Book Review: Small Deceptions by H. Linn Murphy

Book:  Small Deceptions
Author:  H. Linn Murphy
Pages:  288
Format:  Paperback, Kindle/ebook
Publisher:  Xlibris
Book Source:  Personal Purchase
Category:  Regency Romance
Style:  "A novel after the style of Jane Austin," archaic language poorly interpreted

Synopsis from Author's Blog:

Francesca Kennington merely wants to be left to her studies, despite her mother's best efforts to saddle her with a rich husband. Then she meets a mysterious gentleman, who leads her on a romp through the ballrooms and countryside of Georgian England. Their romance blossoms but secrets cause Francesca's house of cards to tumble. She must find a way to put her life back together, while still following her heart.

My Take:  

Ms. Murphy has created an interesting premise with a great deal of promise: a bookish girl, frustrated with her mother's harping, decides to pretend to bow to her wishes in an effort to get what she wants, i.e., more time to herself and her studies.  Said girl gets caught in her own trap and begins to enjoy herself as a faux society maven.  Romance ensues.

Enter the mother, pleased with her daughter's transformation but insistent she wed a gentleman other than Francesca's choosing.  The two clash.  The truth about the mother's resentment comes to the fore, including the father's absentee parenting and obvious favoritism for Francesca.  The crisis reaches its peak.

Francesca's true love clues in the absent father about the goings-on between his wife and daughter.  The father returns to restore Francesca to grace, address the mother's issues, and establish the true love as his daughter's rightful suitor.

Ms. Murphy tackles some meaty issues here and presents thoughtful commentary.  The thread is redolent with potential for a book much more significant than a run-of-the-mill Regency romance.  Unfortunately, it comes in the last quarter of the book, almost as if she stumbled over it accidentally, achieved by a plot twist that crosses over the boarder from implausible to ludicrous.  I am not quite convinced she is aware of it at all, but rather created it while casting about for denouement.

Even more unfortunate is the fact that to get there the reader must first plow their way through one-dimensional characters with no redeeming qualities performing inexplicable, unjustifiable actions which produce no ill consequences; multiple demonstrations of the author's ignorance of and/or complete disregard for social mores of the day or the repercussions of flaunting them; unlikely scenarios, unimaginable demands, and long strings of linguistic acrobatics meant to impress but which ultimately underscore a shaky understanding of the lexicon, at best.

It grieves me to say it, but the author lost me when (at the beginning of the book) she placed her protagonist alone at her family's country house without any matronly supervision while her mother and sisters abandoned her for London and The Season, and her father tended his shipping business in Liverpool—her father, the otherwise non-delineated lord of the realm.  There I'll stop because I've said far too much already.

Bottom line:  I hesitate to pan the efforts of any author, knowing as I do my own work fails to meet the standards of many, I'm sure.  However, I cannot in good conscience recommend this book.  It has received glowing reviews on both Amazon and GoodReads, but, in my opinion, true Austenophiles picking up this book because of its tagline will find themselves gravely disappointed.  An excerpt of the book can be found here.

FTC Disclaimer:  I independently purchased this book and received no compensation from the author or their agent for this content.

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