinitely—with them, there is nothing to reproach them with. Mr. Lynley tries to dissuade them from their friendship with Lady Harriet Eversholt, because she is separated from her husband (a shocking thing in only recently post-Napoleonic Europe). Louisa has had enough of being told what to do and spurns Mr. Lynley's advice in the strongest language she can bring herself to use.

Once the Carnells arrive in London, their lives become much more complicated. Louisa learns more about Mr. Lynley's true nature and meets his intriguing brother. Valentine pursues his attraction to Lady Harriet into her faro-bank and becomes a member of London's dandy scene. Louisa is more sensible, but she can't bring herself to do more than giver her brother advice. Neither of them can bear to be told what to do. Fortunately, Louisa has an ally in an old family friend: Mr. Tresilian.

Morgan has the language and manners of the Regency era down, even to the curious punctuation and roundabout speech. Her characters are hilarious. Mr. Tresilian and Louisa in particular had me laughing out loud at their bons mots and wit. I could quote, but there are too many brilliant bits to quote! There are shades of Austen her. (Austen threw a long shadow over any romance set in this time period.) But Morgan doesn't mimic Austen's plot arcs or characters. A Little Folly has a lot of originality. I had a great time reading it and wouldn't have minded staying a few more chapters.

I do wish Morgan had decided to name the book Influence and Iniquity, or something like that. Probably would have been too on the nose, though.

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