Elizabeth Mansfield has long been one of the most popular writers of
Regency romances. This single title release, while not “officially” a
Regency, is nonetheless a traditional Regency expanded to a longer
format. There is nothing wrong with this. Indeed, Mansfield takes
advantage of the longer format to create a more textured and expansive
story than is possible in a more limited page count.
“The Girl in the Persian Shawl” is a portrait which serves to bring the
heroine and hero together. The painting belongs to the Rendell family
and hangs in the house inhabited by the Dowager Viscountess and her
daughter Kate. One day, Harry Gerard, Lord Ainsworth calls, asking to
see the picture. He has been commissioned by his grandmother to find a
painting done by an ancestor which resembles in subject matter the
The strong-willed and opinionated Kate resents Lord Ainsworth’s
uninvited appearance at her home and treats her visitor quite rudely.
His lordship departs quite quickly, but not before getting under Kate’s
skin. She heartily wishes him gone, but can’t quite get him out of her mind.
Kate is well on her way to spinsterhood, not because she isn’t
attractive or even because she doesn’t have a suitor - her childhood
friend Percy insists on asking her to wed regularly - but because her
independent and managing ways have discouraged most likely candidates
for her hand. She does not regret her unwed state and is quite happy
managing her mother, the household and the estate.
A visit to her uncle’s is a welcome change. She and her mother are
invited to a house party to celebrate her cousin’s betrothal. When Kate
arrives, she discovers that Ainsworth is one of the guests and jumps to
the conclusion that he is the happy bridegroom. She can’t understand
why this upsets her. Nor, when this turns out not to be the case, can
she understand her relief.
Kate has a penchant for jumping to conclusions. On scanty evidence, she
believes that Harry is a rake and becomes suspicious when he begins to
pay her attention. But if Kate jumps to conclusions, her cousin Deirdre
jumps from one man to another. Betrothed to one man, she almost
immediately begins to wonder if perhaps she loves Harry. And when she
confides in her cousin, Kate decides that Harry is indeed a bounder and
Deirdre’s inconstancy is the driving force of the plot. Her romantical
delusions are perhaps forgivable in an eighteen year old but they cause
problems for everyone else in the story.
There is a romp-ish quality to The Girl with the Persian Shawl, a
gentle sort of humor which is enjoyable enough. I must admit to having
some trouble with the heroine; Kate is too willing to believe the worst
of Harry. Frankly, I was never completely sure why Harry fell in love
with her. Actually, the secondary romance featuring Kate’s mother and
her old-fashioned suitor is more charming than the primary romance.
The Girl with the Persian Shawl should appeal to Mansfield’s many
fans as well as those who enjoy traditional Regency romances. I found
it reading it a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours.