by Amelia Grey, historical (2003)
Berkley, $5.99, ISBN 0-425-19277-6
Amelia Grey's latest offering A Little Mischief is so familiar and unexceptional that I have a hard time remembering anything much about this story. It's pleasant reading, but nothing else.
Daniel, the Earl of Colebrook, was once a rake, but now that he has inherited a title when his brother died, he's settled down prim and proper. He wants to see his sister married well, but isn't so amused when this sister becomes one of Isabella Winslowe's reading group. This group is called the "Wallflower Society" behind the women's backs and Daniel fears that Gretchen's association with Miss Winslowe and her cohort will taint her chance of marrying well. Little does he know that Gretchen will deliver the coup de grace when she hits a scoundrel with a rock and runs screaming and crying to Miss Winslowe that she has killed a man. Do she and Miss Winslowe check the man's pulse? (You'd think these self-professed intelligent women will know what to do.) Of course not! The body goes missing, and now Isabella and Daniel have a real pickle in their hands.
Isabella is a typical fake bluestocking. She talks about independence, but it's all an annoying plot contrivance to keep the hero and the heroine away for a little longer. Beneath that bluestocking exterior is actually a lot of insecurities. Which is to say, Isabella wants to get married. She's a bluestocking because half the time she doesn't know what she wants with her life and she still doesn't want to know when the answer hits her in the face. Daniel is a familiar hero in his character, personality, and behavior. The way the plot is developed is hardly original or exceptional.
There is nothing wrong with this book except that it is probably too remarkable a study of the bestseller formula. By trying too hard to incorporate elements from every successful bluestocking Regency-era romance out there, ultimately A Little Mischief sacrifices its own voice and distinguishing features for a bland and exact reproduction of a model answer as if Amelia Grey is regurgitating all that she's memorized for an exam. As an ex-instructor that frowns on students giving studiously memorized but unimaginative answers in their exam sheets, I find it hard to approve much of what A Little Mischief stands for. A little imagination and creative twist can't hurt, surely?
This book at Amazon.com
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