Four novellas of tantalizing tittle-tattle in Regency England.
In the salons of the ton, no tidbit is more delicious than a rumor of amour-the more outrageous the better. Rakes and rogues, ladies of high station and low morals are choice fodder for the gossips of society.
Gossip figures prominently in three of the four Regency-era novellas included in this collection, which is, unfortunately, as shallow as a Hollywood rumor rag. James incorporates the theme she used most successfully in "A Proper Englishwoman," employing a number of gossipy letters as a prelude to a bold, if unlikely, tale of seduction. Far less inventive are London's "The Vicar's Widow" and Navin's "Miss Jenny Alt's First Kiss." The former is a predictable tale of two lovers and the jealous debutante who will do anything, even spread nasty rumors about a virtuous widow, to pull them apart, and the latter is an equally familiar romance between a bookish beauty with an undeserved reputation and a handsome lord. Lee's "Clearly a Couple" stands out both for its exemplary writing and its unique heroine, though the story has very little to do with gossip. Its premise is also far too meaty for such a short story, so it inevitably falls prey to the same flaw as the others the protagonists' love comes too swiftly and unbelievably. All in all, this lackluster collection is a pale representation of these authors' works and isn't likely to stir up much chatter in the romance community.