The Harlow Hoyden

Lynn Messina
The Harlow Hoyden
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Potatoworks Press
Release Date
February 2014
Historical Romance

Miss Emma Harlow hasn't earned the reputation as a hoyden for nothing, so when the Duke of Trent discovers her in his conservatory stealing one of his orchids, he's isn't surprised—charmed, delighted and puzzled, yes, but not surprised. It is Emma who is amazed. She has naturally concluded that the man reading in the conservatory must be the country cousin (who else in London would actually read?) and is quite vexed to discover that he is the Duke of Trent himself—imagine, stealing the duke's prize Rhyncholaelia digbyana under his very nose!

But her vexation doesn't last long. For Emma is a practical young lady with a mission: to end her dear sister Lavinia's engagement to the villainous (and dreadfully dull!) Sir Waldo Windbourne, and she thinks that the famous libertine is just the man for the job. If he would only seduce her sister away from Sir Waldo…. Well, not seduce exactly, but flirt mercilessly and engage her interest. Perhaps then Lavinia would jilt the baron. The Duke of Trent is resistant, of course. Despite his reputation, he does not toy with the affections of innocents. And besides, it's not her sister he longs to seduce.

Book Review by Rebecca (author,reviewer)
Mar 27, 2014   [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
213 people found the following review helpful
THE HARLOW HOYDEN by Lynn Messina is a wonderfully witty and engaging historical romance with an unconventional heroine, the "hoyden" of the title.

Miss Emma Harlow is a very beautiful, intelligent girl but her marriage prospects are greatly impaired by her reputation. She raced from London to Newmarket in her curricle and broke a man's record and this, along with her unwillingness to abide by society's strict conventions, has earned her the infamous title "The Harlow Hoyden". Emma, however, is clearly not concerned about her own standing in society but is more concerned about her twin sister Lavinia's upcoming marriage to a man called Sir Waldo Windbourne who she disparagingly dubs "Sir Windbag."

We are immediately apprised of Emma's mischievous character as the story opens with her in the act of stealing a prized orchid from the Duke of Trent's conservatory. She is aided in the theft by a man who observes her and whom she later mortifyingly discovers is the Duke of Trent himself, Alexander Keswick.

As Emma is an identical twin to Lavinia, mistaken identity is a recurring theme throughout the novel and Emma's antagonism towards her sister's betrothed is further fuelled because Sir Waldo unwittingly makes comments to her that are meant for her sister. Emma enlists Trent's help as a "libertine" to try and divert her sister's attention enough to cause the breaking off of her engagement. This then triggers a sequence of events that are driven by Emma's resolute and impetuous nature but which lead to revelations and dangers that she could never have anticipated.

Emma is a lively and appealing heroine who could have become annoying but it is refreshing to have a heroine in a Regency novel who is so certain of herself and unafraid to say what she thinks. Emma remains an empathetic character because the tables are sometimes turned on her when others discover her scheming and she is "hoist by her own petard" when she has to try and suppress the insane jealousy she feels when she observes Trent's "seduction" of her sister. Emma is so enthusiastic and fearless that she sweeps the characters and the reader along with her and it is amusing to see Trent going along with her plots, so much against his better judgement, because he realises that she will carry on with or without him and someone needs to "keep an eye" on her.

Trent is the typical dark and handsome hero but it is again refreshing to have a hero in a Regency romance who isn't a notorious rake but who is just pretending to be one. He is portrayed as much more conventional than Emma and it is gratifying to see his conformist, sexist beliefs challenged by Emma and to see him fall for her despite himself. I liked the way they both try and pretend that their shared kisses have not affected them and the tension the author creates from their attempts to deny their true feelings for each other. It was heartwarming to see their romance develop and to see Trent realise that Emma's beauty is secondary to her vivacious personality (he is soon able to distinguish her from her twin) and that he can't change her but that he doesn't want to.

The other characters complement the main protagonists nicely and, though perhaps they are not as original (for example, the bumbling country cousin, Philip), they are not just backdrop for the two main characters. They help in many ways to keep the plot moving along, to add drama and entertainment and to bring the hero and heroine together. Emma's twin, Lavinia, has a keen interest in gardening and her own distinct identity. Although she is not as entertaining as Emma, she has a quiet intensity and appeal.

What I enjoyed most of all with this novel was the authentic language and the sparkling dialogue. The often embarrassed reaction of Emma's family and friends to her outspokenness helped to make the book more believable because of the strictures of society at the time but also helped to keep the reader amused. For example, at one point Emma remarks, "Disgrace the family. The way you talk you'd think I had no sense of propriety whatsoever", and her sister-in-law replies bluntly, "You don't, my dear."

THE HARLOW HOYDEN by Lynn Messina is very well-written, contains interesting and convincing characters and is authentic enough to appeal to all lovers of Regency romance. The reader is quickly drawn in by the headstrong heroine, the fast-moving plot and the fabulous, scintillating dialogue. I smiled a lot when reading this book and there was never a boring moment or a moment I felt inclined to criticise. I read a lot of romance from this period and I would definitely recommend this book as being among the best that I have read.
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