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Short & Sweet Review: Miss Darby's Duenna

Miss Darby's Duenna audiobook cover. A young man with blond curls sits on the edge of a bed slipping a pink slipper onto his foot.Miss Darby's Duenna by Sheri Cobb South.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Duration: 5 hrs 27 mins.
Publisher: Sheri Cobb South.
#BennetSistersScale: Lizzy - 🌹🌹🌹🌹🌹 Charming and spirited, with plenty of humour, and women who must save prideful men from themselves.

Miss Darby's Duenna by Sheri Cobb-South is a fun and rather frivolous Regency-style romance in which the hapless hero goes to extreme lengths to protect the woman he loves from a callous rakehell who is bent on vengeance.

Audible Summary: "A lady in distress...a gentleman in a dress?

Amiable but clueless young baronet Sir Harry Hawthorne thought he was making a marriage of convenience to a childhood friend...until his fiancée catches the eye of the dashing and dangerous Lord Mannerly. 

Suddenly, Sir Harry’s jealousy is roused to the point that he assumes the identity of his reclusive grandmother in order to keep the all-too-grown-up Miss Olivia Darby under his watchful eye. But the course of true love never did run smooth, and among the obstacles Sir Harry must face are a love-struck younger sister, an elderly widower with an amorous interest in the faux “Lady Hawthorne”, and a rival more ruthless than the hapless Sir Harry ever imagined.

©1999 Sheri Cobb South (P)2019 Sheri Cobb South."

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this book but I thought it sounded like great fun, and that's exactly what it turned out to be. Containing far more levity than is usual of the genre, Miss Darby's Duenna follows the slightly 'Bertie Wooster-esque' Sir Harry Hawthorne, as he escorts his sister and his betrothed through their first London season. As is the case for many a bumbling hero, Harry doesn't realise how lucky he is until he has competition for Miss Olivia's affections, or at least for her virtue. Struck by the idea that he could keep a closer eye on her if he disguised himself as his Grandmother, Harry is soon in far too deep to back out. How this tangled web unravels is part of its charm.

The Regency etiquette and the language used is much more accurate in this audiobook than in my previous listen by Cobb South, The Desperate Duke, which was a pleasant surprise given the outlandish premise. Consequently, it felt more at home in the era, with far fewer errors despite the obvious liberties being taken with propriety. This contrasted nicely with the silliness arising from Harry's ill-considered plans. It was a shame that certain phrases were reused a little too frequently, (not every look had to be a "seeing" one, nor did they all need to "match/set the word to the deed" each time they prepared to do anything from shiver to summon a footman), but it was generally good fun and romped along from start to finish.

I also liked the way it subverts the common historical trope of a well-bred young lady dressing as a man to achieve an aim that is beyond one of her sex. Having Harry dress as a woman to infiltrate the inner-circle of his beloved was a really interesting take, and I especially appreciated the fact the he was not mocked for it by those dearest to him, nor did they question his character or sexuality simply because he'd donned a feminine disguise.

This was my first audiobook narrated by Joel L. Froomkin, but it will not be the last. Not only did he have a pleasant voice but he captured the fun in this audiobook without it ever feeling like it spilled over into ridiculousness. He was very good at portraying the voices of both the haughty patronesses and the society dandies, and though he gives our hero the voice of a 'hooray Henry' type, that suited Harry rather well.

There were a few mispronunciations, such as Froomkin saying 'ebullience' as "eb-YOU-lee-unce", and 'buoyed' being pronounced in the very American fashion as "boo-EED" instead of 'boy-d', but they were only mildly distracting and did not detract from my overall enjoyment of his performance. I do love having a male narrator for a Regency, and Froomkin was a great fit for this lively, lighthearted tale.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Regency romance or historical romance and wants a really fun and lightweight listen. It was the perfect company on a rainy afternoon.

*I received this audiobook free of charge in the hope of an honest, unbiased review.

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