Penelope by Anya Wylde
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Adult/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance, Humour, Chick Lit
Release Date: January 17th 2013
Synopsis: Leaving behind the rural charms of Finnshire, Miss Penelope Fairweather arrives in London with hope in her heart and a dream in her eye. The dowager, no less, has invited her for a season in London, where she will attempt to catch a husband.
Thus begins our heroine’s tale as she attempts to tackle the London season with all her rustic finesse. Unfortunately, her rustic finesse turns out to be as delicate as a fat bear trying to rip apart a honeycomb infested with buzzing bees.
What follows is a series of misadventures, love affairs, moonlit balls, fancy clothes, fake moustaches, highwaymen, sneering beauties, pickpockets, and the wrath of a devilishly handsome duke.
Penelope was a book I started to read in hopes of funny moments and just all-out good fun. Not only did this book give me those things, but it also gave me some truly random but also charming characters and moments. The laughs, fun, and randomness made this very playful book filled with boisterous merriment (yeah, I totally wrote that) that is endearing and addictive.
The story that Penelope tells might seem pretty simple at first: a tale of a girl named Penelope that goes to London is order to catch a husband. But that idea is immediately shattered once Penelope arrives at arrives at Blackthorne Mansion with a goat and also with a true story to tell that has something to do with meeting and befriending a highwayman called the Falcon after he tried to rob her awhile she was traveling to the mansion.
And that isn’t even the beginning of all the hilarity. The story after Penelope’s arrival is filled with fake moustaches, awkwardness caused by a certain goat, falling in love, pretty dresses, chaos caused by Penelope, the fury of a duke that can probably fuel a train for a few years, and more!
Penelope‘s story is something that requires the reader to have the ability to just go with the flow. If you don’t like moments that are dosed with a lot of randomness, you may not be a fan of this book. I found the randomness that is not so different from the randomness of The Princess Bride to be utterly charming.
The title character, Penelope, is truly a character that is impossible to not love. Yes, she does leave disorder, confusion, and chaos in her wake and she is a little clueless and daft, but she is upbeat, quirky, and has so much determination that I became an instant fan of her. She is incredibly sympathetic and the reader can probably relate to her feeling of disappointment in herself when she makes horrendous mistakes. Plus, she has a pet goat. Nobody can not like a person with a pet goat.
The side characters, like Penelope, are all quirky and fun in their own way. They don’t have much depth to them and some of them are just there to be comedic, but I loved reading about them all. We have Anne, the girl who loves shopping and is always looking for something to cure her boredom and make her laugh, Sir Henry, the old man who absolutely insists on all men to be manly with moustaches (causing the whole household to wear fake moustaches whenever he visits), Jimmy, the highwayman that Penelope meets before that is well-read and quite emotional, and many other adorable, fun characters.
But as they say, there is always a rotten apple in the bin–and the duke, Charles, is the rotten apple. Before I talk about how much of a bully he is, I will say that I do believe that mean, sometimes cruel love interests can be written well and in a way that makes the reader like him or her. Anya Wylde just failed at writing the duke in a way that was done well.
At first, the duke’s plans to get Penelope kicked out of the mansion were comedic because they always ended up failing and/or getting his ego damaged. But after a while, he really starts to grate on the nerves. The duke constants insults Penelope, calling her an imbecile and much more, assumes the worst of her, and never listens to her. And when he does show kindness and he starts to warm up to me, he ruins it by insulting Penelope yet again. And oh, wait, it gets better (spoiler alert, highlight to read,) even after the duke marries Penelope, he is still a bully to her. (spoiler done).
I get that he has a lot of distrust towards women because he was burned multiple times in the past, but that gives him no excuse to treat Penelope the way he does. He definitely didn’t win me over and decreased my enjoyment of this novel overall. And since I didn’t like the duke, I didn’t like the romance either.
Anya Wylde has a knack for writing strong prose that fits in with the story’s time period and witty dialogue that never failed to make me giggle.
“Penelope glared at her, “Madame said that men love damsels in distress. She failed to point out that damsels in distress look wretched, miserable and downright horrid.”
“Men do love damsels in distress. We simply need to look lovely while fighting mortal peril.”
Penelope is a lovely novel that one can read when one wants to have some good, nice laughs. The male love interest is terrible, but the rest of the characters are great, the writing is strong, and the story is fantastic brain fluff. Fans of humour and regency romance will definitely want to pick this book up.