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Unbelievable Heroine Mixed Up with a Bad Man — and History
The stage is set in the first chapter at a party in one of the mansions of Newport, Rhode Island in the late 1890s just before the Great Panic. On this night, the heroine’s family, history, and circumstances are revealed. Her family is teetering on the brink of ruin, and her mother is hoping a good marriage or two for her daughters will help save the family. Penelope’s distant cousin had broken off his courtship with her the family’s new precarious circumstances; he’s definitely not kind to her about it, thinking this is no big deal.
Penelope’s meets married Mr. Daggers on this night, setting her life on a different course. Mr. Daggers, after briefly meeting her, has determined he will make her his mistress, inviting her to visit him clandestinely the next time she is in New York.
Instead, Penelope escapes to Boston, telling her parents she is going to visit the Daggers couple in New York. She gets caught up in the suffragette movement. And, yes, she does get involved with Mr. Daggers in a cat-and-mouse, on-again-off-again psychological affair.
I didn’t like this book. The heroine was unsympathetic and unbelievable at times. Would a Victorian maiden be thinking of innuendo and seduction during her first dance with a married man, or imagine that man being intimate with his wife? It just didn’t jibe with other Victorian novels I’ve read. When she later goes on to have an affair with him, the way she thinks about him and them just left me cold. She knows she shouldn’t keep meeting him, but she can’t stop herself! Oh, ick; not a fan of those kinds of heroines. Mr. Daggers himself I found rather creepy from the outset, the way he was physically and verbally manipulative. His evils end up going far beyond this, as you might imagine. The point at which he almost seduces her has a double-ick factor that I won’t detail here. But…icky, icky!
The book to be overwritten in the extreme. Nearly every sentence in the long party scene seemed to be stuffed with metaphor, simile, detailed descriptions, and the like; I found myself just wanting to read some straightforward prose. One odd quirk: Penelope describes herself as having fiery hair during the party scene, but the cover shows a dark-haired heroine.
The look into the nascent suffragette movement was interesting, but its impact was decreased by the fact that the heroine herself did not embody the ideals of the movement.