Escapade

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 05 Sep 2019

Member Reviews

Beautifully written tale of young, misunderstood and troubled Charlotte Comlyn, who wants to escape her life for a while so disguises herself as a boy and runs away to her mothers estranged friend Beth Prior.

Charlotte is heir to a banking empire and large fortune, and she feels very misunderstood by her mother and stepfather. She refuses a proposal from her childhood friend John Thornton, as she believes he is proposing from expediency, and to ally their families. Beth Prior was her mother’s maid, and she has become a well known actress, with a slightly scandalous reputation. She is involved with an aristocrat, Gareth Forde, and it is 1811, and Europe is bang in the middle of the Napoleonic wars. Beth needs to earn her living, and so she agrees to travel to Sicily and act in the theatre there, in return for spying on the Sicilians for the British government. Queen Maria Carolina has been deposed from the throne of Naples by Napoleon, and is exiled to Palermo, where she exists in a very uneasy and fraught truce with the British. Beth and Charlotte are thrown into a city bulging with intrigue, danger and excitement, and a succession on men, including Nathan Peabody, and American businessman, Gareth Forde, a dashing and impoverished German tutor for 17 year old Charlotte, the rejected suitor John Thornton, and a host of other shady characters. Beth is trying to negotiate the dangerous  social waters of the aristocracy in Palermo, and the politics of the deposed queen and the British Consul, as well as ensuring she works and gets paid. She is hoping to secure a commitment from Gareth, however things don’t go quite to plan.

Can Beth fulfil her obligations to the British government, hang on to her reputation, and stay solvent, can Charlotte avoid being entrapped into marriage for her fortune, and will both women find love and happiness. 

The sense of menace and suspense in this book was really well done, I also really enjoyed the way that we were kept guessing until the very end as to who the heroes were going to be. Charlotte was a very independent and resourceful girl, who despite her vulnerabilities, and extreme youth, matured and developed well throughput the book. They way that she was written felt very believable, as a teen, she did have a tendency to be a bit self absorbed, and also to be a bit rash, which helped the plot along. Beth was a real revelation as a character, proactive, determined, kind and pragmatic, she negotiates her way through the minefield of Sicilian and British society with great delicacy and tact.

Recommended.

I voluntarily reviewed an advance reader copy of this book via Netgalley and all opinions are my own.

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Carolyn Comyn appears on the doorstep on her mother's estranged friend, actress Beth Prior. Once she hears the young lady's story, Beth decides to take Carolyn under her wing. Off they go to Sicily, where things are not as they seem, and danger could be just a day away.

This was a delightful read! I'm not sure who I loved more, fragile, young, and innocent Carolyn, or beautiful, talented and clever Beth. I enjoyed following them through their adventures in Sicily. They are surrounded by an entertaining cast, most of whom are not who they appear to be.

The plot moved at a good place. My only trouble was that it took a while for the story to really pull me in. The setting, Sicily during the Napoleonic war, sets it apart from other novels of the time. 

I received a free copy through NetGalley for reviewing purposes. All opinions expressed are my own.
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This was my first book by Jane Aiken Hodge, a writer whose books I remember seeing on the shelves of my local library when I was growing up. Lately I've been reading a lot of vintage historical novels with a suspense element, and I was eager to dive into this book to see how it measured up to some of the other historical suspense novels I've been reading. 

Escapade is set during the Regency period and the Napoleonic wars. Charlotte is our intrepid heroine who, after turning down a proposal from a suitable man because she fears he's only proposing to her because it's "the right thing to do" [financially and socially], now finds herself desperate to get away from her social predicament. She runs to her mother's former friend, Beth, who's made a name for herself as a popular singer. Beth takes Charlotte under her wing and takes her on a voyage to Sicily under an assumed name. Beth and Charlotte get involved in a spy ring and plenty of hijinks along the way, including a kidnaping. Along the way, Charlotte picks up several suitors, but if you're paying attention, it's clear who she'll end up with in the end.

This is a not a particularly serious novel, but it did provide me with an afternoon of escapism. This is light, frothy fun with some good, clean, old-fashioned romanticism to keep its readers entertained. 

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advanced reader's copy.
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Following a series of misunderstandings Charlotte Comlyn, heiress to one of the most successful banks runs away to her mother's friend in London.  Beth doesn't have the best reputation as she is in theatre, not a respectful position for a lady at that time. But she realises Charlotte needs help. 

Taking advantage of the situation and an opportunity to lift her career Beth makes the decision to take Charlotte to Sicily. At the time Sicily is facing the threat of Napoleon. 

It isn't only the Queen and the sicilians that find themselves under threat as a man befriended by the pair discovers Charlotte is an heiress. 

Although there are great characters I found myself getting a little bored towards the end. Having said that the final chapter is great! I will not give the ending away but I was a bit surprised by that ending!

This book throws together some history, romance and a bit of mystery with a good overall outcome.
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Originally published in 1993 and now available as an ebook, Escapade is solid historical fiction. There are a couple of slow-burn romances, but it doesn't have the shape of a romance novel.

Beth Prior agrees to journey with her long-time paramour to Sicily, where the king and queen of Naples are in exile during the Napoleonic War. She is accompanied by a young friend, an heiress who has fled her unhappy family situation. There they find welcome, a bit of romance, and danger.

Solid characterizations and well-written plot.
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Charlotte wants a new life. At the age of 18 and heiress to a fortune she is not at all happy. She's not happy that her childhood friend John proposed. She feels it was all a setup by their parents.
Dressing in her brother's clothes she escapes to a past friend of her mother's, Beth. Beth is in show business and so doesn't have the best credentials, but she's also her own woman. That is held in high regard in Charlotte's eyes.
After getting  5he family's permission both women set off to Palmero. There they are faced with political intrigue, the fight for power and ruthlessness if anything imaginable. 
Both come to the conclusion that their problems would have been better faced at home instead if running away.
A fun love story, full of adventure.
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I liked this unusual story, it's well written and well researched, engrossing and entertaining.
I liked the fleshed out cast of characters, the historical background and the plot.
The description of the political situation and life in Sicily were vivid and realistic.
I look forward to reading other books by this author.
Highly recommended!
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
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Charlotte is running away from her life as she sees it now. This story is different from most of this time period as it does have the political happenings of Sicily in it. Charlotte has run to Beth who is now a singer but in the past had been the maid to Charlotte's mother. They go to Sicily and have many adventures there. Beth gets close to the queen and Charlotte gets herself into some tight spots. An interesting and different story from the norm.
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"Escapade" is an unusual romance that while technically Regency and featuring several British characters, takes place in Sicily. 

Charlotte Comyn, a 17-year-old, sad and apparently anorexic, flees her family and her mother's former friend Beth Prior takes her in. They travel to Sicily, which surprised me that Charlotte's mother allowed it, as Beth is an actress and a demimondaine.

What follows is an interesting tale of multiple suitors, court intrigue, villains, and even kidnapping. The perspective of the native Sicilians in how they regard the English is interesting. Learning about actual historical characters is educational, and not in a boring way. I found myself reading more about the period online.

This is both a coming-of-age story for Charlotte and a character-improving one for Beth. There is, however, a particular idiotic action by Charlotte around the 70% mark. After all, she is 17, and she does acquit herself.

There are a few references to sex but the novel is clean. The prose is a delight. I've read just a few of this author's novels. This one, and "Runaway Bride", are my favorite ones so far.  IMO, both characters end up with the right men.
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In one word, Escapade is charming. Great for fans of Georgette Heyer, it’s a tale of courtly intrigue and friendship between women, grounded in the history of Sicily during the European powers’ struggle for power in the early 1800s. 

Jane Aiken Hodge writes like a whirlwind - snappy and funny, with unexpected depth and color that bring her characters to life. From the very first page we see Charlotte’s strength, and root for her as she categorically rejects marrying her childhood friends (I happen to think that every Regency novel needs a rejected marriage proposal or two!). She’s clever and curious and - yes- charming, and the dynamic of her relationship with the prima donna Beth Prior is a delight to watch. These women are the heart of the book, even as they navigate political and romantic intrigue.

The disappointment lies in the way the story handles the history of Sicily at the time. It oscillates between excruciating detail on one hand, and glossing over crucial events on the other. The plot hinges on various scenes that happen off-screen, so to speak. It can be easy to get lost in the endless parade of titles and comments that get waved away. It only muddles on the plot further. I would have liked a more modern approach to explanation of the history.

Overall, however, the story is a fun and delightful read. A Regency romance that will sweep you away.
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I liked the story, but it was a bit too political for me.  The characters were interesting but I never felt like i really got to know them.
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