by Omma Velada, regency (2004)
UKA Press, £7.99, ISBN 1-904781-10-1
As an published effort from an independent press, Omma Velada's The Mackerby Scandal is on the short side (188 pages) and priced on the high side. However, this book is especially worth a look if you are looking for a traditional Regency that offers a premise that is a little more adventurous than the usual ballroom and debutante offerings of the subgenre. You see, the heroine Catherine Haywood is in love with James, the stablehand of the man she is supposed to marry.
Catherine Haywood is a rather typical heroine of the subgenre: she's the daughter of a middlingly wealthy man but one with her own mind and great love for her family. Mr Haywood wants to see her marry well and arranges for her to marry Mr Larkin, the well-to-do gentleman of Ellis Park. However, Catherine's heart flutters at the sight of James, Mr Larkin's groom, and soon finds herself looking forward to spending platonic moments together with him under the pretense of rides while trying to remain sensible. After all, she knows that she is supposed to marry well as befits her role and responsibility. She knows what happens to silly women who marry men that are beneath their stations - they get disowned by their families and die in miserable penury. Sometimes the heart isn't always so sensible, alas.
As I'm sure frequent visitors to this website will know, I'm not a fan of the traditional Regency subgenre. The Mackerby Scandal has a very slow start in the beginning, so it takes awhile for me to really get into the story, what with all those descriptions of the scenery and Catherine's daily activities having me wonder when something exciting will happen in the story. However, it's hard for me to call the book boring at that point in time because it seems obvious to me that Ms Velada is going somewhere with her story. And indeed, she is - the story eventually builds up very nicely to Catherine and James meeting up with Catherine trying so hard to remain sensible as she sneaks a peek at the handsome James.
The plot development of The Mackerby Scandal doesn't really have anything that hasn't already been done in any cross-class romance tales in movies or mainstream books, so one valid criticism that can be levelled to this book is its lack of innovation in the plot. However, this plot is an innovation of sorts in the traditional Regency subgenre because very rarely do authors of the subgenre tackle such a romance. More importantly, however, the author does a very good job in evoking the passion in the story despite the characters' muted emotions carefully guarded under genteel politeness and decorum in this book. Ms Velada manages to bring to life very well how Catherine's feelings slowly break down her common sense.
It is perhaps inevitable that the happy ending arises from the unexpected generosity and goodwill of someone who is romantic and kind enough to approve of James and Catherine when her father won't. Ms Velada manages to keep the story grounded and this happy ending feels realistic and down-to-earth. In the end, I can believe that these two will have a happily ever after.
So why am I not giving this book a keeper grade? Late in the story, the sensible Catherine turns into an uncharacteristic ninny and starts believing the worst of James, thanks to someone whose motives she should see through. This conflict is a typical big misunderstanding issue that makes Catherine come off as pretty silly. James is a little too perfect sometimes, with his lack of pedigree and wealth his only flaw, and I wish that he is a little more well-drawn to come off as something deeper than a one-dimensional My First Nice Boyfriend character.
For all its flaws though, The Mackerby Scandal is well-written enough and the main characters are very likeable and level-headed people I can't help rooting for despite the contrived misunderstanding issue dogging them later into the story. Readers wanting to read something a little different from the usual tales of debutantes and secret agent noblemen running wild in London and the countryside may want to take a chance on Omma Velada's The Mackerby Scandal.
This book at Amazon UK
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