Duels and Deception, by Cindy Anstey

I picked up Cindy Anstey's Duels and Deception in hopes that it would be an improvement on Avon's True Romance line, a short-lived attempt to write Regency romance novels for teens. I found the Avon books to be amusing but flimsy (even by romance novel standards), but assumed that Anstey's book—with its eye-catching cover and breathless promotional quotes—would be more impressive. Sadly, I was wrong: Anstey's plot would fit right in with the True Romance line, but her writing is actually way below their standards.

Anstey's heroine is Miss Lydia Whitfield, a wealthy heiress with clear plans for her future. Unfortunately, her well-organized and thoughtful arrangements hinge upon the people around her, none of whom are willing to cooperate: her guardian keeps making foolish decisions about the future of Lydia's estate, her betrothed-to-be is oddly reluctant to commit, and her mother never listens. The only person who seems to be in Lydia's corner is her handsome new solicitor, Robert Newton, but even his help may not be enough to save her when the many irritants that surround her suddenly transform into actual dangers.

Duels and Deception is a veritable grab-bag of anachronisms, misused words and phrases, and straight-up terrible writing. There are too many examples to count, but here's a sampling of some of my favorites:

“Seems a might bit dicked in the nob.” There's a critical difference between “might” and “mite”.

“Reestablish the pecking order” This usage was first coined in the 1920s, roughly one hundred years after the setting of this novel.

“We paid it no never mind.” And this is a phrase from the American South! Seriously, does this woman even have an editor? Have either one of them ever read any Regency-era English literature?

“'Shodster?' Lydia said... gasplike.” Why the ellipsis? What on earth is “gasplike”?

By themselves, none of these errors are that terrible, but they just don't stop. I would do my best to ignore them if the underlying plot was sufficiently entertaining, but it isn't. It's a silly, predictable story wrapped up in undeservedly pretty packaging. I have no idea what Ms. Anstey's publishers were thinking, but they might want to go look up the authors who contributed to that Avon True Romance line, because their books were far better examples of Regency romances reinvented for modern YA readers.
Posted by: Julianka


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