An Accomplished Woman

Written by Jude Morgan
Review by Mary Sharratt

Jude Morgan follows up his tragic and haunting novel Symphony with this witty, Jane-Austen-inspired comedy of errors.

Ten years ago Lydia Templeton spurned Lewis Durrant, the most eligible bachelor in Norfolk. Now thirty, the vastly accomplished Lydia is enjoying her spinsterhood and intellectual pursuits. Her idyll ends when a family friend strong-arms her into chaperoning the naïve orphan Phoebe Rae, heiress to £50,000. Lovely Miss Rae is torn between two suitors: the dignified Mr. Allardyce who has a promising career in diplomatic service and the overwrought Mr. Beck who pens tortured poetry concerning milkmaids and their ‘lacteous buckets.’ Seeking to counter Phoebe’s sensibility with her own good sense, Lydia accompanies her young charge to Bath. Also in Bath, Lydia’s old flame Lewis Durrant is determined to find a bride and produce an heir, which will allow him to disinherit his feckless, spendthrift dandy of a nephew. Lydia and Durrant strike a bet, wagering £50 to whomever will succeed first in their mission. Will Lydia see Phoebe happily betrothed to a worthy man who truly cherishes the young woman and not just her fortune? Will misanthropic, middle-aged Durrant find love at last? Is Lydia as impervious to romance as she claims?

The plot bristles with reversals, hilarity and pathos, before wrapping up in a tender and satisfying finish. The characters, flawed yet endearing, are convincingly human. Light without being lightweight, this is a smart, stylish novel for discerning readers who wouldn’t normally read ‘romance.’ An Accomplished Woman is what the Jane Austen Book Club will be reading next.