Annabelle Richardson, in her third Season, is being pursued by three noblemen. Beelson and Ferris have their eyes on her fortune, and young Luke Wainwright is a callow youth given to spouting bad poetry. Since Annabelle has decided she will only marry for love, she turns down their proposals. In retribution, the three men drag her name through the mud - and through the clubrooms of Whites, Boodles, etc.
Annabelle has a convenient alter ego. She writes popular novels under the name “Emma Bennet”, and soon has skewered the three men in print, as well as Luke’s older brother, Thorne Wainwright, the Earl of Rolsbury. When she meets Thorne, however, Annabelle quickly decides she’s made a dreadful mistake. Thorne, for his part, is furious at the anonymous “Emma Bennet”. But he’s mightily attracted to the lively and intelligent Annabelle, as she is to him. What will happen when he finds out the truth?
Nothing particularly innovative, I’m afraid. Yes, a Big Misunderstanding looms, and our hero and heroine will do the usual and assume the worst and not talk about their problems until virtually the last page. Meanwhile, there’s another woman who would like to attach herself to Thorne.
Wilma Counts writes cleanly and her historical details feel spot-on, but this book simply draaagggged. Lots and lots of narrative, and not nearly enough dialogue (and goodness knows, these two need all the dialogue they can get) made it an unremarkable read. Thorne was wounded on the Peninsula and has a limp, so he assumes Annabelle is repulsed by it when she tells him “it can never be” after a passionate kiss. Annabelle, of course, is referring to the anger she’s sure Thorne will feel after the truth of “Emma Bennet” is revealed. Both make all sorts of wrong assumptions about the other’s love life, not to mention what each feels after Thorne determines who Emma Bennet really is. It takes a good hundred pages to sort it out, and frankly, I was hard put not to doze off.
Too bad, because these are two fairly interesting characters in other ways. Annabelle was introduced as Harriet’s ward in The Trouble With Harriet, and any young miss who is tossed out of boarding school for misbehavior just has to be interesting. If only she didn't lose her backbone at a critical moment. As for Thorne, he’s a hoot when he’s berating his spendthrift younger brother, and when Thorne decides to take up literary criticism and write a critique of Emma Bennet’s latest work, I was grinning from ear to ear at Annabelle’s reaction. Thorne only points out what Annabelle has already admitted - that it’s nowhere near the quality of her earlier work - but High Dudgeon ensues anyway. Perhaps the author enjoyed skewering a few authors and reviewers of her own.
There’s a villain in this book as well, but he disappears for a hundred fifty pages and pops up at the end just to throw a fright into Thorne and make him admit his feelings. One has to wonder how long it would have taken Annabelle and Thorne to simply be honest with each other if this plot device hadn’t been used.
This was the first book I’ve read by Wilma Counts, and I’ll gladly try another Regency by her. Miss Richardson Comes of Age, while lacking innovation, is well-written from a technical standpoint. But if you haven’t tried her either, I recommend one of her earlier works.