A Little Night Mischief by Emily Greenwood

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When Miss Felicity Wilcox’s uncle gambles away the estate, she decides to disguise herself as a ghost to rid her home of the handsome new owner. Except James Collington doesn’t scare easily, and haunting his nights is turning out to be far more amusing mischief than she ever would have guessed. With everything to lose, these two adversaries can’t allow their hearts to rule—or can they?(

Rating: C-

This regency era romance from debut author Emily Greenwood promised much. There’s a certain whimsical nature to the plot, the hero is quite devastatingly gorgeous (aren’t they all?), and the writing is well-crafted. But it became clear quite early on that the premise, while rather delightfully quirky, was also extremely flimsy, and I found that the heroine got on my nerves quite quickly.

Felicity Wilcox is twenty years old, and thanks to a profligate uncle, she and her somewhat eccentric father find themselves ousted from their family home, Tethering, and have to move in to Blossom Cottage, a much smaller house on the edge of the estate.

The book opens with Felicity being almost knocked into a stream and rescued by a handsome stranger. They converse, share a picnic and are instantly attracted to each other. When they go their separate ways, Felicity allows herself to dream a little about him, wondering if she will ever see him again.

When he turns out to be none other than Mr. James Collington, the man who won the Tethering estate from her uncle, she is furious – as much because she fancies him as because he’s living in her old home – and is then determined to get him to leave the house, by whatever means necessary.

A few days later, she overhears some servants at Tethering gossiping about someone having a morbid fear of ghosts and immediately jumps to the conclusion that they are talking about James. Felicity comes up with a plan to scare him away by dressing up as a ghost and prowling around the house at night making spooky noises.

James is, however, wise to her almost straight away; and when her ghostly apparition doesn’t affect him at all, she tries to embarrass him by disguising herself as the local tart and flaunting herself before some of his friends and family.

Throughout all this, the two are so hot for each other it’s a wonder they don’t spontaneously combust, although I regret to say that the sex scenes don’t really measure up. There’s one that’s so ridiculous that it actually made me start to laugh rather than make me want to fan myself!

Now, I have no problem with fluff – in fact I enjoy a nice, light-hearted read, and I had high hopes for this book. But sadly, the premise is so flawed as to have made it difficult for me to enjoy the story. The whole thing is built on a very unsteady foundation. Felicity’s uncle lost his estate at the gaming tables, not an unusual basis for an historical romance. But Felicity has it in her head that this cannot be legal and contacts the family solicitor in the hopes that the transaction will be proven unlawful and James Collington will be shown to have no rights to the property.

From that conviction stem all her schemes to get rid of James – and yet I kept asking myself why Felicity, supposedly an intelligent woman, would have the notion that there was anything to be done which could return the property to her and her father (who, by the way, was able to accept the situation). Perhaps one could say that she was so desperate as to clutch at straws, but it just didn’t ring true – and as for the idea about pretending to be a ghost, well that just rang stupid.

And then there’s the fact that, although she wants to get James out of the house, she’s besotted with him, as is he with her. About half-way through the book, Felicity learns from the solicitor that there’s nothing to be done, and she’s pretty much admitted to herself that she’s in love with James – but because she’s decided that she will never marry, is determined there can be nothing between them. I couldn’t help but ask myself,Why?

The reason for her reluctance to marry James is, while probably a big deal at the time, surely nothing that they couldn’t work out between them –and when they’re caught in a compromising position, they do end up marrying. So why on earth set it up as an obstacle in the first place? A better bet would have been to use the fact of James’ dishonesty. He’s been planning to sell the estate ever since he acquired it, in order to clear the debts amassed by his late brother, but never told Felicity of his intention – and once he realizes he should have told her, it’s too late and she finds out by accident. Oops.

I’m afraid that I lost patience with Felicity quite early on, and although James was a more engaging character – not only handsome, but capable, intelligent, and witty – I was still shaking my head at his stupidity in not owning up to Felicity his plans for the estate, because let’s face it – truth will out. Especially in a romantic novel.

On the whole, I liked the author’s style of writing – even though it was liberally peppered with the Americanisms that litter so many historical romances (“gotten” is NOT a real word, people!) – and she had a sure hand with much of the dialogue. But no amount of descriptions of how gorgeously broad-shouldered/tight-buttocked/well-muscled the hero is (and there are a lot of them) will make up for a plot with more holes than the best Emmental.

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