by Regina Scott, historical (2003)
Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-7486-7
Our Regency-era heroine Celia Rider has a Plan. You see, she's supposed to inherit some money on her twenty-first birthday, this inheritance coming from her stepmother Patrice's family side, the Pallidores. But when her twenty-first birthday comes and goes without any sign of the money and her letter went unanswered, Celia decides to hatch a Plan. The world cringe in terror, because there's nothing more terrifying than a Regency-era heroine with a Plan. The Plan, as it is, is to pretend to be her stepbrother Martin's governess when the Pallidore matriarch Lady Honoria summons him to London. In London, she will surreptitiously sneak about the Pallidore house and make discreet enquiries about whether Patrice and the solicitors have conspired to bilk her of her money.
Meanwhile, Patrice's cousin Brandon (does that make him Celia's stepuncle?) is approached by Celia's hubby-to-be Stanley "Don't you know?" Arlington who accuses Brandon of murdering Celia. Intrigued, Brandon begins looking a little closer at the people in Lady Honoria's household and his attention zeroes in on the pretty governess of young Martin. Uh oh, what will Celia do now?
The plot... sheesh, I don't know what to say about the plot other than heaven help us all when Regency heroines have a Plan. Thankfully, Celia may be hopeless when it comes to lying and preventing her emotions from showing on her face, but she's not a dummy in any other way. Her plan actually isn't bad compared to some of the so-called plans I've come across in other books, and she definitely has the brain to carry them out to the end, at least. Brandon is a decent hero - he has the Infamous Reputation that every romance hero of his kind has, but he's a charming guy exhibiting great chemistry with Celia. I also like how Patrice is not a nasty woman but a hopelessly absent-minded and self-absorbed woman that genuinely hopes she's not a bad stepmother like those stepmommies in the books she's read.
The biggest problem in this book is the author letting Lady Honoria have so much power over everyone in this book. Soon, Celia and Brandon are doing silly things as they tiptoe around the place trying to make up their mind whether to obey Lady Honoria or whine about how high-handed that woman is. When Brandon starts telling me that he can't be with Celia because his doing so will mean that Lady Honoria will win over him, I really don't know what to say. Won't it be nice if these characters grow up and do what they want without trying to upstage Lady Honoria in childish games?
Because the main characters soon fall into a rut of acting like childish kids trying to rebel against an authority figure in a juvenile manner, Perfection soon takes a nosedive from being an entertaining historical romance story into a story that tries my patience. It's a fun book while it lasted because of the very likeable main characters and their enjoyable chemistry with each other. It's just too bad that Lady Honoria eventually becomes the plot contrivance that brings out the more irritating aspects of these characters.
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