Review: A Scandalous Deception: A Regency Cozy

A Scandalous Deception: A Regency Cozy audiobook cover. The white silhouette of a Regency lady is superimposed upon an image of grand buildings and adorned with gold scrollwork patterns. The background is a deep pink. A Scandalous Deception: A Regency Cozy by Lynn Messina.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Duration: 7 hrs 21 mins.

A Scandalous Deception by Lynn Messina is the second book in a series of cosy Regency mysteries featuring inquisitive bluestocking, Beatrice Hyde-Clare, and the imposing Damien Matlock, Duke of Kesgrave. In this outing, Bea's determination to set right the untruths which have plagued her since the last book puts her once again at the scene of a dastardly crime. As Bea begins to unravel the particulars she finds herself in more trouble than ever; and Miss Hyde-Clare's propensity for trouble is becoming rather legendary...

Having very much enjoyed the first book in the series, A Brazen Curiosity which I reviewed in December, I was delighted to listen to Bea's return in this new adventure. It was a joy to have Bea and Kesgrave solving another mystery together, needling one another along the way.

Narrator Jill Smith struggled a little with some of the trickier aspects of an upper-class British accent in the first book and was caught out by the pronunciation of Regency terms and phrases, but it is clear that she has worked hard to address them this time. Her performance appeared much less forced, and this natural delivery in turn helped Bea's character feel more authentic and allowed for a far easier connection between the listener and the lady.

Although there were still a few mispronunciations (such as 'Grecian', 'chaise longue', and 'passages'), Smith seemed much more confident, and in this book the narration stood out for its charm, not its faults. I was impressed by the improvement from the previous audiobook, and actually enjoyed the narration this time. I still believe that the Duke of Kesgrave's voice made him sound a little older than his years but it remained consistent with our introduction to the character in book one, as did all the other voices.

As I settled into A Scandalous Deception, I did feel that rather too much time was spent summarising the previous book. The first fifteen minutes of this audiobook were almost exclusively devoted to recapping prior events, but some explanation was necessary to make this a stand-alone novel and it is difficult to supply the listener with that information without indulging in a little exposition.

As in A Brazen Curiosity, Beatrice once more reminded me of Alexia Tarrabotti in Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series (which is now available from Audible UK once more, after disappearing for a while). There's no higher compliment I can pay an intelligent, forthright female in a historical novel than to compare her to one of my favourites, and whilst it did feel as if some of the misunderstandings between Bea and Kesgrave became a little too contrived, I do very much enjoy their interactions and verbal sparring, much as I loved Alexia's early jousts with Conall in Soulless .

Every now and then, a book will send me off on a tangent. This time it was Messina's use of the word "pumps" when describing the numerous shoes and boots in the wardrobe of a deceased Dandy. I was intrigued to determine the accuracy of a Regency character making such an observation, given that it is not even a common part of the British English lexicon today unless referring to plimsolls, which would have been an unlikely choice for a delicate Beau. The research was fascinating, and I have learnt more about the various styles of hessians, top-boots, and half-boots than I had ever previously observed, and it will be a long while before I can be dissuaded from the belief that everything which is required to be durable ought to be made from sturdiest nankeen. I also feel that I better comprehend the sartorial differences between a Corinthian and a Swell, or a Tulip and a Gillyflower, though I spent much of the time utterly distracted, marvelling at the intricate reproduction clothing hand-sewn by Pinsent Tailoring. Nothing brings period costume to life more than seeing how garments fall on a gentleman who understands how to wear them.

In all my reading, listening, and perusal of fashion plates and catalogues, I found nothing from any Regency source which suggested that "pumps" was ever used to describe shoes of the era, though it occurs often in blogs, books, and essays when comparing Regency styles to their modern equivalents. Via Twitter, I posited my quandary to Dress and Textile Historian, Hilary Davidson, author of the upcoming, Dress in the Age of Jane Austen , who was also unable to call to mind any occasions in her own research which supported original, period usage of the term.

Historical accuracy aside, whilst the appearance of the word was a little jarring and did persuade me to stop listening while I sought clarity on the perceived anachronism, I enjoyed the additional reading and it did not affect my opinion of the book. As long as Brummell doesn't appear in the next book wearing brothel creepers, I think that it can be overlooked.

I was very glad to hear Kesgrave's wry humour return in full force in this book, and laughed aloud at more than one of his sardonic comments. The similarities to Georgette Heyer's The Corinthian were undeniable this time, not only because of Bea's masculine disguise but due to the Duke - somewhat affectionately - calling her "Brat". As The Corinthian is one of my favourite Heyer's, I was not disappointed to note that little nod to it. In fact, I was not disappointed by any of it, really, and as with the first book - and every other that I enjoy - I found myself stretching out my listening once I realised I was halfway through and that my time with Bea and the Duke would soon end. A Scandalous Deception built on a cast of engaging characters and drew me even further into their lives. I hope the wait for the next book is not terribly long, as I am already looking forward to finding out what they get up to next.

I'd gladly recommend this book to listeners who enjoyed, A Brazen Curiosity and anyone who likes cozy mysteries and Regency romance. Whilst the will-they-won't-they romance is somewhat secondary to the mystery, the book does not shy from the Regency era's societal preoccupation with making a good match, and is a nice way to explore that world from a slightly different perspective.


*I received this audiobook free of charge in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.


Buy on Audible uk
(Click here to buy this book, listen to a sample, or add it to your wishlist!)

No comments