Genre: YA, Historical Ficiton
Publisher: Swoon Reads on April 11, 2017
My thanks to the publisher for providing me with a digital review copy. No compensation was provided for this review, and all opinions are my own.
In which a lady and a law clerk find themselves entangled in the scandal of the season…View Spoiler »
Charming and sweet, Cindy Anstey’s DUELS AND DECEPTIONS is an outrageously clever YA historical fiction that’s perfect for fans of slow burn romance and whip-smart dialogue. I liked it so much that the second I finished reading, I grabbed a copy of Anstey’s first book; she’s an auto-buy author for me now!
Miss Lydia Whitfield is an heiress unlike most her age: she cares more for the productivity of her estate and its crops than she does for Society or the marriage market. In fact, the unsentimental girl has willingly agreed to marry a man that even she admits is a buffoon to ensure her family’s position and on-going security. Even if a certain handsome law clerk, one Mr. Robert Newton, is driving her to distraction whilst drawing up the marriage papers. Doesn’t he realize she’s trying to be noble and self-sacrificing? But soon Lydia finds that try as she might, she can’t control everything around her…least of all her heart.
Everything about DUELS AND DECEPTIONS is delightful, and I found myself smiling the entire time I was reading the book – which was in one sitting, something I rarely do these days. I was particularly impressed by Anstey’s ability to breathe new life into standard romance tropes, such as the classic “kidnapped and forced to spend time together in close proximity.” All my romance readers out there know exactly what I’m talking about. There’s mischief and plotting aplenty in this one, with someone plotting to ruin the Whitfield family name – and Lydia’s reputation – in one fell swoop. Who’s behind it all? Is it Lydia’s horrible uncle? Is it her jealous cousin? Is it someone altogether different? The only way to figure it out is if Robert and Lydia spend more time together sleuthing, obviously. The two of them trying to come up with excuses to call upon one another was absolutely adorable.
Romance isn’t the only charming thing about DUELS AND DECEPTIONS, though: there’s also great representation of female friendships and family relationships aplenty. One of my favourite scenes in the book is one in which Lydia and her two best friends save their best gossip and chatter until their male companion zones out and falls asleep. So funny! The many Whitfield family dinner scenes were also well done, bringing to life the atmosphere of a strained, uncomfortable meal that somehow has a strong sense of camaraderie throughout it all. I also loved the relationship between Lydia and her mom, who starts as a Mrs. Bennet-like character riddled with “nerves” but becomes more complex throughout the novel.
Anstey has an eye for detail, bringing historical accuracy to everything from a dinner party with unexpected guests to taking in the waters in Bath during the rainy season. A lot of research clearly went into writing DUELS AND DECEPTION, and I appreciated that social graces, fashion, and even (im)proper duelling laws were all observed. Aside from a few moments where character’s quips felt just a hair too modern, there weren’t any inaccuracies or anachronisms that I could spot. And those moments were so funny that I forgave them almost instantly. Fair play to you, Cindy Anstey!
Whether you’re a diehard fan of historical romance or you’re looking to try something new and freshen up your genre mix, DUELS AND DECEPTIONS is a charming read that’s guaranteed to leave you smiling.