Duels & Deception
Like Jane Austen and thrillers? Wondering what a mashup of the two might look like? You need to read Cindy Anstey’s Duels & Deception, a rollicking adventure with a headstrong heroine trying to protect her inheritance of the family estate from a controlling drunk uncle, a man-crazy cousin, the spendthrift noble next door she’s expected to marry, and her own surprising feelings for Robert, the visiting new law clerk.
Lydia and Robert sparkle as their relationship develops — and then a kidnapping throws some spice into the mix. Not only do they need to escape the ruffians, they need to make sure Lydia’s name isn’t sullied by her being left alone with a man. The shame! And while she’s trying to plan a small gathering for 200 people for her 18th birthday as well.
Lydia isn’t exactly period-appropriate, since she has too many opinions about business and is determined to run things to protect her family, but her adventures are a lot of fun, with plenty of humor and suspense, and her abilities make for a better read for today’s audience. The characters are well-sketched, with their various personalities evoking pity (the former schoolmate who’s been unlucky in love and now works as a governess) or scorn (the greedy, plotting new neighbor) or admiration (Robert, the clerk, a well-bred, charming gentleman).
I loved how smart and entertaining Lydia and Robert were, together and separately, particularly when it comes to defeating a scheming sister who’s broken up the governess and her crush. It’s a bit different to think about a society where one lying letter could change someone’s life, but if one wasn’t allowed to contact someone any other way… I guess it’s not that different from only knowing someone over the internet. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)