By Jude Morgan
St. Martin's Press
Reviewed by Jodie
Don’t you love libraries? They remove the ominous seriousness from choosing books and allow you to make your selection with the knowledge that no financial guilt and less emotional distrust will result from finding the book unpromising. With this in mind I allowed myself to be encouraged by the plush cover and excitable blurb of Jude Morgan’s Indiscretion, adding it to my library picks despite a dark remembrance of his confused and unexciting debut, Passion.
Passion, a book following women including Mary Shelley and Lady Caroline Lamb who are involved with Byron, Shelley and Keats, was over reaching and menaced by the talent of the men who comprised part of its subject. It begins dramatically but Morgan uses too many different narrative styles and the book finally plunges into an irretrievable jumble after a maddeningly protracted stream of conscious piece. This attempt at experimentalism may have been due to the author becoming intimidated by writing a book involving influential literary figures, whatever the reason it does the book no favours.
Perhaps Indiscretion has not completely swept away the memories of unfulfilling hours with Passion however it has had a pleasurable healing effect, erasing the depressing effects a recent glut of commonplace yet universally lauded contemporary fiction had caused. This book is the reading highlight of the last few months.
Following an unfortunately recurrent run of bad judgement Caroline Fortune’s father finds that he has impoverished his family and that his daughter must support herself. Luckily, Caroline is bright and resourceful, sadly these are qualities that will not secure her a position without references. When her father produces a solution, a job as companion to the rich widow of his Colonel she has little choice but to resign herself to a fashionable dependence and a little light boredom. However, Caroline has one of those faces that invites confidences and she soon finds herself in receipt of many confessions and other secret offers that set her up for a life of interesting times.
Indiscretion is full of genuinely interesting characters who do not have to do anything scandalous to keep the reader's attention, although a bit of scandal and intrigue powers every Regency book. Caroline is a loveable heroine who is independent, straightforward and witty. The banter between her and other characters, especially Stephen Milney is funny, the rare kind of humour that actually makes you laugh. Sometimes there are set conversations of barbed sparring, sometimes a quick sentence of human observation. Fun ripples throughout the book making fun of those who are incapable of spotting a joke. Morgan manages to make the tone of the book sound historically authentic while including some satire that shows similarities between the past and present, such as "This again was a relief to Caroline, who had long striven without success to cultivate the dislike of sustenance proper to young ladies." The plot is strong and I think the insightful positivity of the book is a better example of the authors talents.