|Regencies are my comfort reads. The length and conventions of the genre make them a great choice for readers who want read a story that focuses on the couple. The best Regencies engage me in the lives and loves of the characters. Every time I try a new (or new-to-me) Regency author, I start reading with a sense of excitement and hope that the pleasure will continue to the end of the book. I picked up Glenda Garland’s A Slight Change of Plans with excitement, but the pleasure dwindled far too quickly. While the main couple is engaging, the story is ultimately bogged down by too many side elements.
The book begins with Penelope Lindon sketching an apparently sleeping Edmund, Lord Worthington. She soon realizes, however, that he’s not sleeping. In fact, he’s dead, and he was poisoned.
Months later, the murder remains unsolved, and the new Lord Worthington, Lucas Pargetter, takes residence. It isn’t a smooth transition. Lucas left the town years before after a scandal about women: “the late Lord Worthington ordered him into the navy because the family was afraid of him disgracing them further.” Though Lucas shows no sign of resuming his wild ways, the Four Corners community regards him with suspicion, especially since no one has caught Edmund’s killer. Lucas knows he is the subject of rumors: “The gossip, Uncle, is that I murdered Edmund to, shall we say, gain access to my cousin Lady Worthington.”
Lucas meets Penelope on his property. Though unmarried, she is the primary caretaker of her niece and nephew: “She had taken them in after [her sister] Helen had died in childbirth, and their father, Lord Eversleigh, could not look upon them for his grief and guilt.” Eversleigh has implied that she can care for the children as long as she remains unwed. Thus far, this stipulation has been a simple one for Penelope. Though she was once engaged to Lieutenant Gerald DeVine, he was killed in battle years before. Penelope tends to distrust men since being told by her friend Lady Drucilla that Gerald had attacked her.
In spite of her habitual reserve, Penelope finds herself enjoying Lucas’ company. They become friends early in the story, when Lucas discovers that the estate has been mismanaged, and he takes Penelope and her brother Chad with him to call on the tenants. Notwithstanding Lucas’ honorable actions, most people in the town continue to ascribe him with impure motives.
A Slight Change of Plans is at its best when it focuses on the friendship of Penelope and Lucas. They are interesting individually and as a couple. Penelope’s kind nature makes her a perfect foil for Lucas, a man far more comfortable at sea than among other people. Their relationship develops slowly and sweetly.
However, much of their story is overwhelmed by the different mysteries surrounding them. There’s the question of who killed Edmund, a thread that takes considerable time and page count. There’s also the issue of how Penelope can have a relationship and still care for the children. There’s even a mystery involving Penelope’s fiancé and Lady Drucilla. Limiting the conflict to one of these issues would have kept them from being too distracting and would have allowed the relationship to take center stage.
Penelope and Lucas are an interesting and compelling couple, but their growing relationship is shortchanged by the other aspects of the story. Ultimately, A Slight Change of Plans is a story that’s slight on romance.