Lady Ludmilla’s Accidental Letter by Sofi Laporte
This book is subtitled “Merry Spinsters, Charming Rogues”, and it is certainly full of delightful and not so delightful Regency figures. Lady Ludmilla, or “Lu” is seen as a “spinster extraordinaire”, a still young woman who believes any chance of marriage has passed her by, even if that is what she wanted. Being a single woman living in her own cottage seems an attractive idea, especially with the entertainment provided by her regular correspondent. Living with an “ailing” (hypochondriac) aunt is relived by letters full of jokes and pleasantries, which she eagerly awaits and replies to in the same lighthearted way. The big secret is that her correspondent is “neither Miss nor Madam”, but in fact a gentleman! In the Regency period in England such a correspondence would be frowned on, after all there are rules of behaviour enforced by society where an unmarried lady must be careful of her virtue. In this good natured and jolly book, Lu values these letters above all things, as she is in Bath where being an invalid is positively encouraged during this period, and in dire need of amusement.
This book cleverly uses some of the elements of farce and a comedy of manners to depict a woman who feels strongly that she has been considered by the Marriage Mart and found wanting, the ugly duckling of a good-looking family who men have inspected and overlooked. It is funny and touching, as reputation, self-image and lack of confidence is a barrier to discovering so much. Money is not a problem, but the impetus to buy fashionable clothes is not second nature to the main character. It has a look to say about how people in the particular period adopted roles such as spinster or rake to describe themselves and found it difficult to break away from. It is about how affection and more can grow from an accidental contact. The author has obviously absorbed a lot of research about the period, but never allows it to intrude into an essentially light- hearted entertainment which I was pleased to have had the opportunity to read and review.
The book begins with the first letters that began the correspondence, as Lu sends a letter to an address where she believes her friend Miss Susan lives. It is opened accidentally by someone who signs themselves “Addy”, who obviously shares Lu’s sense of humour. Despite knowing that continuing the correspondence would be highly unsuitable, she finds it a vital distraction from being a companion to her aunt who is quite addicted to her supposed ill health and the fashionable “tonics” she takes. It is only when another formidable female arrives demanding that Lu accompanies her younger sister Jessica to London to attend the events necessary for anyone young woman doing the Season that things change. Lu is immediately taken on as a challenge by her aunt Ernestina, and despite having endured a humiliating rejection by a suitor years before, she determines to discover the true identity of her correspondent. When she discovers that her pen friend is in fact a terrible rake and flirt who has a most unenviable reputation for the way he treats women, and indeed was instrumental in her failed engaged years before, she is bewildered and annoyed.
This novel is an amusing read which fits well into the Regency romance genre. The characters are well drawn and consistent, and the dialogue is crisp and readily understandable for contemporary readers. I loved the reference to the circulating library and the shocking book Lu accidentally found, as well as how she gains in confidence. This book is a really good distraction from difficult times, and a good read in its own right, and I really enjoyed it.