The students of the Winthrop Hopkins Female Academy all know that their primary goal is not to receive a scholarly education but to learn the ladylike skills necessary to attract a husband. The problem is that the school is located in Lesser Hoo, Yorkshire, a country village with absolutely no eligible men. There are currently six girls of marriageable age at the school, and they are constantly bemoaning the dearth of potential husbands in the area. Fortunately, a chance encounter with some gentlemen who are visiting a nearby estate for hunting season provides them with all the romance and intrigue their hearts desire. Some of the girls fall in love with relative ease, while others find various obstacles in their paths. But when a valuable necklace goes missing and the school’s footman is the chief suspect, the girls and their paramours band together to clear his name and find the real culprit.
I had previously read and enjoyed Patrice Kindl’s [Keeping the Castle], which is set in the same village and features some of the minor characters in this book. So I was predisposed to enjoy this novel, and by and large I found it a pleasant read. The writing is light and brisk, very evocative of Georgette Heyer’s style (though of course not as good). I also liked the fact that the girls’ romances develop in a variety of ways. Some of them are true love stories with a happy ending, but some of them end in heartbreak, while one girl marries a kind man she doesn’t love after being betrayed by another suitor. This variety of outcomes especially makes sense in the Regency era, when marriage was basically the only choice for a gently bred young woman. The one thing I didn’t like was that, because of the sheer number of characters to follow, none of them are given much depth. I wasn’t particularly invested in any of the romances, nor did the mystery of the stolen necklace hold my interest (mostly because it was so easy to figure out). But for those who enjoy witty Regency fluff, I’d recommend this book as a fun read.