Thursday, August 11, 2016
#33 [2016/CBR8] "Ridiculous!" by D.L. Carter
Millicent Boarder, her two sisters, and her mother have lived under the miserly and disagreeable thumb of their cousin Antony North since their father died. Treated like uncompensated servants, their situation becomes even more precarious when Mr. North suddenly dies of a fever. In a rather desperate attempt to protect her mother and sisters from homelessness and destitution, Millicent dresses up as Antony. She realizes the risks she's taking and knows she's in it for the long run, but it seems a small price to pay for freedom and happiness for her sisters and mother.
While on business as Mr. North, Millicent [hereafter referred to as Mr. North when she's dressed as him] comes across a recently overturned carriage holding Shoffer (a Duke? or some kind of high nobility) and his sister Beth. Mr. North helps them out and he and the Duke become friends, eventually becoming even closer friends. When Mr. North brings the Boarder sisters and their mother to London for a season, Shoffer, is remarkably helpful in finding them a place to stay and introducing them to society. Beth, very shy and uncertain, quickly becomes friends with the two Boarder sisters, and the two families spend quite a bit of time together. In order to pull off her scheme, Millicent turns Mr. North into something of a joke, a man of wit and parody who never takes himself too seriously. Mr. North quickly becomes the fashion of the London season. Although I sometimes thought Mr. North's antics were a little over the top, his carefree rejection of societal norms was often amusing and a large part of the book.
As I was reading this, I knew Shoffer and Mr. North would end up together, but it was hard to figure out how or when it was going to happen. In fact, the friendship between the two was so well built, and they spent so much platonic time together, that I sometimes had a hard time imagining them as a couple. I did appreciate that they really had a basis for their relationship. I also appreciated how, as Millicent took on the persona and responsibilities of Mr. North, her relationship with her sisters and mother changed. They spoke less often. Millicent did not want to burden her sisters with the financial issues she was dealing with, and her sisters often did not tell her what was going on in their life. Millicent also appreciated her freedom as a man so much, that, even if it had been safe to do so, she did not want to give it up.
I was not very impressed with the characters of Millicent's mother and Beth's grandmother. At some points, Millicent's mother seemed nothing short of idiotic. She would deliberately chastise Millicent in front of servants, possibly giving her secret away. But she was also put in charge of choosing all parties and social engagements for the family because she would make the right decisions? I found her unrealistic and inconsistent. Beth's grandmother, on the other hand, was a picture of pure evil without any explanation. No one likes a snob, but Beth's grandmother wasn't acting remotely rationally.
This book was a quick, fun read that kept me entertained. Although I had a couple of problems with it, the good definitely outweighs the not as good.