Jane Austen discussion

A Useful Woman by Darcie Wilde > Ch. 24 thru Ch. 36 (end)

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message 1: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod
This is the last discussion segment for the novel. Share your thoughts here and also join us to share overall ideas and questions with author Wilde in the other thread, when she will join us on Oct. 20.

message 2: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 475 comments I went ahead and reviewed the book last week, while it was all still fresh in my mind. Review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

message 3: by Emilia (new)

Emilia Barnes | 257 comments I've been waiting for this section, because I had so many thoughts about this book, but I didn't want to write spoilers.

Firstly, I really liked Rosalind by the end, but I think it would have been easier to connect with her, and she wouldn't have fallen so flat for some, if her emotional reactions at the beginning of the book had been made more explicit. Her father runs off with her sister and we don't know if she's sad or angry or what? She's surprised, to be sure, but it'd be good to know if this was the sort of thing her dad was doing all the time or was this out of character? She is she angry with her sister? We find out more about this much, much later in the book, but there seems to be no need for a delay in telling us! Same with her broken engagement. We don't know what happened there until the very end, but at the very least we could have been told at the beginning how Devon had justified this sudden break and what she thought/felt about it. This would have strengthened our understanding of her earlier, I think. By the end a lot of this is addressed though.

There are some Americanisms and anachronisms in language. Words like 'gotten' for example, or 'for starters'. I think they stick out more because of how well done the other period appropriate things were, and they shouldn't be difficult to fish out and replace, tbh. Some things aren't exactly incorrect but seem to strike the wrong tone, like Honoria calling her brother a coward after his death. She was obviously close to him and is deeply distressed about his death, so she wouldn't use such a harsh word. Today we use it in a teasing way, at the time it was the sort of word people called each other out for. It didn't sound right to me, when she said it.

Small pet peeve in detective fiction: when the detective has a thought, somewhere in the back of his or her mind, something they remember but can't quite pinpoint, but something that is super important and would crack the case immediately... Rosalind does that several times.

Does anybody think that Devon's reasons for abandoning her were weak? I don't forgive him. I don't like him as a love interest. Aside from the fact that he is yet another rich handsome duke (yawn), he abandoned her without even telling her the reason why. Compare this to, say, Persuasion, where the engagement is broken up. You can still have lots of tension and misunderstandings after the break up even when everything has been said between the lovers - Anne broke up with Wentworth for good reasons, he just didn't like them at all, and so remained angry and resentful. Can't wait for our Persuasion discussion btw, but that's beside the point.

Anyway, Devon so could have married her and get her out of trouble, right? At the very least he didn't have to engage himself to Honoria in a scheme that seems very immature and idiotic to me. I can see why Honoria was desperate, but Devon should have been the cool headed one who said this wasn't going to work. He could have helped her to run away or something. Set her up somewhere, whatever.

Why did Devon agree to Honoria's demand that they don't tell Rosalind about their scheme? This makes no sense to me. What right does she have to dictate to him? This seems especially weird in that it's actively cruel to Rosalind, and why should Devon ever agree to do something of that kind, if he loves Rosalind? Especially since Honoria gives him no good reason? That bit made me think that Honoria had some hold over him, like blackmail or something, so when it turned out she didn't, that they'd just agreed this because of friendship, it was weird. Maybe someone can explain this to me.

My favourite quote from the book, from p. 331: "I've finally done it, she thought with a kind of grim hilarity, I'm making a scene."

Oh, and another thing, why did Devon agree to lie for Lord B about the bet? Not only that but he went to Bow Street to confirm the lie to the Runner - why? Surely, he should have been suspicious of Lord B the moment he made this up, and not be complicit in it? Am I missing something?

Anyway, aside from these things, I did like the book. Especially by the end it had won me over. I loved Harkness, I hope he's the love interest. I liked little period details, which were there just because, like the two drunken men who stagger out of the house where Jasper had rooms. I liked that servants had personalities and ambitions and lives of their own. The world DW built came alive through those little things. I would have liked more humour, and for some of the niggles I have to have been ironed out, but aside from that it was really quite a fun read.

message 4: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 475 comments Excellent review, Emilia! You articulated beautifully a lot of things that were half-formed thoughts for me. I especially appreciate your distinction between the language anachronisms (everywhere and annoying for me, too) and the much rarer anachronistic behaviors.

Casselmain does seem like the weakest, least motivated character. My guess would be that some of his actions were intended to avoid causing scandal and drawing the gossips’ attention, especially lying about the bet. Perhaps he knew of the affair between Lady B and Jasper, in which case he might well feel that assisting in a cover-up was the right thing to do. Some of the things he said to Rosalind imply that he knew more than he was letting on.

A lot of peers at the time believed that the law was for lesser people, and the aristocracy had the right to settle conflicts however they saw fit. The notion of equal justice was a vulgar American innovation! (Not that we have really achieved it either.)

As far as Casselmain acceding to Honoria’s request for secrecy goes, that didn’t bother me so much—but now that you mention it, it’s hard to account for. He seems to be framed as a chivalrous sort—“ladies’ wishes must be respected, don’t you know!”—so that might have been the author’s intention. Or perhaps we are to imagine him in the depths of despair about not being able to marry the woman he loves (but I don’t really buy that either).

Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂ Good analysis, Emilia. I also found Casselmain's motivations weak & do worry that if Ms Wilde does continue with the series that we are going to have one of those 3 way love interest things a la the Stephanie Plum series.

message 6: by Gretchen (new)

Gretchen | 37 comments I liked the book . I was alittle nervous about the ending but it ended well. I like how Ms. Wilde put alittle something in the end so you could continue with the Rosalind character.I agree Casselmain was very weak and always trying to make things easy for himself. Harkness I haven't quite made up my mind on him. Lord Blanchard he was the worst. And all the intrigue oh my lands it really kept me on my toes.

message 7: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod
Yes, some very sinister people in this group of high society. It paints a picture of the obsessive need to "stay on top" in worlds such as this world of Almack's. So we know that Rosalind, and these young women in the story, live in a particularly dangerous world as insiders/almost insiders of the upper class.

message 8: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 475 comments Both sinister and entitled! There was truly little sense in British society of the day that the aristocracy was accountable to the laws. No wonder everyone was striving so hard to get into a position of power and influence.

message 9: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod
Yes, it was a type of lawlessness it seems.

message 10: by Gretchen (new)

Gretchen | 37 comments SarahC wrote: "Yes, it was a type of lawlessness it seems."
A type of lawlessness I hadn't thought of it inbtjose terms but yes I agree it is lawlessness

message 11: by QNPoohBear (new)

QNPoohBear | 582 comments I believe peers were by and large exempt from the law. They could be tried by a jury of their peers and had freedom from arrest! Usually in the novels, the bad guy ends up killing himself rather than face arrest. It's a matter of honor apparently to get away with nefarious deeds.

message 12: by Louise Sparrow (new)

Louise Sparrow (louisex) | 300 comments Somewhat late to the discussion, but I really enjoyed it right to the end.

Having said that, I do agree with some of the little niggles and I completely agree about Devon. To me he came over as weak and ineffective and still too young to be a serious love interest. I wanted her to get over him.

I was surprised when Lord Blanchard asked Rosalind to leave again, to me that would have been creating a greater scandal than he was trying to avoid... of course he seems to have been slightly mad so I guess that would account for it.

I would have liked to see Rosalind and Harkness working together more, I know there were some restrictions due the respective positions but but I think the investigation side could have been stronger, for me it was the characters that carried it through.

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