The Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren Willig

I’m a big fan of Jane Austen, so when I discovered that Austen herself is a character in this novel, I had to give it a try. I am glad I did. The Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren Willig  turned out to be a Regency-era romp, filled with adventure, humor, and romance. The story is set at Christmas, but it’s a fun read for any time of year.

The book is set in 1803 in Bath, England. The real Jane Austen was indeed living in Bath at that time. The fictional Jane Austen is a friend of the book’s heroine and main character, Arabella Dempsey. Arabella is a young woman who grew up with her rich aunt, receiving a good education along the way. But now, her aunt has married a young fortune hunter, and Arabella must return home to her father and three sisters. Finances there are tight, so Arabella takes a job as a teacher at Miss Climpson’s Select Seminary for Young Ladies.

Before long, Arabella stumbles into a possible conspiracy involving French spies, English aristocrats, and the English spy known as the Pink Carnation. Helping her is Reginald “Turnip” Fitzhugh, a clumsy but handsome aristocrat whose physical resemblance to the Pink Carnation often involves him in intrigue. As Arabella and Turnip work together to solve a mystery that begins with a message inside a Christmas pudding, they feel an unmistakable attraction for each other.

Arabella and Turnip are both helped and hindered in their investigation by an amusing cast of secondary characters. Besides Miss Austen, there is also Turnip’s sly and mischievous younger sister Sally, the obviously false Italian music instructor Signor Marconi, the terrifying Dowager Duchess of Dovedale, and a host of English gentlemen who seem to have come straight out of a P.G. Wodehouse story.

The Mischief of the Mistletoe is one of a series of novels about the Pink Carnation and the men and women who work with him to thwart French plots against England. You don’t need to read the others to enjoy this one. While this is the first of these novels that I have read, it will not be the last.

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