About the Book
- Melissa Jensen
Cover Story: Brown-Bag It
BFF Charm: Yay! (Eventually)
Talky Talk: I’m a Mockney Geezer, Watch Me Bleed Ya vs. The Diary of Miss Emma Woodhouse, A Lady
Bonus Factor: Jane Austen, Lord Byron, London, Best Girl Friends
Relationship Status: Undercover Lovers
Cover Story: Brown-Bag It
You know how they say “you can’t tell a book by its cover?” That’s such a lie. You can. This cover says, “This is a fun, cute book about falling in love with an English boy while being in London!” And it totally is! And I totally love reading cute books about falling in love with English boys! I just don’t want people to KNOW about it. Which is why all books about falling in love with English boys should come with this cover. Doesn’t that look so much more . . . distinguished?
Catherine Vernon has been schlepped off to London for the summer by her mother, a professor who is researching the life and times of Mary Percival, a Regency-era author of little repute. Unlike, oh, I don’t know, ME, Catherine isn’t at all pleased to be in London – away from her friends, her absentee father, and vanity-sized clothing. Not to mention that the only way she has to occupy her time is by writing her private blog and reading this totes boring* diary by Mary Percival’s daughter, Katherine.
But then her (s)mother introduces her to Will, a descendent of the Percivals and a member of peerage and Catherine falls, as one might imagine, head over heels. But does Will feel the same way? And what about Katherine Percival? Must she really marry the odious Lord Chilham? Or will she make a love match with the totes
skeevy swoony poet, Mr Baker?
*Whatever, it’s so not boring! Well, I mean, after Katherine befriends Luisa and stops bitching about her mom so much.
BFF Charm: Eventually
I’ll admit; for the first quarter of this book, I was thinking of getting an “I’m a Dog Person” bumper sticker, cause no way was I giving either Cat OR Kitty my bff charm. Catherine is spoiled, and whines, and even though she at least acknowledges her privilege, she still complains about everything. Like being in London. In June. Who complains about London in June? It’s London’s loveliest month! Still cool enough that the Tube isn’t a shiteous mass of sweating humanity but warm enough that you can get by with long sleeves. And she’s always whining that there’s nothing to do. IT IS LONDON, CATHERINE! THERE IS EVERYTHING TO DO. At the very fucking least, go to Wagamama and stuff your whining mouth full of some fucking noodles. Fuck’s sake!
And Kitty, well! Kitty’s your typical Regency girl in her first debut season: a head full of boys, marriage and more boys. Which, granted, I love boys, and am delighted when people who aren’t me get married, but there’s more to life, young Kitty. Like Wagamamas! Oh, I guess that hasn’t been invented yet. Okay. Like Yorkshire puddings!
But, just when I was about to write them both off, they flipped the script on me and became endearing, adorable and hilarious. And now I can’t imagine my slumber party without these two!
Swoonworthy Scale: 10
Y’all heard me. Melissa Jensen is NOT messing around with the swoon. From every embarrassing incident between Cat and Will (she trips over her feet and lands on her ass when they first meet) to every heartbreaking pang Cat suffers when she realizes it’s never going to work out between her and Will, or all the times I yelled at Kitty, “DON’T YOU SEE WHAT’S RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU?,” the swoon was both enthralling and very, very real. While I’ve never had a debut season, I’ve certainly been the awkward recipient of subpar poetry from men, and lord knows I’ve been in Cat’s position of parsing all the possible subtext from a, well, text before.
Oh. And when things do work out? Holy hotness, Batman.
Talky Talk: I’m a Mockney Geezer, Watch Me Bleed Ya! vs. The Diary of Miss Emma Woodhouse, A Lady
There are two different narrators for this tale – Catherine and Katherine – so let’s take them in turns.
Jensen definitely captures the voice of a privileged Yankee blogging about her summer in London, which is to say: slightly obnoxious, with a punchable quality. And Catherine is forever writing out words in her London friends’ accents – “goils” for girls, “lobstah” for lobster, etc – that it sort of reminded me of people pulling a Mockney accent for laughs. People of the world, I beg you: do not go Mockney*. Unless you are Bill Bailey. Or you are doing an impression of Bill Bailey doing his Cockney impression. Because I’m forever moving my elbows back and forth and telling people, “‘ullo, guvnah!'” It’s great. People think it’s adorable. Um, probably.
Katherine, on the other hand, writes as a young lady living in the early 19th century would. However, Jensen takes some liberties here, and the “diary” has some anachronisms that bugged me (i.e. the specific mention of towns instead of writing S——; the first names of gentlemen and ladies; etc). But it didn’t take me out of the story too much and I totally understand why Jensen made Katherine’s voice more casual than it would ordinarily have been.
*Feel free to keep impersonating the Essex accent, though. It’s always good for a laugh.
Bonus Factor: Jane Austen
I think my love for Miz Austen is pretty well-documented around these parts, but it bears repeating: I LOVE HER SO MUCH. Her books are, for me, a warm and comfy blanket that I can cozy into on a sad or cold day. The polite scandals, the charming balls, the knowledge that everything will work out as it should cheer me even when nothing else will.
And this book is like a crazy combo of Emma and Sense and Sensibility (only with a dick like John Dashwood standing in as the dad character) which means there’s broken hearts and people marrying for money and a Knightley figure and lots of people feeling sorry for themselves whilst walking in the rain.
Bonus Factor: Lord Byron
“Mad, bad and dangerous to know?” Yes, probably. But, for more than a century, ol’ George has been the touchstone for elegant romance – boys with clammy hands and flop sweat try to emulate him and girls* are forever wishing to inspire such greatness. Byron pops up all over this book, from the past – Kitty runs in his circle and desperately wishes to meet him- to the present, as Catherine tries to memorize “We’ll Go No More A-Roving” in order to casually recite it to Will at Westminster Abbey**.
*I, however, much prefer the poetry of Mister Willie Nelson to Lord Byron. Oh, sure, Byron’s pretty and lovely, but tell me how many times you’ve sat crying and drinking whiskey while reciting “A-Roving.” Now tell me how many times you’ve sat crying and drinking whiskey while listening to “Crazy.” Yeah, I THOUGHT SO. Anyone can make things sound pretty! It takes more talent to make things sound real.
** Here is an anecdote about Westminster Abbey. On my first trip to London, I tried to find it so I went, as I thought I was meant to, to the City of Westminster. There is, by the way, a Westminster Church in the City of Westminster. It’s right off the high street, in case you’re wondering. There are nuns there!
Bonus Factor: London
I LOVE LONDON SO MUCH. It and New Orleans constantly duke it out for the title of Erin’s Favorite City In The World. And it’s not just because there is a large population of Wagamama in London! Or, at least, not only because of that.
London, to me, is that perfect mix of sleek and shine and dirt and grit, friendly faces and grumpy natives. I love that I can eat delicious cupcakes in Hummingbird Bakery in Notting Hill, hop the tube, and get drunk and loud in Hackney within only an hour or so. I love Camden and Shoreditch and the West End and Hyde Park and Waterloo station and, hell, even Elephant and Castle. EVEN ELEPHANT AND CASTLE, okay? And it certainly doesn’t hurt that many of my favorite people live but a short train ride away from one of the main stations. There is just nothing like a few days in London to ease my mind and lighten my spirit. And I’ll be there in exactly two weeks, hooray!! Watch out, Wagamama’s duck gyoza. I’mma eatchoo!
Bonus Factor: Best Girl Friends
Magical pants or no, there’s nothing quite like the support (and, okay, sometimes drama) of your best girl friends. Catherine is lucky enough to have two sets of great girl friends: one at home in Philly (to whom her blog entries are addressed) and the girls in London: Elizabeth, Imogen and Consuela. When times get tough, these girls drop everything and implement emergency ice-cream-and-rom-com procedures. Plus, Elizabeth’s family – particularly her dad, Mr Saddiq – is awesome.
Relationship Status: Undercover Lovers
Oh, book. I admit that the only reason I picked you up in the beginning was because you had a cute accent and I thought it’d be nice to hang out with someone who’d talk about England for a while. I wasn’t expecting to, well, like you so much. And before I knew it, we were staying up all night to learn everything about each other. I just couldn’t quit you! In fact, yesterday when I called you up to ask a simple reference question, I found myself jumping right back into bed with you!
Frankly, book, the only reason we aren’t going steady right now is because I’d be ashamed to show you off to my friends. I mean, look at what you’re wearing. But I’m pretty sure I’ll be singing your praises in whispers to all of my best girl friends for weeks to come.
FTC Full Disclosure: I received my review copy from Penguin. I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). Falling In Love With English Boys is now available.