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Miss Timothy Perseveres
by Emily Hendrickson
(Signet, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-451-19676-7
**
Many times when I give a Regency romance less than an acceptable rating, the reason lies in the failure of the author to authentically portray the society of the era. This is not something one can say about Emily Hendrickson. She has clearly done extensive research into Regency England and never hesitates to exhibit this knowledge. For example, did you know that a duke was formally termed "'Most High, Potent and Noble Prince' by the court and the king addressed him as "Our right trusty and right entirely beloved cousin?" Neither did I.

Miss Timothy Perseveres is full of such accurate (and sometimes interesting) arcane facts. What it lacks, in my opinion, is a compelling story. Nothing very exciting happens in this book.

The Duke of Eddington is attending the wedding of his cousin the Marquess of Torrington to the lovely Miss Katherine Talbot. His Grace is most taken by one of the bride's attendants, her violet-eyed cousin, Miss Persys Timothy. Persys has served as her cousin's companion and is sad-eyed at the wedding for two reasons. She has developed a tendre for the handsome marquess and she wonders what her future will hold now that Katherine no longer needs her.

The smitten duke discovers that Persys' nasty aunt has told the young woman that she must find another position. He acts with dispatch to hire Miss Timothy to serve as companion to his mother who had fortuitously sprained her knee and was bored by inactivity.

So Persys accompanies the duke to his stately and gracious seat, Eddington Park, where she gets along just fine with the duchess, acquires a kitten, gets along just fine with the duke's friends, doesn't get along at all with the duke's ambitious cousin Charlotte who has designs on the duke's person, gets along better and better with the duke, decides to start a school for young ladies with the duchess' sponsorship in a house near the duke's park, overhears the duke inform his mother that he is planning to marry, decides to abandon the school, helps the duchess settle into the dower house, and finally . . . .

.....discovers when her cousin Katherine and the marquess come to visit that she doesn't really love the marquess after all.

The "sainted Georgette" could get away with plotlines that were no more complex than the above. And I rather imagine that Jane Austen's stories could be reduced to something similarly seemingly trite. But these authors wrote sparkling dialogue, created amusing secondary characters, and succeeded in creating enough tension and uncertainty about the outcome to maintain the readers' interest. Hendrickson does none of these.

I admire Hendrickson's attention to detail when it comes to describing Regency life and society. I am impressed by her knowledge of the era. But when the most interesting aspects of a novel are not the characters or their romance but the extensive information about herbs and herbalism, well, something isn't quite right. So I must warn those readers who share my taste in Regencies to think twice before persevering with Miss Timothy.

--Jean Mason


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