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Saturday, April 01, 2023

OK, we all went through that Jane Austen phase. Many went through it in 2005 when ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ with Keira Knightley came out; arguably one of the best movie adaptations of a Jane Austen novel (other than the BBC version with Colin Firth). Maybe you stuck with Jane Austen and read the rest of her novels or maybe you were content with ‘Pride and Prejudice.’ Austen had a unique writing style; she crafted beautiful love stories but also presented a very satirical look at society during her life. That writing style lives on in the works of Jude Morgan, a pseudonym for ultra-private English author Tim Wilson. Wilson rarely makes public appearances and does not have an Internet presence, but his novels are highly regarded as excellent pieces of historical fiction.

‘A Little Folly,’ is one such work. Sir Clement Carnell has just died and nothing could be better for his children, Valentine and Louisa. Sir Clement was a domineering bully who never let his children have a life outside of the walls of their Devonshire estate, Pennacombe. Valentine, the older child and only son, was allowed to spend only one term at Oxford before being forced to return home where he was not allowed to contribute anything to the running of the estate yet despised by his father for being useless. Louisa had no female ally in the house, her mother having died when Louisa and Valentine were young children. Louisa is engaged to be married by a suitor handpicked by Sir Clement, a man Louisa dislikes immensely.

After Sir Clement passes, Valentine and Louisa seize the chance to finally start living their lives. Understandably, having had no prior experience, they go all out. They finally have visitors at Pennacombe and are free to cultivate the exciting relationships they had previously been denied. Unfortunately, common sense sometimes takes a back seat. Valentine meets and becomes involved with Lady Harriet Eversholt, a beautiful society lady who just so happens to be married. Louisa finally has the freedom to find her own suitors with no one looking over her shoulder. The Carnell siblings are suddenly experiencing everything life has to offer, which could be very ruinous.

If someone handed me this book without a cover, didn’t tell me who had written it and asked me to guess  who had written it I would guess it had been written by Georgette Heyer. Heyer wrote over thirty historical novels set in Georgian and Regency England. Written just like Jane Austen and accurate to a T, she set the standard for historical fiction as she published from the 1920s to the 1970s.

Morgan has written it perfectly, even including characters that could be found in an Austen book. There is the ever-present spinster who serves as a chaperone for a pretty young lady and constantly reminds everyone that she doesn’t want to be a burden and the well-meaning but very nosy neighbor who pays a call to offer her friendship and to get the gossip before the rest of the neighborhood.

Morgan presents it all in an accurate and enjoyable novel, suitable for any lovers of Austen and Heyer. 

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