Have you ever read a short story and wished it was a full-length novel? That is how I felt after completing Lady Ann’s Excellent Adventure. Short and sweet at 43 pages, Candice Hern has introduced characters that I instantly loved and wanted to know more about. What grabbed me so immediately you ask? The humor and effervescent theme.
In this brief format, an author must use every word and sentence to advance the narrative quickly to its conclusion. Hern wastes no time by introducing the two main characters in an outrageous and humorous way: our hero, the Earl of Evesham, is test-driving his new curricle down Park Lane in London and spies a young woman perched in a tree attempting to make her way over a fence. Caught by her skirts on a branch, she is prevented from progressing and literally up a tree! The unusual sight of a finely dressed woman in such a predicament is quite intriguing to the lord, but the fact that she is attempting to escape from the garden of the royal owner that he was appointed to meet the next day to make a formal offer for his daughter’s hand is even more interesting. It is an arranged marriage since his boyhood and he has not seen his future fiancé since she was a child. Could this pretty young lady be his intended? No. It was highly unlikely that Lady Ann of Gloucester, daughter of Prince William Henry, Duke of Gloucester, and niece to the king would be dangling from a tree in the fashionable Mayfair district. Was she instead a housebreaker escaping with the family silver? Who could this “adorable sprite” be?
She quickly shares that she is running away from her life—for a day—her last day of freedom before her life changes forever and she sacrifices herself to the “altar of duty.” That cinched it. She was his intended. He offers to help her down on one condition: that he be allowed to escort her on her adventure. She agrees and an unlikely alliance begins: and before it’s merry conclusion we are taken on a grand spree through several amusing sites in Regency London: to Hyde Park to watch a balloon accent, to Black Friars Bridge to eat oysters, to Ludgate Hill to admire the shops where he buys her perfume, to Pasternoster Row to browse print and book shops where he purchases The Picture of London for 1802, Being a Correct Guide to all of the Curiosities, Amusements, Exhibitions, Public Establishments and Remarkable Objects in and near London, for the use of Stragers, Foreigners, and all Persons who are not acquainted with the British Metropolis. In short, a tourist guide book! She is delighted with all that she experiences, and most importantly him.
Assuming a name to hide his true identity and the connection to her family, along the way they inadvertently run across his friends who want to meet this pretty young lady; one even thinks she is his new ladybird! But, he is determined to keep up the ruse. “As the day progressed and he’d grown increasingly fond of her, even a little infatuated, he’d begun to feel a tad guilty at his deception. Even so, he was oddly reluctant to give it up. He was enjoying himself too much.” And so are we.
What a fun romp through some unusual sites in London that the Ton may not have frequented – and that was the point. Lady Ann wanted to experience the life of the common man; to see their entertainments and live her life as a commoner in one day. Lord Evesham is a capable and charming guide, enjoying her wide-eyed amazement with a fresh perspective and a growing appreciation for the woman who would hopefully become his wife. But now how will he ever transition into the earl who she is pledged to marry, and will she be too angry and embarrassed to accept him when she discovers his deception?
A delightfully breezy and upbeat glimpse at two aristocrats playing hooky from duty and decorum, “Lady Ann’s Excellent Adventure” is all that its title promised. It is Roman Holiday meets Georgette Heyer and I could not be more enchanted with this reverse fairytale of two strangers who climb down from their high perch and enjoy the simple life and each other without inhibitions or preconceived assumptions. I was so captivated by each of the protagonists that I did not want their story to end. Like the conclusion of the delightful movie Roman Holiday, they do have to face the reality of their return to royalty, but their lives will never be burdened with regret.
5 out of 5 Stars
Lady Ann’s Excellent Adventure: A Regency Short Story, by Candice Hern
Candice Hern (2012)
Digital book (43) pages
Cover image courtesy of Candice Hern © 2012; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2013, Austenprose.com