October 7, 2015
Things that go bump in the night.
No, no, no. The Unsuitable Secretary does not have any supernatural ghosts bumping into things during the night. The Unsuitable Secretary presents us with a virgin couple who make up for lost time. They are the ones that did all the bumping.
Sir Thomas Benedict Featherstone, aka Tubby, needs help. (Digression time: I eventually grew tired of the name Tubby.) Anyway, he has grand plans! Grand ideas! He was filled with an abundance of excitement when it came to these grandiose schemes. For some reason he wanted to open a starving artist commune of sorts. His thinking was that it would just be simply glorious to get all these artist in one place! Creating and not worrying about how they are going to buy their next brush, let alone their next loaf of bread. I guess getting a job was out. But Tubby was a little scattered; he just had tooooo many plans. What he needed was a secretary, someone who could organize and someone who wasn’t afraid of saying no. This was why he found himself at the Evensong Agency being interviewed by a rather scary Mrs. Evensong.
Digression time: I'm not sure why Tubby felt the need to help starving artists, especially when there were other bits of humanity around for him to try to help. But, that's what he wanted. But, I was puzzled, and I didn't think his need was fully explained. If it had been I might have been a little bit more sympathetic to his cause. Because his need to support artists wasn’t ever fully explored, I looked at Tubby as kind of a bumbler throughout the entire book. He seemed to be someone without direction. He was not the kind of hero I'm used to seeing in romance books. He wasn’t as much of a nitwit as Bertie from Lord of the Scoundrels, but he came awfully close. He was a happy-go-lucky kind of guy, the world was his oyster. Just a whistling-tune kind of guy. Whatever intelligence he exhibited went right out the window when Harriet sauntered into the room for the first time. Tubby was no longer able to function as a talking, walking, thinking person. Was this a bad thing? Nope! I actually thought it was refreshing to have a hero who was a bit of a stumble-bumbler. Sometimes it’s nice to see a man who has no claim to being a super-duper-stud-alpha kind of guy. Tubby was adorable in his fumbling and tripping over the wrong words. He may not have known anything about the bedroom, but he was more than eager for Harriet to break him in. It doesn't take too long before he was asking Harriet to be his mistress – of course he doesn’t do that right either. (By the way, are you irritated with the name Tubby yet?)
Harriet. Harriet has one of those horrible fathers who crop up in romance books. I didn't quite understand what his problem was, but he seems to have a boat-load of demons. He didn’t think Harriet should be working. He'd been drugging her in hopes that she wouldn’t be able to do her job. Harriet doesn't understand what's happening to her - yes, she was recovering from an appendectomy, but she also knew that she should be well on the way to recovery and she wasn’t. She never ever considers that her horrible father would be drugging her. Sure he’s an overbearing, nasty, curmudgeon, but he was her father and the thought never crossed her mind. (Digression time: just the thought of having any kind of an operation in 1904 makes the hair on my neck stand up on end.)
Back to the father. Even though her father has a job, it doesn't seem to be enough to support her twin brothers and herself. Her father constantly berates her for going outside to work, especially for someone with the reputation that Tubby has. Eventually one night she stands up to her father and receives a stunning slap across her face. Thank goodness Ms. Robinson had her leave that house and not stay around to become a Romanceland self-sacrificing martyr. It was at this point that I really liked Harriet.
This was a charming book. Harriet and Tubby were fun characters who embarked on a journey of discovery together. I do mean discovery. They try out everything they can. Was it a perfect book? No, however, I found it to be a pleasant read and found myself smiling a lot through it. There were moments that the book slowed down and there was the Harriet-I'm-not-good-enough rigmarole, which I found tiresome. Overall, I do recommend this story, it's a spicy-sweet story, nothing earth-shattering and nothing "wow" inducing, but a nice way to pass the time on a cool autumn night by the fireplace.
Time/Place: 1904 England