Awe-Struck E-Books, Mar 2004
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood
Lady Genia, daughter of the Earl of Elmsall, is too practical to think Society holds any prospects for her. Her beauty and wit give her popularity among the men of the Ton, but no one would be willing to ally with her family. Her father and two brothers are of such poor character that Genia’s only realistic hopes are to support her family by gambling, or to become the mistress of a rich man. Neither one suits her nature.
Life looks up for the lonely Genia when she meets Lady Dorothea Somerton. Unfortunately, this brings Genia into close association with Dorothea’s brother, the attractive Marquess of Wessington, and brings Dorothea to the notice of Genia’s unscrupulous brother Neville, Viscount Rawcliffe. Genia finds it difficult to accept her foreordained future when the Marquess is showing an inexplicable interest in her. It is no less difficult to keep Rawcliffe away from Dorothea, in the face of Rawcliffe’s blackmail.
At first glance both Genia and Wessington seem too cynical to be likable, but I quickly came to care what happened to both of them. Wessington’s sister Dorothea and their friend Lord Lanark are nicer people, or perhaps just more fortunate in their lives, so they provide an undercurrent which nourishes our interest in the plot.
One thing makes THE BEGGARMAID unique: the vivid descriptions of the measures Genia and her family take to hide their poverty. They go hungry as often as not, but present themselves in expensive clothes to support their position. Their friends are not invited home, because their bare rooms are in a state of disrepair. I have read that some desperate nobles did live like this, to keep up appearances. Author Lesley-Anne McLeod clearly did her research, and then used a logical imagination to recreate how it must have felt.It appears to me that, in many cases, the author has combined the standard phrases of the genre and slightly rearranged them, reaching for originality. It doesn’t always work: "Wessington bid fair to become an enigma." – empty words, when he had been puzzling Genia deeply for some time. Genia describing her brother Rawcliffe: "His lack of character and honour are the worst of his traits, his lying and deceit the poor best." I hoped as I read this that the author would get her thoughts sorted out before she attempted any further character analysis.
McLeod says THE BEGGARMAID is based on the legend of King Cophetua and his wife Zenelophon. The poverty angle aside, this version is also based on just about every run-of-the-mill Regency romance. The book is 112 pages long, which leaves little room for expanded development; but from the looks of it, the author would do little better at her current skill level if she did have more space. I am guessing that more years of living will give her a better grasp of her human material. However, if you enjoy the standard Regency plots without any special distinction, you will likely enjoy THE BEGGARMAID. I read it twice in the process of reviewing, and found it no chore.
January 2004 Review
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