By Autumn Topping
Author: Lynn Messina
Book: The Harlow Hoyden: A Regency Romance
In the same vein as The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, The Harlow Hoyden offers up an enjoyable read worth a few hours of your time. Sure, it can get silly and even unbelievable but the point of this book certainly isn’t to claim any sort of realism, but merely to present its audience with a light-hearted, romantic adventure.
The story follows Emma, nicknamed the Harlow Hoyden by society, who will do anything, and I mean ANYTHING to prevent her sister marrying the boorish Sir Windbourne, or as she likes to call him, “Sir Windbag.” In smart fashion, Messina opens the novel in the middle of the action, Emma in the midst of stealing a flower to distract her sister Lavinia away from her fiancée. You see, Lavinia has this thing for horticulture and her misogynist betrothed wishes her not to follow this passion once they are married. Emma meant the flower as a temptation. Unfortunately, or fortunately as it turns out, Emma gets caught in the act by the Duke of Trent himself. Soon she engages him in a scandalous scheme to seduce her sister away from Sir Windbag. Against his better judgment, he finally caves into the wishes of the tempting Emma if only to prevent Emma from destroying her reputation with the help of a real libertine. But how can he pretend to woo an innocent when he begins to fall for Lavinia’s impetuous twin sister Emma in the process?
As a twin myself, I had no idea The Harlow Hoyden was actually about identical twin sisters. Now, the problem I have with many twins in books and movies is that they are often presented as stereotypical and even absurd. You know the gist: they talk alike, dress alike, obnoxiously even sound the same, finishing each other’s sentences as if they have the same mind or are at least psychically linked. Fortunately, this was not the case for The Harlow Hoyden. Sure, some familiar characteristics popped up with Emma, the wild twin, versus Lavinia, the sensible one. Still, overall, it was the relationship and loyalty between the sisters I enjoyed most in this Regency romance.
Emma’s schemes held my interest with rapt attention at their utter absurdity and impropriety of the time but Lavinia fascinated me more. Intelligent and brave, Lavinia was the true twin to watch out for with clever schemes of her own! I have to admit that while most will likely root for Emma to fall into the arms of Alex (the Duke), a part of me kind of wanted Emma’s schemes to work out, for the Duke and Lavinia to be the ones to fall in love. But, alas, this was not the story being told and at the very least, I did also enjoy the friendship between the Duke and Lavinia, their candid conversations with one another a highlight of the novel.
Emma’s schemes held my interest with rapt attention at their utter absurdity and impropriety of the time…
The characterization of both sisters was also great to read. While this is mainly a Regency Romance, it was nice to show a bit of ambition in both sisters, particularly Lavinia without feeling TOO ridiculous for the time period. Nevertheless, there were moments that didn’t quite feel right when it came to propriety in the case of Emma (her maturity level questionable at times) and the Duke, but these can be overlooked thanks to the non-serious nature of the novel.
Certainly, Messina’s book is vastly entertaining to read but not without some drawbacks. Some moments of dialogue felt a little off, while a few scenes between the Duke and Emma also felt too focused on lust rather than on love (if you are looking for clean Regency romance, this is not the case here). Messina spends much of the novel convincing us with words that these two were in love (which I readily believe); however, these two can’t seem to control themselves when in each other’s presence that at times felt a bit much, all while at the same time refusing to ever have true communication. Still, just a small nitpick. Overall, if you are looking for a light read with tons of romance, humor (Messina really knows how to make you laugh), and a little Napoleonic intrigue, this is the book for you!
This would work best as a drawn out TV series because of the setup. Emma creating new schemes and getting caught up in hilarious situations in the midst of falling for a Duke, would be quite fun to watch week to week. Plus, I would love a show to further on the story of Lavinia. It’s time for a Period Drama about twin sisters!
“I think this is the beginning of a beautiful
“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My
feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me
to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”
Page Count: 288 pages
Publisher: Potatoworks Press (February 4, 2014)
Genre: Regency Romance
Don’t miss our interview: Author Lynn Messina Takes Our Petticoat Personality Test