Indiscretion: A Novel, by Jude Morgan – A Review

Indiscretion: A Novel, by Jude Morgan (2007) From the desk of Katie Patchell: 

Jane Austen. Georgette Heyer. The Regency. Those names instantly bring to mind witty conversations, saturnine heroes, and lavish ballrooms. So often we see these words on the cover or in reviews of a book, and eagerly pick it up hoping to find yet another book that will quickly become dog-eared and memorized. But just as often, we turn away disappointed yet again by finding out that the book falls far short of the reasons we chose it in the first place.

Indiscretion, by Jude Morgan—I am happy to say—is not like that.

Miss Caroline Fortune, at twenty, has the misfortune of being the sole caretaker and realist to her impractical, debt-ridden father. Ever since her mother died at the age of twelve, they have gone from shabby lodgings to even shabbier lodgings, all in the hope to escape debt collectors, and even worse, debtors’ prison. But just when they run out of options (and Caroline decides to become a governess), they are saved by the Gorgon-like Mrs. Catling (basilisk stare and all), who offers Caroline a position as her paid companion.

And this is just the beginning of Caroline’s adventures…

As paid companion, Caroline must reconcile her own independent spirit with the impossible job of placating her ferocious employer, while trying to navigate through the indiscretions of the people around her. She soon attracts the interest of Mr. Richard Leabrook, a handsome suitor, and the friendships of Mr. and Miss Downey, the niece and nephew of Mrs. Catling, but are they really what they seem? After a sudden change in circumstances, Caroline must find the family she has never met, become accustomed to country living (complete with climbing over stiles), prevent an elopement, come face-to-face with ghosts from her past, discover the joys of true friendship, and outwit the insulting, yet annoyingly appealing Mr. Stephen Milner, who insists that Caroline will be nothing but trouble.

What is Miss Fortune, innocent attracter of mayhem to do?  Be as discrete (or is it indiscrete?) as possible, with a lot of pluck and a little bit of canary!

About a year ago I stumbled upon Indiscretion by accident. I had just finished all of Jane Austen’s novels, and was in withdrawal. I found this because of one review that said ‘like Jane Austen’ and immediately had to read it. I was not disappointed, and was hooked from the very first page. Caroline Fortune reminded me so much of Jane Austen’s heroines—she has her failings, but has enough strength and humor to carry her through, and rise above, the situations she finds herself in. Just like another character we all know and love, Caroline cannot stay depressed—she has to find a reason to laugh.  She is a character with which we can quickly identify.

“For while she did not lack a sense of her own merits, and had too much spirit ever to submit to being walked over, still she thought herself no more than tolerable-looking, and nurtured abysmal doubts about her ability ever to shine in company. She had a quick tongue, an active fancy, and a turn for wit, but these she employed, in truth, somewhat as a shield behind which she could shelter.” (25)

Indiscretion is full of surprises and plot twists. People Magazine said: “the characters separate and reunite as rhythmically and precisely as ballroom dancers performing a waltz.” I couldn’t agree more. Jude Morgan crafts his story well—I’ve read it five or six times, and each time I find a new ‘layer’ that I hadn’t discovered, a new quote that seems truer than before—“We always think we know what we want: when in truth there is nothing we are less likely to know.”—and a conversation that gets funnier with each reading—““I have been run over by the speeding chariot of fate, caught up in its spiked wheels.” “I hate it when that happens,said Stephen.

While there are many Regency books that are either in the style of Georgette Heyer or set in the time period as an excuse for long dresses and handsome rakes (and very modern plots, dialogue, and ‘romance’ scenes), Indiscretion truly takes after the style of Jane Austen, with perception, wit, proper romance, and a satisfying ending. But even more importantly, Jude Morgan is an author to enjoy in his own right, with his own distinct voice that definitely makes him an author to be read.

5 out of 5 Stars

Indiscretion: A Novel, by Jude Morgan
St. Martin’s Press (2007)
Trade paperback (384) pages
ISBN: 978-0312374372

Cover image courtesy of St. Martin’s Press © 2007; text Katie Patchell © 2013,

15 thoughts on “Indiscretion: A Novel, by Jude Morgan – A Review

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  1. I have heard wonderful things about this novel, and I really liked Morgan’s novel Passion so I have got to find time to read this one this year.

    I liked your quotes also–I imagine I will be earmarking every other page, if there are things like “the speeding chariot of fate” that make me smile.


  2. I read this a few years ago and really enjoyed it. It was wonderful to finally find a book that could be the next Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer novel in the official canon. I also recommend An Accomplished Woman. I didn’t like A Little Folly as much. I’m glad to see others discovering this wonderfully talented author.


  3. I too have read and loved this book as well and the other two mentioned in Sherry’s comment! I also discovered it when searching for something to help fill the void after finishing one more time, all of my Jane Austen collection, and was delighted to discover them!


  4. I read this book long enough ago that another read through would be welcome. I, too, was bereft of anything Austen related to read when I picked this book up. I’ll have to check these out!


  5. I have loved Jude Morgan for years now; while living in London I found myself idly picking up one of his novels at Hatchard’s, and, knowing nothing about him, bought whatever titles he had when I read that he had studied with the brilliant and incomparable Angela Carter — that was all I needed to know. I was laid up after surgery a few months ago and reread all of his books, including “Indiscretion” and the delicious “An Accomplished Woman” but also the auperb biographical fiction, “Passion,” “Symphony” and the exquisite “Charlotte and Emily.” Morganm’s beautifully crafted prose and excellent historical research do not preclude his playful attitude or the unmistakably millenium sensibility that informs all his fiction.
    This novelist is a real gem.


  6. I really liked this one too! An Accomplished Woman is another good Austenesque read (reminded me of Persuasion), and it looks like A Little Folly will soon be published in the U.S. too!


  7. Loved seeing your review of this book! I’ve read two others by Jude Morgan and thought that they remind me the most of Jane Austen’s work. Georgette Heyer is great in her own right, but she really dealt with a different societal world than Jane did – the aristocracy vs. the gentry. Georgette’s characters and plots tend to be a bit different, too. Morgan really seems to tap the Austen vein, however. Great author.


  8. Finished Indiscretion last night–what a lovely, delicious read! Thank you so much Katie P. and Austenprose for bringing the brilliant Jude Morgan to my attention. I am now disabused of the belief that after Jane Austen no one ever would write a novel so well plotted, paced, so accessible and riveting, so full of truth, great characters and tender humanity, plus so humorous in places that I had to wipe tears of mirth from my eyes. Fanny and Leo the cocker spaniel–brilliantly adorable! Thank you for making me aware–a gift, to be sure!


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