MacAlister, Katie. The Corset Diaries (2004). 336 Pages. Penguin. $6.99
Tessa is 39 years old, widowed, and “skinny challenged,” so when she is asked to take part in the A Month in the Life of a Victorian Duke reality show*, she thinks “with this body?” But she agrees, both for the $10,000 and the chance to get out and do something; her life has gone stagnant since her husband died. She rapidly finds herself transported to London, stripped of all modern accoutrements, and strapped into a Victorian corset.
On the set she meets Max, a handsome man who is the epitome of the Victorian Duke. At first, she is not so thrilled by his daughter Melody, his sister Barbara, or his brother-in-law Henry, but she gets to know the family over the course of the month. Besides the “family,” there are the servants, who are constantly muttering about staging a coup, and the production crew, who are largely outside of the plot.
The gorgeous Max is almost immediately (and predictably) drawn in by Tessa- size 18 and 5 years older than him or not- and the two get caught up in a romance. Romance is hardly exclusive to our main characters though, as many of the “servants” are involved in an affair (or two, or three, or more). Amidst all of the romance on set, someone is trying to sabotage the show (and Max & Tessa’s romance). Things go wrong, filming is ambushed, and finally fish fill the ballroom.
There are things which make this a good book- it is funny, has a fun romance, and a great premise. However, the writing is mediocre, parts of the story seem forced, some parts too long, some too short, and there is a distinct lack of depth. However, if you are reading a romance novel for the “depth,” you are likely insane.
The Quick Version:
Perhaps this is not the most well written book I’ve ever read, and it’s certainly not the most intellectual, but it was incredibly funny (I actually laughed aloud), and downright enjoyable. It scores a 3.5 of 5, because it is entertaining, but it will not be getting any literary awards.
* A Month in the Life of a Victorian Duke is reminiscent of The 1900 House or any of the sequels it inspired.