Scott, Regina. La Petite Four (2008). 231 Pages. $8.99. Penguin.
Lady Emily Southwell is the daughter of a Duke, and is also a Rebellious Teenager* who refuses to settle for anything less than her dream. Lady Emily and her three best friends– Priscilla Tate, Ariadne Courdebas, and Daphne Courdebas– have built this grand idea of their debut, and they will not let anything get in the way of their plans.
Their plans are set in motion as they graduate from the Barnsley School for Young Ladies, and are about to debut in their first Season. They plan for a ball to outdo all other balls– Priscilla’s family was beset by Scandal and she needs to use her good looks and charm to catch a rich husband, Daphne and Ariadne’s mother has Big Plans for her daughters and expects them to marry well. However, Emily’s fate has already been decided by her high-handed but well-meaning father; she will marry Lord Robert Townsend in eight day’s time, and she will not be attending the ball.
Of course, none of the girls are happy about it, and being Rebellious Teens, they are inclined to do things which are entirely improper and are likely to tarnish their good name in order to free Emily from her obligation. They follow Lord Robert about town and try to uncover some scandal which will make him so unmarriageable that Emily will never be expected to fulfill her engagement to the man.
Enter into this drama the incredibly handsome James Cropper, a mysterious man who crops up** at the strangest moments, confusing Lady Emily. Everything is not as it seems, and Lady Emily is the last one to catch on to the plot, leaving everything to her slightly-more-intelligent friends to figure out. By the end of the story, most readers will be sure of the end and just waiting for the characters to catch up.
Once I got over the fact that “Lady Emily” was what she was going to be called, and the fact that the cover was entirely anachronistic, and pink– a color which the character hates– and all of the other bits and pieces that drove me crazy, I found myself genuinely liking the story. It was terrible when I thought of it as a Regency story– there are so many things in here which other authors did better.
For being a well-bred young lady, the daughter of a Duke, and a recent graduate from finishing school, one might hope that a young lady would be aware that she should not be wandering around in the seedy parts of town without a guard. Sure, it creates the opening for Cropper to crop up the first time (hahahah, really, I’m brilliant, aren’t I?), and it sets the stage for the Romantic Entanglement, but really? Add to that the fact that over the course of eight days she apparently falls in love, and manages to (without actually figuring out a single thing) unveil the villain, and you’ve got something which is asking me to suspend my disbelief a little too high in that tree over there.
The Quick Version:***
It wasn’t terrible, but it was not brilliant. Regina Scott is clearly talented, as her writing itself is enjoyable. It’s her plot, and some of the finer details which made me raise an eyebrow (some times a bit higher than others). I liked the story as a whole, and was enthralled enough that I read it in a single sitting. It gets a 3 out of 5 for being solid, but having some issues.
* She’s the Clever Princess, the Smart Princess, the girl who has everything in life, but is not happy with it. She’s the noble who’s not happy being noble, and thus does something silly. In short, she’s your typical rebellious teen wrapped up in noble trappings and thrown in a regency setting.
** Hahahaha, get it, cropper crops up!?! I kill myself sometimes.
*** I think I should just start calling this “the verdict” because really, it doesn’t re-state much. It just… declares.
This book is now part of the Into the Wild Book Challenge. I’m not sure where I’ll release it yet, I’ll be sure to update this post when I’ve made up my mind though. If anyone reading the blog wants it, I’m more than happy to make this a controlled release and mail it to you. Just let me know!