Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-233512-8
Historical Romance, 2015
At 21, Lucy Westmore is finally about to make her London debut. Her wealthy parents bought the most expensive and prettiest dresses for her, but Lucy hates everything about her life. She will never marry because her parents are miserable – she’d rather spend her time growing peas in the family greenhouse! When an aunt leaves her a house, Lucy decides that this is her chance to become an independent woman who would change the world with her munificence and insight. So she decides to ask her parents, whom she’d been rude and willfully disobedient to all this while – to fund her trip to Cornwall, after making it clear that she doesn’t think much of them, their hopes for her to make a good marriage can go hang, and she’s not coming back.
She is shocked – shocked! – when her parents decide that if she wants to brave the world outside her house, she can do so without them wasting any more money on her.
Undeterred, our heroine realizes that she can fund her trip there, and once she is in Cornwall, well, the rest can sort themselves out. Seriously, that’s what she says.
I know what you are thinking, and yes, they are all true.
Our hero Thomas Branston lost her sister when that wretch committed suicide after getting knocked up out of wedlock. Thomas spent days in a drunken haze, ignoring his fiancée who was looking all over for him, and when she found him in his inebriated state, she called off their engagement. Naturally, he assumes that she did that because of his sister’s scandal, and not because he turned out to be a drunken sod. He was taken in by Lucy’s now-dead aunt after he was all alone in the world, and now he wants to buy that woman’s property and restore it back to its former glory.
Yes, that aunt left the place in a state of utter disrepair because she gave what little of her stipend every month to the poor and needy. And Aunt Edith then left the rotten place to Lucy. I wonder whether that old hag secretly wanted the roof to cave in and kill her niece as a favor to the rest of humanity.
Anyway, Lucy’s father sells the place to Thomas, who understandably starts renovating the place. And then comes Lucy, screaming that he has no right to mess with her place, and generally getting into all kinds of trouble due to her obstinacy and refusal to listen to anyone. It has to be love, or maybe mercy, because it’s pretty clear that Lucy won’t last long out there unless this independent, feisty, and free-spirited lass finds a big strong man to take care of her.
The Spinster’s Guide to Scandalous Behavior is fueled by the heroine’s rampant stupidity, but to give the author lots of credit, she knows this; Lucy is designed to be stupid and ghastly from the beginning because a big part of this story arc is her discovering how wrong she is and growing up a little as a result. The problem is, Lucy darling gets her epiphany in the late third of this book, so your ability to read this book without getting dry heaves depends heavily on your threshold for the heroine’s constant demonstrations that her face and her rear end are so much alike. Lucy loves to charge ahead without heeding advice and warning, because she believes that she knows everything that is to know, and gets into all kinds of problems as a result. It is only when things really get sticky and she may just die that she gets her come-to-Jesus moment. OH MY GOD, SHE IS SO STUPID, SHE KNOWS IT NOW. Finally!
The thing is, come on, it’s not like she discovered a cure for cancer. So she realizes that she’s dumb. Good for her, but I have to sit through her antics for about 250 freaking pages. Jesus should have come to me for a high-five after smiting that wretch, instead.
Still, Lucy becomes far more likable after she accepts that she is not cut out for the life of a woman of independent means. Thomas is a nice guy all along, if often a little too self-pitying for his own good. Therefore, the last third or so of this book is very pleasant reading. Too bad it is over quickly, too quickly to make me forget all the eye-rolling I did throughout the earlier parts of this book.
The writing is clean and the chemistry is fine. It’s just too bad that the author didn’t make the heroine’s journey to self-discovery more interesting. Stupid dingbat discovering later in the story that she’s a dingbat is not exactly “Read all about it!” material as far as I’m concerned.