Avon Impulse, $4.99, ISBN 978-0-06-295104-5
Historical Romance, 2019
Don’t be fooled by the cover art into thinking that A Little Light Mischief is a tale of bored noble ladies getting lascivious around Christmastime. Alice Stapleton is a vicar’s daughter who, after being kicked out of her house by her abusive father, ends up being a companion to the kindly Mrs Wrexhall. Molly Wilkins is a former thief who is trying to clean up her act by being Mrs Wrexhall’s maid. These two will give a new meaning to downstairs affairs, and that’s basically the plot.
It’s a bit odd how Alice’s issues with her father and Molly’s past are heavier issues here, and same-sex romance is treated like a cute kind of quaintness, but hey, this is a story by Cat Sebastian, and it’s best to assume that these stories are all set in an alternate England where everyone is completely free to love as the heart desires. These are stories that attract a predominantly straight audience who will find the idea of homophobia in their stories, no matter how real and appropriate it would be in the context of the stories, too triggering for their sensibilities, after all. Hence, it’s to be expected that this is basically a story with straight romance tropes, that just happens to feature women that love and lust after one another.
In that context, this one isn’t bad at all. In many ways, it’s a standard bad boy, er, girl and good girl romance, and everything plays out the way it is supposed to do. However, the narrative is clean, and the characters are likable enough. In many ways, this is a perfectly fine read for a lazy afternoon.
However, the story itself is tad too big for its word count. Perhaps this is a pacing issue – the author spends quite a bit of time pontificating on rich people’s privilege, Molly trying to figure out Alice’s niceness, and Alice trying to understand Molly’s more pragmatic point of view, to the degree that the romance often feels more like an excuse for the author to ruminate about things that are better off expounded in a longer story. There is just not enough space for such things here. Because of this, the last few chapters feel far more rushed compared to earlier chapters, as things happen with abrupt increase in pacing as if the author had realized that she really needed to wrap things up and started throwing things out for a quick resolution.
As I’ve said, A Little Light Mischief is an alright read, kind of like a romance novel equivalent to Baby’s First Girl on Girl Romance. Like most shorter works though, it will be better if it had had more pages, or a tighter hold on the pacing.