rom-com | vivacious | sassy
what it’s all about …
Abandoned by her parents in favour of a sea view, middle class Georgiana Ellers has moved to a new town to live with her dreary aunt and uncle. At a particularly dull dinner party, she meets the enigmatic Frances Campbell, a wealthy socialite and enchanting member of the in-crowd.
Through Frances and her friends, Georgiana is introduced to a new world of wild parties, drunken debauchery, mysterious young men with strangely alluring hands, and the sparkling upper echelons of Regency society.
But high society isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and the price of entry might be more than Georgiana is willing to pay . . .
PUBLISHED: 8th July 2021
SHELF: Romance | Humour | Historical Fiction
AUTHOR: Lex Croucher
FORMATS: Paperback | Kindle | AudioBook
my review …
Reputation has been compared to several hit television series, including Fleabag, Mean Girls and, most vociferously, Bridgerton. To be benchmarked against these stand-out successes is an indicator of how well received the book has been … it also gives you a strong idea of how effectively the author uses a contemporary audacity to loosen the buttoned-up strictures of the Regency era.
Georgiana and Frances’s characters bounce off each other most enjoyably, bringing out the best and the worst in each other. Georgiana’s conservative upbringing creates a wide-eyed and somewhat scandalised view of the party-hard world she so desperately wants to be a part of. Frances embodies the lifestyle Georgiana so craves; enormous house, abundant affluence, endless couture and jewels, invitations to all the most high profile and debauched gatherings, and a circle of flirtatious and rakish friends who embrace all the hedonistic delicacies the era has to offer. Their friendship flourishes quickly, with Georgiana swept up in a social calendar that’s something of a baptism of fire, where not all Frances’s acquaintances are as welcoming as the queen bee herself.
It’s through this heady party circuit where Georgiana sets eyes on the smouldering heart-throb of the tale; the enigmatic and aloof Thomas Hawksley. Unlike the full-throttle accord Georgiana has established with Frances, this is a relationship that won’t be rushed, bringing a tender romance and fragile equilibrium to the decadent boldness of this tale.
Reputation is pitched as a witty and vivacious read, but its plot touches upon some weighty topics: alcohol dependence, drug use, sexual assault, homophobia and racism all feature within the storyline, as does domestic abuse. There’s also an occasion where one of the main characters is raped; although this is alluded to rather than stated outright. They cast a malign shadow over the otherwise charmed lives of the characters, however, and arguably anchor the plot from being carried away by giggles and frivolity alone. Whilst none of these topics will be new to readers of historical fiction set in this particular era, they will probably seem incongruous in a novel whose marketing headline casts it as ‘a classic romcom’.
This feels like a book intending to deliver a feminist battle cry to shake-up the conformist Regency trope of female repression; in this respect the author certainly delivers, with a refreshingly light touch and sparky, outspoken characters. In doing so, she’s created a platform to bring the implications of some of her darker topics to the fore … after all, they are sadly as relevant in modern society as they were during her fictional context. I need to be careful how I say this as I truly would’t want the sunny disposition of this book to be compromised and smothered, but I found myself feeling a little disappointed that some promising opportunities to pack a punch were missed.
Reputation is a light-heartedly lavish Regency romcom with a fresh and spirited modern attitude. Its mix of charm, humour and drama are perfectly entertaining, carried along at a brisk pace by engaging characters, absorbing relationship dynamics, pleasingly opulent settings, and a dialogue peppered with vernacular that wouldn’t look out of place in today’s contextual settings of reality television and social media.
Thank you to Zaffre Books and Netgalley for this advance proof Kindle copy of Reputation in return for an honest review.
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Lex Croucher grew up in Surrey reading a lot of books and making friends with strangers on the internet, and now lives in London with an elderly cat, producing videos by day and watching period dramas by night. Reputation is Lex’s first novel.
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