The Irish Upstart

Lady Semple's Secret

The London Belle

The Rebellious Twin

The Selfless Sister

Lady Flora’s Fantasy
by Shirley Kennedy
(Signet, $4.99, G) ISBN 0-451-20463-8
Lady Flora’s Fantasy should be called Lady Flora’s Foolishness which suggests what makes this a less than successful romance. The heroine’s actions are simply stupid and are not congruent with the author’s insistence that she is an intelligent woman. They seem to arise more from the needs of the plot than the character’s personality.

Lady Flora Winton is the daughter of the Earl of Rensley. She is twenty-two years of age, well read, and chafing at the dullness of her existence. She has had several seasons and has yet to meet a man she can love. Since she refuses to marry unless she is in love, she has decided to stay home next spring. Right now, she is enjoying her family’s stay in Brighton.

Then, while bathing one day (Kennedy’s description of Regency bathing is priceless), she espies Lord Dashwood and is much taken by his handsome visage. That evening at an assembly, she can’t keep her eyes off his lordship. When he finally dances with her, she finds herself agreeing to meet him in London come spring.

However, the reader has already become aware of Lord Dashwood’s less than sterling qualities. His companion and childhood friend, Lord Lynd, expresses his doubts about Dashwood’s character and motivations. But Dashwood himself has decided that perhaps Lady Flora and her large dowry would make the perfect wife. After all, his rich uncle, Lord Dinsmore, has suggested that marriage might settle his heir down. Of course, it becomes clear to the reader that Dashwood has no intention of settling down to wedded bliss. He plans to continue his rakish ways.

Flora and Dashwood meet again in London and he begins his courtship. He knows just how to keep Flora off balance and yearning. Finally, one evening at Vauxhall, he pops the question and promises to visit her father the next day. But the next day, he fails to appear; instead, Lord Dinsmore asks permission to wed Flora. His nephew, with a more attractive prospect in the wings, has decided not to follow through and Lord Dinsmore has come to try to ameliorate the slight to Flora.

At first a distraught Flora refuses Dinsmore’s offer; after all, he is an old and ill man despite his reputation as a military hero and his kindness. But when the ton discovers that she has been jilted, she agrees to wed the uncle and the two retire to his lovely home, Pemberly Manor. There she becomes better acquainted with Lord Lynd, a neighbor. But secretly, she continues to pine for Lord Dashwood, despite his actions and her growing knowledge of his true character.

Which is the crux of my problem with the book. I simply cannot believe that an intelligent woman would maintain any affection for a man who had treated her as Dashwood did. I do recognize that we the readers have a much clearer view of Dashwood’s nature than Flora does; we have been in his point of view and know exactly how nasty he is. But Flora has more than enough information to make an informed judgment about his character. That she continues to sustain her “fantasy,” especially as she becomes better acquainted with Lord Lynd, makes her a heroine I can neither respect nor like.

Thus, Lady Flora’s Fantasy did not work for me. Call me shallow, but when I read a romance, I have to like or come to like the characters. I actually started out liking Lady Flora, but as the book progressed, I liked her less and less. Thus, I found this Regency romance less than acceptable. While I enjoy fantasy, I don’t appreciate foolishness, and that’s what Lady Flora is all about.

--Jean Mason

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